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5 Essential 2021 Workplace Soft Skills (And How to Recognize Them)

Yes, workplace soft skills still matter. In fact, amid our ever-changing “new normal,” the intangible qualities that focus on behavior, personal traits and cognitive capabilities are more in-demand than at any other time in the modern workplace. They are also more challenging to recognize.

According to Deloitte, 90% of organizations are redesigning roles and teams. Perhaps no surprise, traits like adaptability continue to be in high demand as businesses adjust their operations to embrace remote work and other hybrid workplace models. At the same time, many job seekers are looking to make career transitions. Along the way, they’ll leverage the transferable, people-centered capabilities they currently possess.

In other words, we’ll soon be looking at a perfect storm for soft skills. Companies will covet them while candidates market themselves and their mastered soft skills to the best employers.

Top 5 Essential Soft Skills for 2021

So which workplace soft skills do employers require now? In our near-future of work, which soft skills will candidates need most to succeed?

Self-Management

The recent swing toward more autonomous working environments has changed everything. In the process, self-management has become one of the most in-demand — and marketable — soft skills. From everything to task ownership to time management, and self-motivation and the ability to set boundaries, this skill is a must-have in the workplace. A person who self-manages well also significantly reduces the risk of WFH burnout and Zoom fatigue.

Communication Skills

Good communication isn’t all about how we talk to others; it also involves active listening and the ability to keenly observe as well. Candidates must not only be articulate, but they must also be able to “see” beyond the spoken word and notice unproductive behaviors and patterns. Employees with expert communication abilities also tend to mitigate problems before they become a crisis and focus on collaborative solutions when they’re needed most. 

Emotional intelligence

Emotional intelligence (or “EQ”) is the ability to gauge and manage your own emotions while building productive relationships. EQ influences how well employees interact with one another — especially in remote or hybrid working environments. EQ also helps us increase performance, manage stress and conflict, and show much-needed gratitude. In a world of work where much of our communication happens via one-dimensional, tone-deaf text rather than in-person conversations, EQ will remain a top workplace soft skill for some time. 

Empathy

At one time, we didn’t associate empathy with the workplace. However, since we are now invited into everyone’s homes every day via Zoom, empathy is among the most sought-after soft skills. Especially when combined with a high level of emotional intelligence, empathy helps us read people and situations. When an employee has mastered empathy as a soft skill, they better exhibit adaptability, find it easier to build trust and connect quicker with remote team members. 

Self-Awareness

The mother of all soft skills, self-awareness, allows us to identify and develop the skills we may be lacking. Those with self-awareness pay attention to how they show up in different situations, especially during digital communications (like all those Zoom meetings). They ask for and are interested in and open to feedback from colleagues and leaders. Most importantly, they’re interested in personal and professional growth, achievement and contribution levels. 

How to Recognize These Five Workplace Soft Skills in Candidates

Candidates may not always be aware of their own soft skills. Or, especially during a virtual interview, they may not know how to articulate them). But savvy hiring teams can learn a lot during the application and interview process — virtual or traditional. 

For example, when a candidate completes an assigned, interview-related task on time and conveys their accomplishment to the recruiter, that’s a sign they have mastered self-management and communication skills. Similarly, candidates who give their former teammates credit while understanding how difficult it can be to remain productive during the pandemic display emotional intelligence and empathy. And those who display a passion for growth within a given role and as a member of a team — while understanding how they’ll need to adapt to fit into this new role — demonstrate acute self-awareness.

Want to truly assess mastery of the soft skills most important to your team or company? Be sure to leverage the many behavioral and situational tools available. 

For example, ask candidates to tell stories about how they handled various scenarios. Of course, don’t just rely on the candidate’s ability to serve as a storyteller. So ask the candidate’s references for insights on their workplace soft skills. For example, ask the reference to describe how the candidate handled specific situations involving stress and deadline-related pressure. To keep the conversation balanced, ask how they successfully rose to challenges and met opportunities to collaborate or lead.

Leverage Available Digital Resources

There is no doubt: Emerging technologies have helped us thrive during the pandemic. So why not take advantage of the many digital tools that have been developed and fine-tuned during the pandemic to better assess soft skills in candidates:

  • Video-based interview platforms that capture a candidates’ emotional nuances. We’ve found that reviewing videos after the initial discussion can reveal even more than noticed during the first couple rounds of interviews. Specifically, that review can provide hints that a candidate hasn’t quite mastered a specific soft skill. 
  • Virtual reality (VR) assessments can immerse candidates in a simulated world of the job and working conditions. These VR platforms help crystallize an excellent candidate experience. They also have tremendous recruiting advantages; some have increased work efficiency in industrial settings by 60%.

Recognizing Workplace Soft Skills: A Soft Skill of Its Own

A quick look at an application, resume, and LinkedIn profile will tell you most of what you need to know on the technical and professional side of the hiring process. We’ve all gotten pretty good at that side of the equation.

But screening for these five workplace soft skills is a skill all unto itself. By taking the time to master this skill, however — and by learning how to recognize the most in-demand soft skills for 2021 — you’ll help secure the best possible candidates for your company.

 

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[#WorkTrends] EQ: The Key to Leading High Performing Cultures in Uncertain Times

Emotional intelligence, or EQ, has been a regular topic in the workplace for some time now. And yet, in these uncertain times and while more of us must work independently conversations around EQ have gained momentum.

So what does EQ mean in terms of today’s workplaces? How are employers taking a fresh look at emotional intelligence while adjusting to new forces in the workplace? Let’s discuss!

Our Guest: Jamelle Lindo, EQ and Leadership Coach

On this episode of #WorkTrends, Jamelle Lindo — an emotional intelligence leadership coach — joins us to discuss EQ’s impact on today’s workforce.  Jamelle has published several thought leadership pieces on Forbes, where he resides as a member of the Forbes Coaches Council. So I couldn’t wait to get our conversation started. First, I asked Jamelle to help us define today’s version of EQ: 

“Simply put, emotional intelligence is about being smart about our emotions,” Jamelle said. He then added: “And not just your emotions, but also the emotions of other people. The reason why that’s important, especially today because this is an extremely emotional time.”

“We are in a pandemic, but we still have to show up for our families, for our businesses, for our clients.”

To help us frame EQ for the workplace, Jamelle filled in some blanks: “The interesting thing about emotional intelligence? Most people think it’s one skill. The reality is, EQ is actually an umbrella term that refers to many skills that tie into our emotionality; things like empathy, assertiveness, self-confidence, and stress resilience.”

EQ’s Role in Today’s Ever-Changing Workplace

I asked Jamelle how today’s best leaders leverage emotional intelligence to support their teams in these trying times. Jamell’s answer helped put everything in perspective: 

“The most important thing that a leader can do is walk the talk; they must develop their own EQ. That starts with self-awareness, which is the gateway skill that leads to everything else, including empathy. You cultivate self-awareness by developing an ability to stop, pause, and reflect on what you’re experiencing.” After saying this sounds easy, but that most leaders struggle in this area, Jamelle gave us a startling statistic: 

“Although most of us identify as being self-aware, only 10 to 15% of us actually are.”

To learn more about how EQ plays helps your organization achieve its mission — especially in the remote work era we’re in now– be sure to listen to my entire conversation with Jamelle!

Find Jamelle on LinkedIn and learn more about his work at JamelleLindo.com.

Editor’s note: We’ve given our #WorkTrends Podcast page (and also our FAQ page) a fresh, new look. Please tell us your thoughts?

 

Photo: Obi Onyeador

Love Starts with Leadership

Around here we celebrate Valentine’s Day sentiments all the time. We tell each other how much we appreciate, cherish, are wowed by, awed by, impressed by, and value each other. It’s not in our culture deck (we don’t have one since we’re always flexing and morphing to grow and change with the world of work). It’s not in the rulebook and it’s not even in any of the job descriptions. It’s just in the ethos of TalentCulture. 

I’m showing you a glimpse of how we work to make a point: all that love? It’s up to me. Daily, I’m aware of a deep sense of responsibility: I founded this company, and it’s up to me to make sure we’re all feeling good about it and great about each other. It has to be that way: the people come first. And if we’re going to love each other it has to start with the leader. So, my lovelies, here’s the closest thing to a box of chocolates I can give you all: 4 tips on how to bring more love into the workspace, whatever shape that space takes:

Be emoji-ional

Consider your favorite brands, and then, if you would, reflect on a conversation you may have had via chat, or a text, or on a social media platform. I love that brand. I heart that brand. Or you may have dropped literal heart emojis on someone’s text recently to express your absolute affirmation for their observation or idea. 

Social media has made it stunningly easier to express our feelings in a lighter, more informal way — which is far more appropriate for the workplace than any written declarations, let’s face it. The more we blend social into our workspaces, the easier it is to spread that love around. 

Get inspired.

Going back through the amazing posts we’ve published on TalentCulture.com, I realized we’ve always been interested in love. So, dear readers, here’s some reading material. Love and its impact on the office has plenty of angles, including a new post by guest contributor Rebecca Shaw on a recent UK office romance study. The research uncovered a disquieting gap between how women and men perceive work entanglements — and puts the onus on HR to help equitably and safely untie the knots. 

A post on why engagement comes from the heart bears a re-visit, bringing up the value of emotional currency. Kevin Grossman, a longtime member of the TalentCulture family, wrote about the dance between love and money — and managed to bring prog-rock band Rush, AC/DC, Apple and Southwest Airlines under one “culture rocks” umbrella.  We tend to feel very emotional about our work — from colleagues to culture — and it helps to remember that this isn’t new, we’re just getting better, and smarter at dealing with it. 

Take a love inventory.

We do a lot of work with amazing HR tech innovators — and lately we’re covering a lot of ground on the subject of engagement and experience for both candidates and employees. A strategy that comes up again and again is actually asking your employees how they feel. Now that we have access to highly effective tools that can scale to needs and growth — such as surveys, check-ins, feedback and recognition platforms — there’s no excuse for ignoring your workforce’s emotional state of mind. Inaugurate a new campaign to find out how your people are doing, and that should include anyone on the workforce, from freelancers and independent workers to payroll employees to executives. We tend to overlook our own needs as much as anyone else’s, and leadership behavior models the behaviors that the workforce is going to adopt. 

Conduct surveys of employee/workforce sentiment  — short and sweet and frequent is better than long, arduous, and one-time. Include yourself and other leaders and high-level managers as well as the whole workforce. Use the data to reveal the realities of your work culture and workspaces, share it with the workforce, and then start taking action to remedy the weak spots. Transparency and action taken on feedback are definitely part of modern leadership’s love language. 

Practice emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence isn’t a new concept: it’s become a twenty-first century chestnut at this point. It has to do with how skillfully we manage our relationships and ourselves, and it’s been proven to correlate with our ability to perform. But I’m frequently struck but how far away from EQ we’ve gotten. Like many concepts that make a splash and send ripples through the HR field, EQ’s novelty has receded. A great piece in Inc. by Wanda Thibodeax introduces its close “cousins,” cognitive intelligence, success intelligences, and cultural intelligence (CQ). 

But EQ is just as important as ever. When we talk about using tact to deliver un-great news to job applicants, that’s EQ: and it’s akin to letting a suitor down easy because, well, they’re human. When I wrote about the power of some leaders to reach their people, one of the key factors is emotional intelligence — though these days, I’d gather other traits, such as kindness, honesty, respect, letting go and partnering as all part of being emotionally intelligent. Evolution is consolidation in this case, and we’ve come far since that piece first appeared, though with over 700,000 views by now, it’s clearly still hitting a sweet spot. To be perfectly honest, that makes me happy.

The bottom line — to feel love you have to bring the love yourself. It that means you spend a bit more time practicing some much-needed self-care, then do it. Get that box of chocolates, do the yoga class, plan the marathon training, go on vacation, take time to do something good for the planet, or volunteer. Whatever works. It’s your job to make everyone else feel good about themselves and the value they bring to your organization — and that means you need to feel good about yourself and your value as well. Go get yourself a Valentine-y card, then get everyone cards too, and watch the love start to catch on. 

#WorkTrends Recap: Building Your EQ

When you turn on your laptop or open your office door, what do you bring with you?

I’m not talking about your lunch. We all carry emotional baggage with us everywhere we go — including to work. Having emotions isn’t a bad thing — it’s what makes us human — but we’re all better served when we tune in to what we’re feeling and how those feelings affect our behavior.

On the #WorkTrends podcast, certified emotional intelligence trainer Valerie M. Sargent shared more about why EQ matters at work and how we can all become more emotionally intelligent. You can listen to the episode below, or keep reading for a recap.

What Do Emotions Have to Do With Work?

Emotional intelligence is sometimes called EI or EQ. EQ is an acronym for “emotional quotient,” as opposed to your “intelligence quotient.” And growing your EQ isn’t just about improving performance at work. Becoming self-aware and understanding your emotions can help improve relationships in all parts of your life.

Sargent says she first heard about emotional intelligence at a conference featuring Daniel Goleman, a psychologist who has written extensively about EQ. She’d never heard anyone talk about emotions at work; those two realms feel pretty separate most of the time. She realized that no one in her industry, multifamily real estate, was working with their teams on emotional intelligence — and that everyone needed to talk about it more.

“I started paying attention to situations where I saw people showing emotions in the field. When you’re managing apartment communities, you encounter so many personalities and emotional situations. Every company benefits from emotional intelligence.”

As she learned more about EQ and got certified in EQ coaching, Sargent realized that almost no one has any formal training about how to manage their emotions at work. “Everybody brings a history of how they were raised to deal with conflict or with difficult situations,” she says, but most schools and workplaces don’t provide proactive training.

One day, Sargent was on site at an apartment community, working with a talented leasing consultant. “She was so good at her job, but when something was going on with her personally, everyone could feel it. The whole office sensed something was wrong.”

When Sargent suggested gently that she take a personal day to sort out her emotions, the consultant started crying and said, “No one ever taught me how to leave emotions at the door. I don’t know what to do.”

That was a lightbulb moment for Sargent, who realized that we need to train people about how to understand and manage their emotions. If we don’t, people pick up bad habits, and toxic environments quickly start brewing.

How Can Leaders Set the Emotional Tone?

An organization’s emotional culture starts at the top. “Unfortunately, a lot of leaders don’t know what kind of emotional culture they’re creating,” she says. “For example, if you have a leader who’s a hothead and raises his or her voice when things aren’t going as planned, they make employees feel unsafe. How does that trickle down to the rest of the company? You’re building a culture of fear. That causes employee morale to drop, people leave and performance suffers in the organization.”

But if a leader is a good communicator who cares about his or her employees and makes sure every employee understands their roles and expectations, employees feel valued and buy into a shared purpose.

To build a healthy culture, leaders have to start with understanding their own emotions, she says. “It’s hard for leaders to manage their emotions when they don’t know what’s going on in their brains, or what their body language is saying.” Targeted EQ coaching can help leaders appraise what emotions they’re dealing with, and how they behave as a result. “Emotional intelligence starts with wanting to improve yourself, and realizing you aren’t perfect. We all have room for growth.”

How Can We All Manage Our Emotions?

Valerie teaches teams to pause. When you’re feeling frustrated, angry or upset, take a pause. Breathe. Look at other people’s perspectives and try to reframe the situation. Register what’s going on with your body. Reflect. And breathe some more. When we’re upset, our breathing can be very shallow, or we may hold our breath, she says. Just focusing on breathing can bring clarity and calm to a stressful situation.

She also recommends keeping a journal to keep track of emotional situations. “When you’re tracking that information, you can start to recognize patterns. Our brains are used to going down certain pathways of reaction. When we learn to identify those pathways, we can choose a different path — and that’s very, very powerful.”

If you’re looking for a tool to help you understand and manage your emotions, Sargent recommends smartphone apps that help with meditation and focus, like Calm, Living in Love and Holosync. She uses Living in Love to take 10-minute “napitations” when she’s feeling stressed.

Another app, MindPT, helps manage negative self-talk by reinforcing daily positive messages and images. And neuroscientist Daniel Amen’s BrainFitLife is a diagnostic tool to help you understand the type of brain you have, plus what supplements or nutrition might be helpful for you.

Finally, Sargent says we all need to manage our bodies to manage our emotions. If we’re not treating our bodies and brains well, it’s much more difficult to deal with stressful situations. So, she underlines the importance of getting enough sleep, eating well (including a good breakfast) and paying attention to how your body reacts when you’re stressed.

Leadership: It’s All In Your Head

We call it vision when it works. But what possessed the leadership of Volkswagen to systematically falsify emissions reports? What drives a magnate with unruly hair (so much so that it has its own meme) to toss his pompadour in the ring and make a loud bid for the presidency? Why would the CEO of a BigPharma company think a five thousand percent price hike on a medication was justifiable? Is it really the same impulse that prompts a smiling, trailer-dwelling CEO to transform his online retail site into a model of the workplace 3.0? I’m of course referring to Tony Hsieh’s holacracy in the place of hierarchy strategem: Think Different circa pretty much now.

What drove Hsieh, as the press gushed (drinking the punch), was a fear of being bored. To me his biggest legacy is not everyone getting to feel the veneer of equal, but that a mindset does indeed drive leadership. But also: the perception of what is good leadership and bad leadership is inevitably measured by results. If the results are devastating, that same sense of derring-do becomes a characteristic of the damned. Volkswagen’s CEO is out and there are more than 600,000 employees whose level of engagement has just plunged to zero.

What drives leadership is neuroscience; wiring. That’s what drives leaders to be an inspiration to the rest of us or an utter head shaker, or both. It’s their own psychology that brings down a company (and loses it $7.3 billion and a widening, enormous share of the global market) or changes the political game, to the benefit of a nation or not. But there are still two key traits of leadership that will make a workplace instead of breaking it, and we still need to hew to them:

Transparency. Among the forces that cause insomnia in leaders is rigidity. There are leaders who are, simply, too proud to be responsive or adaptive. They refuse to change for the sake of the workplace or the mission; hewing to a dysfunctional model because it is the status quo but also their very survival is entrenched in it. Our brains have built in ways of fighting change, one reason “think different” still seems so radical a concept. But this kind of gravity is the enemy of transparency, without which disasters happen: as well as being unable to adapt to change, they are unable to respond to problems in an innovative way. It’s not innovative to lie. It’s not visionary to be obnoxious, unless it part of a very long, very annoying corporate con. 

Emotional intelligence. Buzzword it may be, but another key marker of dysfunctional leadership is crowded out vision entirely. There are leaders too busy to win: those too trapped in the forest to see the trees; overwhelmed, constantly connected, unable to turn off and therefore preventing themselves from being able to work at peak performance or productivity — or inspire the engagement and confidence of their workforce. The whole “I live in a trailer, and it’s really cool” ethos that Hsieh transmitted had an underlying message: being too busy to live is being too busy to lead.

I’ve seen organizations dovetail their internal culture and functionality beautifully only to have a leader quash the effort: there are countless surveys advocating the adoption of tech, for instance, and lamenting the gap between recommendation and implementation. We also know leaders with such a precise and confidence instinct for the next zeitgeist that they simply leapfrog over recalcitrant boards or management strata — and that can work as well.

Now, though, perhaps more than any time before, there are global consequences to faulty leadership — just as profound, if not more, as to good leadership. And if we’re touting talent; the human factor; as the new currency in the world of work, let’s take a page form our own playbook. Opaque leadership is a paradox and a contradiction: Volkswagen’s leader made a travesty of the value of transparency, and probably ruined a legacy brand. So if the new world of work is still based on the same classic, sacred geometry: leaders, and followers, perhaps its time to delve into leadership analytics as well as talent analytics, and make sure we’re all aligned. We can’t change our brains, but we can certainly manage the consequences better.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

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Four Essential Best Practices for HR in 2016

Welcome to 2016! Although it’s already March, it’s not too late to cover a few best practices for human resources professionals, as well as how to analyze information about your current employees and help develop strong teams, once people are on board. So, without further ado, here are four best practices for HR professionals for the new year.

Diversity & Innovation

A recent Forbes article by Adam Hartung points out the importance of diversity and the need for HR to make a concerted effort to recruit outside the company—if only to gain a new and different perspective of the usual order of business. Innovation only comes as a result of change, and change is not possible without somebody being willing to rock the proverbial boat. In other words, you need to be willing to take a risk and hire someone from outside the inner sanctum, so to speak, to have the chance to gain knowledge and insight from someone with a different perspective.

Also, never underestimate the value of empathy and emotional intelligence, in relating to colleagues, job candidates, and new employees. You’ll need to base your hiring decisions on more than just skills, qualifications, and experience. As Gabrielle Garon emphasizes in a recent TalentCulture article, your expertise as an HR professional should include the ability to relate to employees as people, rather than merely team members or experts in their field. Relating to employees as people requires the capacity to look beyond what’s on paper and initial impressions, and to ask the right questions

HR, IT, & Data Analytics

The Talent Analytics blog provides a very helpful Beginners Guide to Predictive Workforce Analytics, which clearly lays out the essential components of data analytics for HR, arguing that “Predictive workforce projects need to address and predict business outcomes, not HR outcomes.” Hence a focus on the big picture and efficiency, as opposed to abstract factors.

Rather than trying to determine the best employee traits at your company based on your current workforce, for example, first determine what it is you need to accomplish with each upcoming project, as well as what traits are required in the people chosen to carry out that task. From there, you can more quickly determine the best ideal candidates for a given project. In this way, you’re focusing on the business at hand, rather than abstract predictors of success. Also, though, make sure to pay attention to the potential for turnover, retention, risk, and talent when looking for viable candidates.

Research & Development, Training

The best HR practices include keeping an eye on how to train existing employees internally and dedicate a substantial part of the company budget to research and development. This means hiring workers who can act as skill trainers and instructional leaders. Moreover, finding the best people to utilize as trainers means being able to identify desirable traits and talents desired in company trainers, and then to successfully recognize those qualities in both internal and external candidates for the position.

It’s crucial to focus on individual talents during the search for company training candidates, so as to match skilled leaders with an interest in and a talent for teaching to the position. Making sure that the trainers you pick are born teachers, rather than experienced project managers or product developers, can help avoid future frustration and lack of productivity. As a hiring manager, you can help ensure job satisfaction by using a talent assessment tool as part of the interview process, as well as making sure to focus on employee strengths and incorporate them into their duties.

Quality Recruitment

If you want to reach out to the best people, all while giving a nod to the first strategy discussed in this article (innovation), it pays to utilize the best sites out there. One effective method involves recruiting talent that isn’t necessarily applying with you for a position—for example, via LinkedIn. This is also known as finding ‘passivejob candidates, and it involves strategies such as networking, focusing on growth and satisfaction in job descriptions, and communicate with recruits as people, rather than potential job candidates.

In a recent article on the biggest trends of 2015, Meghan Biro estimates that nearly 80 percent of job seekers utilize social media in their job searches—and, furthermore, younger generations are estimated to use social media 90 percent of the time! Advertising job positions on a platform like Twitter, for example, will open up the field of applicants even further by making it accessible to a much wider, public audience. This can also help with the innovation component since it’s more likely that external applicants from outside the fold will apply for a position as opposed to merely internal candidates. Moreover, as Biro also points out, social media recruitment can be extremely profitable.

What’s the bottom line, then? Emotional intelligence and holistic, long-term thinking rule the day. Don’t be afraid of data, but at the same time, don’t allow facts and figures to be the sole determining factors in the decision-making process. In other words, think with your heart as well as your head. Here’s to a unique and successful 2016!

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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

5 Leadership Toys For The Multigenerational Workplace Sandbox

The multigenerational workforce; you’ve heard about it. There are about six generations that live in America today – three to five of which are in the workplace, with another set to enter within ten years. You’ve probably heard most about Generations X (30-50 years of age) and Generation Y (Millennials, 11-29), with the occasional reference to Baby Boomers (51-68), the group arguably hit hardest by the recent Great Recession.

Please note that these age brackets vary from resource to resource but this gives you the general gist. Thanks to a global economy which stubbornly refuses to improve in any meaningful way for many anxious holders of 401Ks, we’re unlikely to see Baby Boomers retiring at rates previously expected.

The short story is this: at least three generations can be found in most workplaces, which not only is a potential source of workplace friction, but also a real puzzle for leaders, HR, brand marketers and talent management pros looking to humanize brands.

It’s really not something we can afford to ignore.

This shift in the meaning of brand is seismic, as they say. Where my parents bought a car for the brand’s reputation, and I wouldn’t buy a car for any one reason, my niece might buy a car if its infotainment system is seamlessly synchronized with her Bluetooth and iPhone (or Android).

For Millennials, brands must have social capability and social identity, or allow the individual to use the brand’s product in a social context. For Gen X, the brand must be multinational. And for Boomers, well, snob appeal still works – one measure of brand reputation. Note: I’m a Gen-Xer and I sometimes want each of these offerings above so it can be misleading to go on statistics alone. Honestly, I often think stereotyping generations can be very limiting in this way but it’s useful to gain a macro-perspective on just how much the world of work is transforming now.

In workplace brands, as with multigenerational teams, a lot of adaptation and flexibility is called for if success is the goal. As I wrote last week, Brand Humanization is of increasing importance. This holds for workplace brands as a well. If you’re a CEO, HR person or a hiring manager for new and retained talent, you’re probably wondering how to keep the wheels on the bus with three, potentially five, age groups on staff.

Here are five suggestions to keep your workplace and leadership brand aligned with the needs of three or four very different groups of workers:

1) Relevance: For all groups of workers, work must be relevant. This matters for someone who’s 60 as much as it does for a 23-year-old, although the meaning of ‘relevant’ might be different for each. Leaders always need to communicate a task’s relevance. If a task is relevant, it will make the brand relevant too.

2) Accountability: Some people are accountable by nature. They’re performers. Lots of other people have to be made accountable. A lot has been written about the lack of accountability in Millennials, but I think it’s more a question of communications again: leaders must be very clear about what it means to be accountable in the workplace. A 45-year-old may see his or her work as contributing to the bottom line, a 25-year-old may see it as a task and miss the big picture, and a 60-year-old may see a task as a dead end. Leaders have to show everyone why everything they do in the workplace counts and helps build a good brand. Mind, employees have a responsibility to look beyond themselves too, but that’s a topic for another day.

3) Motivation: First cousin of accountability and relevance, motivation can be a mystery for a leader. A conventional boss may see a paycheck as sufficient motivation, while a strategic leader will see motivation as the key to a productive workplace. Taking the time to understand what motivates workers is a huge investment, but it’s absolutely necessary. Unmotivated workers won’t care about the brand, and that’s the first step down the path to brand destruction.

4) Trust: As the work world becomes increasingly driven by social media and social technologies, trust becomes more important. Old-school companies and leaders may think trust is embodied in a paycheck, but it’s not. Trust is earned, like respect. Workers who trust management will also trust the brand.

5) Emotional connection: I’m a big proponent of the workplace value of Emotional Intelligence. The leader with emotional intelligence understands the need for an emotional connection with everyone in the workplace. No, you don’t have to be best friends, but you do have to be sensitive and aware to the emotional tenor of the workplace. Ignore emotional connection and no one will care about your brand, or your workplace.

Can we all just be happy in the multigenerational workplace? Not all the time, certainly, but it will be much more achievable if you’ve taken the time to humanize your brand. Your workforce will be a community, just like in real life, where the players are all at different stages but are working to stay more or less in synch with one another. The alternative? Look around you at the dead or dying brands, the legions of un- or underemployed and the dispossessed.

Attracting and retaining talent takes a lot of work and persistent effort to be better. So please get to it and start thinking about being a human leader.

A version of this post was first published on Forbes on 3/23/2014

Photo Credit: Knoll Inc via Compfight cc

Why Managers Have to Develop Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is an essential trait for effective managers. Emotionally intelligent people motivate and understand the value in connecting with others.Getting to know people is an extremely difficult task. There are so many intricacies and traits for every individual that we’ll never see two people that are exactly alike.

Simple triggers can make someone angry, joyous, sad, or happy. We also cognitively develop triggers over time that allow us to feel a certain way during certain events. For example, you know when to laugh at a joke and you know that when it’s 5 pm on a Friday, you get excited.

All these emotions and triggers are what make us unique, but it’s also what makes being a leader or a (good) manager so damn hard. A true leader must have enough emotional intelligence to gain an understanding of the people that are following their lead. Unfortunately, some employees believe their bosses are not only bad, but so terrible that they cause employees to feel disengaged at work. A problem that is costing the U.S. workforce over $400 billion in lost productivity per year.

Quite frankly, if management is not doing their job in leading, it’s certainly because they lack the emotional intelligence to motivate and trigger their employees and push them to prominence.

What Happens When Managers Lack Empathy

One of the worst parts about managers lacking empathy or emotional intelligence is the fact that they don’t know it. It’s a narcissistic behavioral pattern that doesn’t allow them to see past their own biases and beliefs. Managers that lack empathy will not only discourage the people around them, but make life a living hell for an employee that just wants to keep on advancing and producing.

Employees with bad bosses hate a lot about their managers, but not considering the feelings of the people that are working their hind ends off is a no-go for any organization. There are plenty of styles and different ways to lead and having a “leader” with narcissistic values that doesn’t get the concept of working as a team will always lower the productivity of a team.

John C Maxwell Quote

Make sure you get an accurate psychometric assessment that will let you know if an employee is a good fit for your organization. Not everyone is cut out to be a leader, and having the wrong candidate for an important position can mess up the culture at your office.

Why This Is an Issue for a Lot of Organizations
One of the beauties of living in the information era is that we have so much knowledge at our disposal. We can validate assumptions that would’ve otherwise gone unnoticed.

The world of work has shifted drastically in just the past 20 years. We’ve made a lot of progress in enterprise technologies, labor/job standards, and markets have sprung up (mobile phones, social networks, video conferencing) that have had a massive influence on the workforce.

The one thing that has remained constant is the low levels of job satisfaction.

Though it may not seem possible, 64 percent of employees that are making more than $100,000 a year are still not satisfied. However, the one group of people that tend to feel happiest are managers and leaders.

Bosses More Satisfied than Workers chart

The narcissism displayed by unempathetic leaders who lack emotional intelligence will lead employees, at any pay grade, to feel dissatisfied at work.

As mentioned earlier, billions of dollars are being lost because people don’t feel motivated to work for the people who manage them. Even if you have the best team surrounding you, the person that is in charge has to believe in holacracy and autonomy.

Let the talent bloom and surround them with good personalities and leaders.

How to Develop Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is something that is usually inherited as opposed to taught. The kinds of characters that lack empathy and emotional intelligence lack one other thing— patience. If you or someone you know is trying to develop emotional intelligence, the best way to go about it is to take things one step at a time. Slow down and acknowledge what is happening.

This doesn’t necessarily mean to over-analyze every action, facial expression, or look at what the goal is for the future and why it hasn’t been met yet. Slow it down. Take a breath and look around.

Ferris Bueller quote

Get to know the people around you and gain an understanding of what’s going on and why people react to things in a certain way. The more you get to know about the people around you, the more you’ll get to see what their true motives are and how they can be better.

At the end of the day, it depends on whether or not the person truly wants to change some of their bad habits and become a good leader. The attitude of the office will always reflect the leadership, so whether you’re the CEO or HR manager, get a feel for the employees and hear them out. It will only be good for your organization as a whole.

Have You Had a Manager That Lacked Emotional Intelligence?

Have you or any of your colleagues dealt with management that didn’t necessarily treat people as good as they could have? What can be done to improve management in some companies?

Let us know in the comments below!

photo credit: emotional via photopin (license)

Leadership: It's All In Your Head

We call it vision when it works. But what possessed the leadership of Volkswagen to systematically falsify emissions reports? What drives a magnate with unruly hair (so much so that it has its own meme) to toss his pompadour in the ring and make a loud bid for the presidency? Why would the CEO of a BigPharma company think a five thousand percent price hike on a medication was justifiable? Is it really the same impulse that prompts a smiling, trailer-dwelling CEO to transform his online retail site into a model of the workplace 3.0? I’m of course referring to Tony Hsieh’s holacracy in the place of hierarchystrategem: Think Different circa pretty much now.

What drove Hsieh, as the press gushed (drinking the punch), was a fear of being bored. To me his biggest legacy is not everyone getting to feel the veneer of equal, but that a mindset does indeed drive leadership. But also: the perception of what is good leadership and bad leadership is inevitably measured by results. If the results are devastating, that same sense of derring-do becomes a characteristic of the damned. Volkswagen’s CEO is out and there are more than 600,000 employees whose level of engagement has just plunged to zero.

What drives leadership is neuroscience; wiring. That’s what drives leaders to be an inspiration to the rest of us or an utter head shaker, or both. It’s their own psychology that brings down a company (and loses it $7.3 billion and a widening, enormous share of the global market) or changes the political game, to the benefit of a nation or not. But there are still two key traits of leadership that will make a workplace instead of breaking it, and we still need to hew to them:

Transparency. Among the forces that cause insomnia in leaders is rigidity. There are leaders who are, simply, too proud to be responsive or adaptive. They refuse to change for the sake of the workplace or the mission; hewing to a dysunfctional model because it is the status quo but also their very survival is entrenched in it. Our brains have built in ways of fighting change, one reason “think different” still seems so radical a concept. But this kind of gravity is the enemy of transparency, without which disasters happen: as well as being unable to adapt to change, they are unable tor respond to problems in an innovative way. It’s not innovative to lie. It’s not visionary to be obnoxious, unless it part of a very long, very annoying corporate con.

Emotional intelligence. Buzzword it may be, but another key marker of dysfunctional leadership is crowded out vision entirely. There are leaders too busy to win: those too trapped in the forest to see the trees; overwhelmed, constantly connected, unable to turn off and therefore preventing themselves from being able to work at peak performance or productivity — or inspire the engagement and confidence of their workforce. The whole “I live in a trailer, and it’s really cool” ethos that Hsieh transmitted had an underlying message: being too busy to live is being too busy to lead.

I’ve seen organizations dovetail their internal culture and functionality beautifully only to have a leader quash the effort: there are countless surveys advocating the adoption of tech, for instance, and lamenting the gap between recommendation and implementation. We also know leaders with such a precise and confidence instinct for the next zeitgeist that they simply leapfrog over recalcitrant boards or management strata — and that can work as well.

Now, though, perhaps more than any time before, there are global consequences to faulty leadership — just as profound, if not more, as to good leadership. And if we’re touting talent; the human factor; as the new currency in the world of work, let’s take a page form our own playbook. Opaque leadership is a paradox and a contradiction: Volkswagen’s leader made a travesty of the value of transparency, and probably ruined a legacy brand. So if the new world of work is still based on the same classic, sacred geometry: leaders, and followers, perhaps its time to delve into leadership analytics as well as talent analytics, and make sure we’re all aligned. We can’t change our brains, but we can certainly manage the consequences better.

This article was first published on Forbes on 9/26/15

Photo Credit: Big Stock Images

Test for Emotional Intelligence and Hire Better

Everyone’s looking for the edge in recruiting.  To some, they seek out passive candidates and lure them away from competitors with the promise of high salaries and bonuses.  Some are trying to corner the market socially.  But there’s a little understood way to enhance your quality of hire without having to stalk the competition.  It’s called emotional intelligence, or EQ (short for emotional quotient.)  By testing candidates for their emotional intelligence, recruiters can enhance quality of hire immediately. If your team is looking to hire better, try these tips!

Tips to Hire Better By Focusing on Emotional Intelligence

When you think of the top performers in your organization, what do they have in common?  Author Travis Bradberry claims the top 90% of high performers also possess high levels of emotional intelligence.  He also asserts that emotional intelligence explains 58% of success in the workforce across industries.  It’s clear that these high performers and successful employees have something that others do not.

The traits that these high performers have are many of the most desired traits of employees.  These include leadership, great communication skills, people skills, self awareness, self motivation, and more.  Many job postings list these as prerequisites for a job but outside of some fumbling interview questions, don’t actively test to make sure a candidate possesses any of these traits.  So how does a savvy recruiter test for these traits in order to hire better?

  • Pscyhometric Testing.  Psychometric testing has gained popularity recently as a great predictor of what an employee’s work style might be.  Additionally, it exposes things like capacity for leadership, team building, and commitment to ethics.  This is a great way to start to get to know a candidate.  If you’re looking to hire better with emotional intelligence, this can uncover whether the candidate has any levels of emotional intelligence. Psyometric tests are available in both print and online.  They’re simple questions that can provide big insight in only 20 minutes or less.
  • Video Interviews.  Video interviews are great to view a candidate in the applicant screening process.  Because these interview questions are timed, answers can expose a candidate’s honest reaction to the questions provided.  These recordable interviews also offer a great opportunity for recruiters to view a candidate’s body language and facial cues in the video interview.  If seeing is believing, then video interviews allow recruiters to determine whether a candidate believes in what he or she says. The facial cues and body language displayed offer a more nuanced view of the candidate.
  • Creative Scenario Based Tests.  In interviews, it can be extremely helpful for an interviewer to construct a series of scenario based tests.  These can expose the decision making process behind a candidate’s answer and reveal whether they are self- aware, have a high aptitude or leadership, and more.  Get creative and ask questions based on things that may happen during the course of the work day. Using this suggestion, your team can get to know your candidate better to determine organizational fit.
  • Schedule a Panel Interview.  Panel interviews are great ways to find out how candidates will work with others across the organization.  When those panels are also diverse, they can expose how a candidate may communicate with people outside of his or her age cohort or racial group.  Panels provide a variety of different people’s experience, viewpoints, and judgements into the process.  It could be that a panel member can recognize abilities that are useful and transferable across departments.  If your recruiting team is seeking to uncover emotional intelligence, a panel interview sets the stage to find out.  Schedule a panel interview and see how it can help you to hire better.

When it comes to enhancing your quality of hire, emotional intelligence should be high on the list of what you’re looking for in candidates.  A strong indicator of success, emotional intelligence can be uncovered in a variety of traditional and nontraditional ways.  The extra investment of time is worth it to find out who your next stand out hire could be.

Photo credit: Bigstock

Diagnosing Emotional Un-Intelligence

The New York Times and Forbes Magazine recently published articles about “Emotional Intelligence” and its applications in the world of work.

Social scientists disagree about the exact nature and validity of Emotional Intelligence, and, as the Atlantic Monthly points out, no “people skill” is good or bad but that intention makes it so.  But if Emotional Intelligence is something you would like to cultivate, either in yourself or in others, here is a slightly different tack on the issue: Instead of listing and emulating the attributes of people who possess emotional intelligence, let us consider why some people are not emotionally intelligent.

Being social creatures, many of the traits of so-called Emotional Intelligence develop naturally within us.   If these traits are lacking– for example, if a person has poor control of their anger, or if they are narcissistic, oblivious to other people’s feelings, or just have trouble making eye contact– this may not be an issue of lacking a skill or a genetic propensity.  It may be evidence of trauma that has caused their innate Emotional Intelligence to be suppressed.

In her famous TEDtalk, Brene Brown points out that we are the most in-debt, obese, addicted, and medicated adult cohort in US history.  She goes on to say we cannot “selectively numb” our emotions.  If you numb one emotion, you numb them all, and thus we slide into a state of what might called “Emotional Un-Intelligence.”

The act of “numbing up” emotionally is not so much a character flaw or lack of “smarts” or ability as it is a coping mechanism.  Unscrewing the fuses might make the house go dark, but at least the place won’t burn to the ground because of an overheated circuit.

Instead of being a lack of Emotional Intelligence, the act of disregarding or numbing “feelings” may be evidence of a necessary, and one might even say clever, survival technique.  Any stressful environment will, over time, contribute to the creation of an apparent lack of Emotional Intelligence.

So if we are to manifest greater Emotional Intelligence, let us consider that the lack of it is usually not a lack of the ability to comprehend the bullet points in a PowerPoint presentation.  The lack of Emotional Intelligence is far more likely to be a symptom of long-term exposure to shame, stress, and other psychological injuries.  The real fix is to address the root causes and heal these injuries, and thus allow the natural flow of emotional energy instead of suppressing it.

Image: bigstockphoto.com

Photo: Amy Hirschi

Effective Leaders And Managers – Different Yet Complementary

Every company needs people who can lead and people who can manage. They don’t have to be the same. They are likely not the same.

Some of the best leaders cannot manage very well. Some of the best managers are not even good leaders. Yet both stimulate good-to-great performance. Both generate successful, profitable results. Both contribute to an employee engagement culture.

So how are they alike? How are the different? And when it comes to employee engagement, so what?

Here are three key areas where your leaders should demonstrate specific style and skills. In those same areas, your managers should demonstrate different skills that complement the leaders’ skills. In other words, you want them to be different, yet similar.

Envision or Observe

A leader envisions the big picture, the strategic vista, the long-term success. A leader views the organization and all that impacts it — now and in the future — with more than her mind. She actively sees with business insight, with personal intuition, with professional insight, and with emotional intelligence. That combination provides a leader interactive know-how that gives employees reasons to engage their time, energy, skills and creativity for the success of the organization. The leader’s know-how combines tools such as empathy, personal attention, individual interest alongside corporate commitment, and 20-20 sight that combines macro and micro vision. This power to envision is only as meaningful as the leader’s ability to convey what she sees. Wordy words and corporate communication often don’t cut it. The engaging leader conveys what’s envisioned in words and messages not merely understood but seen and felt and owned by every member of the organization.

A manager observes the issues and actions occurring here and now. He pays day-to-day (if not hour-to-hour) attention to workers’ performance and results. He focuses on seeing that all employees know what is expected in every part of their assignments. After that his focus turns to seeing how much excellence each employee brings from those expectations. The manager observes with knowledge of each worker, awareness of specific tasks, connection of each worker’s role to every other worker’s, and the efficiencies to be derived. How well these lenses are combined determines how eagerly employees engage themselves to their specific jobs. The key to a manager’s success is expressing what’s expected, updating that as situations change, and conversing openly about how much, how well the expectation is met. The engaging manager’s ability to communicate expectations — what, how, why, when, where — gives meaning to what he observes.

Value or Evaluate

The leader generates good business karma by expressing meaningful values to those throughout his organization. Business culture comes from clear and sincere positioning of the company’s values. The company that demonstrates its commitment to customer satisfaction, to community value and to employee well-being — from the executive offices to the service desk — puts its values out for all to see. And appreciate. Employees who clearly identify and accept their company’s values connect themselves to the business, to their teams, and to their assignments. The more often and the more vividly a leader speaks and shows, applauds and acclaims what the company values, the more employee engagement he will generate.

The manager generates good management persona by evaluating her employees fairly, effectively and with concern. Evaluation can happen more often than the usual two times a year; it need not always be formal. The more often and the more conversational a manager’s effort to discuss performance, the better. Discussion may occur in a sit-down meeting or in a brief, off-the-cuff conversation. It may cover whole-job performance or specific issues. The manager is the major reason an employee stays with the company or leaves. The manager’s commitment to successful performance evaluation encourages  the good employee to stay. As the manager provides performance feedback openly and frequently, the employee engages in improving that performance.

Inspire or Motivate

A leader inspires her company’s personnel. She shares a vision so clearly that others see it for themselves. She expresses it so vividly that others desire to achieve it. A leader’s success at inspiring those in the organization is by making the end result so appealing that others are willing and eager to commit to accomplishing the result. As true leaders seek continually to improve themselves, they impel others to similar self-improvement. Inspiration is a pull, a lure, an attraction to something desirable. A leader’s ability communicate to the level of inspiration is her distinguishing feature.

A manager motivates his employees. He gives employees reasons to accomplish results by a certain time with a certain level of quality. Typically these motivators are either carrots or whips, rewards or penalties. However, there are more effective, work-positive motivators. The savvy manager takes advantage of praise and recognition of an employee’s hard work. An open-door policy backed up by a willingness to listen motivates employees to trust their manager. That trust strengthens team engagement. Motivation is a push tactic, encouraging employees to apply their full efforts to the job at hand.

Leaders and managers: different and alike. In different yet complementary ways, both can contribute to the business culture that generates a more fully engaged employee base.

Leadership Means Being Definitive And Living Levity

“Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way.” – George S. Patton Jr.

That’s when I realized someone lurked right outside our bedroom doors.

I sat up still glued to the sheets, soaked with sweat. It still must’ve been over 85 degrees outside, my meek fan swirling nothing but hot air around my room. My heart hammered in my ears. I forced my eyes on my digital clock – it read 2:30 am.

Our dog growled and barked from outside my door. Mom and Dad shouted. Feet pounded back down our hallway and out the front door.

Mom burst in my room and held out a handgun to me, handle first.

“Take your father his gun! Now! Someone was in the house and Dad’s chasing him!”

I remember thinking, you’ve got to be kidding, Mom, but I complied slowly, rose from my bed, and carried the gun outside by the handle as if I held a rat by the tail.

Moments later out on the street, Dad appeared under the corner streetlamp, completely out of breath and sweaty, wearing nothing but his white underwear.

“Watcha got there…a rat?” he panted through a smile, bent over with hands on his knees.

I handed him the gun. My hand shook. “No, it’s your gun. Did you get him?”

“Yes…I…figured it…was…my gun…thanks…son…no…I didn’t…get him,” he panted. He held the gun like a cop, which he was, and pushed the safety off.

That incident took place nearly 32 years ago, but Dad always just did when it came to taking action. Fast forward to only six years ago, during my niece’s high school graduation. The school had honored those family and friends who have served in the military. My father had been in the Air Force, so we smiled proudly as he stood while the song played on:

“Off we go, into the wild blue yonder…”

Then, at the end of the graduation, Dad said, “Well, now we’ve got another graduation in two years.” That was be my nephew’s high school graduation, which we did all attend.

“And another one in 18,” I said, referring to my oldest daughter, Beatrice, then unborn, who will now be six years old this year.

He laughed and shook his head. “I don’t know about that one, son. Don’t know if I’ll make it that far.”

I squeezed his shoulder. “You never know, Pop. You beat the devil three times already, and God hasn’t called you home yet.”

But he did get “called home” four years later, in 2012. My mother followed him there four months after that.

It was all so bittersweet as we sat watching my nephew graduate from UC Berkeley recently, sitting among a class of newly minted scholars and leaders just beginning their adult lives and careers. Then I thought of my own two little girls, now nearly four and six, with their whole lives ahead, graduations lifetimes away, all the while their leadership skills budding and growing over time with a little help from me and their loving mother.

And for me, well, I thank my dad.

LeadershipSpecial Agent “Papa” Grossman (the grandkids called him that, but I called him “Pop” in his later years) was the nurturing father my sister and I never had, and a good and devoted husband to my mother. He came into our lives in the late 1970s, divorced like my mom, and his bachelor pad showed it – scantily clad women on black velvet paintings and a faux leopard skin bean bag chair – are what I remember the most. Hard-working and the strong, silent type, Dad was direct when needed to be and one of the warmest, funniest and nuttiest men you could ever meet.

It was always a sunny smile, my dad’s. A master of levity, Pop injected humor and silliness into most everything he did. His infectious laughter brought smiles to anyone in its radius, the scar above his lip always glinting under light like polished glass. For the life of me, I can’t remember how he got the scar. All I know is that it added a richness to his character, like biscuits soaked in honey and butter – you could never get enough of his presence.

This all from a law enforcement veteran of over 30 years. Anyone who ever worked with him shared the same sentiment – from the most hardened cops and criminals (who he called his customers), to literal strangers he’d meet on the street, in the store, in campgrounds, in the post office, in the doctor’s office – everyone experienced his sunny disposition, his goofy humor and his viral smile.

He had been stabbed, shot at and beat up more than once by bad guys and girls, yet he inspired me to keep a light head, to be silly, to embrace life and all the people in it, to give life and all the people in it a second and third chance, to laugh in the face of adversity – while at the same time tackling it and pinning it to the ground. Which is why Thom Narofsky’s Inspire to Retire Leadership Theorem resonated so much with me recently as well.

That’s why a leadership legacy for me means:

  • Being Definitive. That’s the one thing Pop brow-beat into my head so many years ago and then long into adulthood. It’s okay to question, it’s okay to fail, it’s okay to not be okay sometimes, but like Patton said, “Lead me, follow me, or get the hell out of my way.” The world always was that simple to my dad, and he had the self-awareness, emotional intelligence and personal leadership skills to know when to follow and when to lead – and when to get sh%t done. Taking ownership of self first is always the key to leading well.
  • And Living Levity. Laughter is truly a healer, and that’s the one thing Pop didn’t have to brow-beat into my head. It was difficult in my early adulthood to understand, but became easier as I grew older, getting more comfortable in my own skin while making others feel the same way as much as I could. This leadership legacy of laughter that Pop taught me, regardless of the ugly he saw everyday on the streets, was that life was more fun with levity, more beautiful and vibrantly alive with the wondrous mess it all is, like crayons melting together beyond the lines and creating pictures we never thought possible.

I want more pictures of rainbows and silly faces and sunny smiles and birthday hats. So do our girls. There’s enough darkness out there as it is. I’d prefer to stay in the lightness of Pop.

And that’s what we’ll give our girls, and then they’ll give to their children.

A special thank you to all who have served in the military and the police force, in memoriam and those who are still with us, whether still working as such or retired.

God bless you, Pop.

“It was only a sunny smile, and little it cost in the giving, but like morning light it scattered the night and made the day worth living.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald 

Leaders: Is Your "Work" Self the Real Deal?

(Editor’s Note: This thought-provoking post was originally published by our valued content partners at SwitchandShift. We are republishing it for the TalentCulture community, with permission. Why? Not because we’re seeking more attention from Google — but because Ted’s message is important. It bears repeating.)

For years now, I have devoted my waking hours to interacting with leaders from all walks of life.

From bootstrapped young ventures to huge business conglomerates. Middle management newbies to C-suite veterans. Non-profits and for-profits, alike. You name it — if it’s about leadership, I’m there. Understanding what makes leaders tick is literally what I’ve been doing for a living for as long as I can remember.

A Troubling Trend

Along the way, I’ve seen a few patterns — and this is one issue that comes up again and again. Sooner or later, at some point in a conversation, a leader will say something like this to me: “I’m one person at home, but another at work.”

Sound familiar? Try this scenario on for size…

At home, I’m generous and giving.
At home, I trust the good intentions of those around me.
At home, with my friends, we let loose and simply enjoy one another’s company, typically with no agenda.
At home, when I volunteer, I get lost in my work. When I’m done, I feel good for hours afterward. It’s the highlight of my week!
At home, I’m joyful.
At home, I’m the real me.
I wish I could be the real me all the time. If only!

On the other hand…

At work, I’m analytical and objective. If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t count.
At work, if you can’t prove it with hard data, don’t bring it up!
At work, I’m guarded. You have to watch your back.
At work, I make the tough decisions. It’s simply part of being a leader.
At work, I only give to my peers in strategic ways, if it’ll benefit me, too. I don’t want to be taken advantage of!
At work, a lot of my time is spent on pointless tasks. That’s why they call it work, isn’t it?
At work, I work my tail off. It’s draining. That’s why they pay me, right?
At work, I’m a stripped down version of the real me.

Does any of this ring a bell? Maybe a little too close to home?

The fact is, we’ve all felt it. Actually, many of us have felt nothing but these feelings throughout our careers. Many of us (especially those who cut our business teeth in the 20th century) have internalized the Industrial Age management philosophy still prevalent today. Many of us who are in this boat don’t yet realize there’s a better way — and we don’t even recognize that some leaders are actually living this better way, right now.

Give Your “Work Self” Permission to Be Fully Human

It’s time to give yourself permission to be fully present at work. Why do I say “permission”? Because we need it. Many of us crave permission to be our whole selves, our real selves. We crave permission to be generous, trusting, giving, and joyful — at work, at home, wherever we are. Some people will always doubt and detract from your efforts, no matter what you say or do to show them that there’s a better way. Forget about them. It hurts me to say that, but it’s important to say. No one can help those who refuse to be helped — those who would rather be “right” than be happy.

Some people are already on board with this whole-self-all-the-time concept. They’re ahead of the curve. If you are, too, then there’s your chorus. Focus on them. It’s important to gain new insights from their experience and let them recharge your batteries.

Your Reality Is Your Story

The vast middle? Those are what I like to call the “willing skeptics.” They aren’t sold on your message, but they’re open to being convinced, if you can back your claims with examples. Gather those examples! Share them early and often! It’s what every compelling author and speaker and teacher and leader does. Be a storyteller. Statistics won’t get you where you need to go. Examples of thriving companies running on modern, human principles? That’s what the willing skeptics are looking for. Put your willing skeptics in the position to think, “If they can do it, and they’re like us, then I bet we can do it, too.” Then show them how, or find someone who can.

People are hungry for positive, uplifting change. The 70% of workers who are disengaged and disaffected? They know there must be a better way, and they’re on the lookout for companies that are living it. They’re polishing their resumes so they can make the leap. This is an existential crisis for the companies who refuse to modernize how they lead — the corporate equivalent of the dinosaur die-off 65 million years ago.

The thing that doesn’t show up in surveys (but should) is this: It isn’t just workers who are unhappy. Even leaders yearn for a better way. They yearn to bring their whole selves to work – to bring their souls with them when they walk through the company doors each morning.

Is that you? Would you like to be a complete you — the trusting, generous, moral, joyful you — all day, every day — and not just when you’re at home?

Here Is Your Permission

Bring your soul to work. It’s essential to your happiness.

If you don’t want to take it from me, take it from the story of Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of the $500M+ clothing company, Patagonia. Chouinard is the author of Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman. It’s one of the best business books I’ve ever read (and I’ve read hundreds). It’s a blueprint for how a company can grow to incredible success by embracing the “whole” of everyone in the organization — rather than just their backs, hands and left-brains.

Chouinard founded a company where bringing your soul to work is baked right in as an essential ingredient of the organization. It has served them well. Perhaps that is the permission you need.

And so I repeat — bring your soul to work. It’s essential to your happiness. It’s also essential to the success of your company, as we tread ever deeper into this more “human” century.

(Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Leaders: Is Your “Work” Self the Real Deal?

(Editor’s Note: This thought-provoking post was originally published by our valued content partners at SwitchandShift. We are republishing it for the TalentCulture community, with permission. Why? Not because we’re seeking more attention from Google — but because Ted’s message is important. It bears repeating.)

For years now, I have devoted my waking hours to interacting with leaders from all walks of life.

From bootstrapped young ventures to huge business conglomerates. Middle management newbies to C-suite veterans. Non-profits and for-profits, alike. You name it — if it’s about leadership, I’m there. Understanding what makes leaders tick is literally what I’ve been doing for a living for as long as I can remember.

A Troubling Trend

Along the way, I’ve seen a few patterns — and this is one issue that comes up again and again. Sooner or later, at some point in a conversation, a leader will say something like this to me: “I’m one person at home, but another at work.”

Sound familiar? Try this scenario on for size…

At home, I’m generous and giving.
At home, I trust the good intentions of those around me.
At home, with my friends, we let loose and simply enjoy one another’s company, typically with no agenda.
At home, when I volunteer, I get lost in my work. When I’m done, I feel good for hours afterward. It’s the highlight of my week!
At home, I’m joyful.
At home, I’m the real me.
I wish I could be the real me all the time. If only!

On the other hand…

At work, I’m analytical and objective. If it can’t be measured, it doesn’t count.
At work, if you can’t prove it with hard data, don’t bring it up!
At work, I’m guarded. You have to watch your back.
At work, I make the tough decisions. It’s simply part of being a leader.
At work, I only give to my peers in strategic ways, if it’ll benefit me, too. I don’t want to be taken advantage of!
At work, a lot of my time is spent on pointless tasks. That’s why they call it work, isn’t it?
At work, I work my tail off. It’s draining. That’s why they pay me, right?
At work, I’m a stripped down version of the real me.

Does any of this ring a bell? Maybe a little too close to home?

The fact is, we’ve all felt it. Actually, many of us have felt nothing but these feelings throughout our careers. Many of us (especially those who cut our business teeth in the 20th century) have internalized the Industrial Age management philosophy still prevalent today. Many of us who are in this boat don’t yet realize there’s a better way — and we don’t even recognize that some leaders are actually living this better way, right now.

Give Your “Work Self” Permission to Be Fully Human

It’s time to give yourself permission to be fully present at work. Why do I say “permission”? Because we need it. Many of us crave permission to be our whole selves, our real selves. We crave permission to be generous, trusting, giving, and joyful — at work, at home, wherever we are. Some people will always doubt and detract from your efforts, no matter what you say or do to show them that there’s a better way. Forget about them. It hurts me to say that, but it’s important to say. No one can help those who refuse to be helped — those who would rather be “right” than be happy.

Some people are already on board with this whole-self-all-the-time concept. They’re ahead of the curve. If you are, too, then there’s your chorus. Focus on them. It’s important to gain new insights from their experience and let them recharge your batteries.

Your Reality Is Your Story

The vast middle? Those are what I like to call the “willing skeptics.” They aren’t sold on your message, but they’re open to being convinced, if you can back your claims with examples. Gather those examples! Share them early and often! It’s what every compelling author and speaker and teacher and leader does. Be a storyteller. Statistics won’t get you where you need to go. Examples of thriving companies running on modern, human principles? That’s what the willing skeptics are looking for. Put your willing skeptics in the position to think, “If they can do it, and they’re like us, then I bet we can do it, too.” Then show them how, or find someone who can.

People are hungry for positive, uplifting change. The 70% of workers who are disengaged and disaffected? They know there must be a better way, and they’re on the lookout for companies that are living it. They’re polishing their resumes so they can make the leap. This is an existential crisis for the companies who refuse to modernize how they lead — the corporate equivalent of the dinosaur die-off 65 million years ago.

The thing that doesn’t show up in surveys (but should) is this: It isn’t just workers who are unhappy. Even leaders yearn for a better way. They yearn to bring their whole selves to work – to bring their souls with them when they walk through the company doors each morning.

Is that you? Would you like to be a complete you — the trusting, generous, moral, joyful you — all day, every day — and not just when you’re at home?

Here Is Your Permission

Bring your soul to work. It’s essential to your happiness.

If you don’t want to take it from me, take it from the story of Yvon Chouinard, founder and owner of the $500M+ clothing company, Patagonia. Chouinard is the author of Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman. It’s one of the best business books I’ve ever read (and I’ve read hundreds). It’s a blueprint for how a company can grow to incredible success by embracing the “whole” of everyone in the organization — rather than just their backs, hands and left-brains.

Chouinard founded a company where bringing your soul to work is baked right in as an essential ingredient of the organization. It has served them well. Perhaps that is the permission you need.

And so I repeat — bring your soul to work. It’s essential to your happiness. It’s also essential to the success of your company, as we tread ever deeper into this more “human” century.

(Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter and G+ conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Gut Check: Leadership and Emotion #TChat Recap

We’ve all worked with them. Brilliant intellectuals who hold managerial titles — yet they struggle to form and sustain effective professional relationships.

They lack self-awareness, and seem even more clueless about how to deal with others. As leaders, they may be tolerated, ignored or even undermined. Despite their impressive credentials, they’re like fish out of water in the workplace.

These leaders desperately need an emotional Intelligence intervention. A gut check. Fortunately, talent development specialists agree that essential “soft skills” can be learned — although the process may be hard.

That’s the topic we tackled this week at #TChat Events with guest, Steve Gutzler, President of Leadership Quest and author of “Emotional Intelligence for Personal Leadership.” As one of the nation’s premier experts in emotional intelligence, leadership and personal transformation, Steve helped us explore the connection between EI and the ability to influence others.

(Editor’s Note: See #TChat Event highlights and resource links at the end of this post.)

Defining Emotional Intelligence: What’s Inside?

At its core, emotional intelligence (EI) is about our ability to perceive, control and evaluate emotions. Almost a decade ago, psychologist and author, Daniel Goleman, defined the 5 core components of emotional intelligence:

1) Self-awareness: Deep understanding of their own emotions, strengths, weaknesses, needs, and drives. People with strong self-awareness are neither overly critical nor unrealistically hopeful. Rather, they are honest — with themselves and others.

2) Self-regulation: Like an ongoing inner conversation, this frees people from becoming prisoners of their feelings. Self-regulators feel bad moods and emotional impulses, just as everyone does, but they’re able to control and even channel those responses in useful ways.

3) Motivation: Virtually all effective leaders display this trait. They’re driven to achieve beyond expectations — their own and everyone else’s. The key word here is achieve.

4) Empathy: This is the most easily recognized aspect of EI. We’ve all felt the empathy of a sensitive teacher or friend; we’ve all been struck by its absence in a stoic coach or boss. But in business, people are rarely praised, let alone rewarded, for their empathy.

5) Social Skill: As a dimension of EI, this is not as simple as it sounds. It’s not just friendliness — although people with high social skill are rarely mean-spirited. Rather, social skill is friendliness with a purpose. It’s about moving people in a desired direction, whether that’s agreement on a new marketing strategy or enthusiasm about a new product.

Emotional Intelligence: Leadership Secret Sauce?

Why is EI so vital? Today’s business environment is increasingly collaborative and team-oriented. To succeed in almost any mission, leaders must inspire and influence others. That’s where EI skills make all the difference. For better or worse, every interaction we have in the workplace has an impact on emotions, attitudes and motivation within us and within others. High-performing leaders understand this, and use it wisely.

What did our community have to say about this topic? Check out the resource links and highlights from this week’s #TChat conversation, below. Thanks to everyone who contributed ideas and opinions! Your experiences make concepts like EI more meaningful for us all.

#TChat Week-In-Review: Emotions, Leadership and Influence

SAT 12/14:

Steve Gutzler (2)

Watch the Preview hangout now

#TChat Preview: TalentCulture Community Manager, Tim McDonald, framed the week’s topic in a post and “sneak peek” hangout video with guest, Steve Gutzler. Read the Preview: “Leadership + Influence From The Inside Out.

SUN 12/15:

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro suggested ways that leaders can up their EI skills to help the talent in their organizations shine. Read: “Leadership Is About Emotion.”

MON 12/16 — WED 12/18:

Related Post:Psst! Leaders, Are You Really Listening?
Related Post:Managerial Magnets: Becoming a Leader Others Want to Follow

WED 12/18:

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Listen now to the #TChat Radio replay

#TChat Radio: Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman spoke with Steve Gutzler about why emotional intelligence matters in the workplace, and its connection with influence. Listen to the Radio replay now!

#TChat Twitter: Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and Steve joined the TalentCulture community on the #TChat Twitter stream, as I moderated an open, crowdsourcing conversation focused on 5 related questions. See highlights in the Storify slideshow below:

#TChat Insights: Leadership, Emotion and Influence

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/where-reputations-are-built-leadership-and-emotion.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

GRATITUDE: Thanks again to Steve Gutzler for sharing your perspectives on emotional intelligence and leadership success. We value your time, your passion and your expertise!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about how leaders can be more successful by developing emotional intelligence? We welcome your thoughts. Post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Happy #TChatHoliday!

Our weekly #TChat Events are on hiatus until the New Year — mark your calendar for January 8th. We’re preparing to start 2014 strong, with a full month of forward-looking #TChat guests and topics that you won’t want to miss!

Meanwhile, the lights are always on here at TalentCulture, where we’ll continue to post relevant “world of work” content over the holiday. And as always, the conversation continues daily on the #TChat Twitter stream, our LinkedIn discussion group. and elsewhere on social media.

So make merry, enjoy this festive time of year, and we’ll see you on the stream!

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Managerial Magnets: Becoming A Leader Others Want To Follow

Written by Roberta Matuson

Are you a manager who’s ready for a professional breakthrough? Then it’s time to become the kind leader people will do anything to work for. The kind of leader who draws others to you. It’s time to become a magnetic leader.

Contrary to popular belief, great leaders aren’t born that way. Most are developed, coached and mentored throughout their careers. But why wait for someone else to guide you? Magnetic role models are all around us. So, no matter what your title or level of experience, you can observe more closely and strengthen your own skill set anytime.

Here are 5 best practices to help you get started:

1) Put Your Team First

When in doubt, put the interests of your employees ahead of your own. For example, it’s tempting to volunteer your department to organize this year’s charity event. After all, it would be great PR for you and the rest of your team. But everyone has been working on weekends to complete a critical project on time and within budget. They’re already burned out.

This is a good time to take a pass. Your team needs a break. Let them recharge. There will always be other volunteer opportunities.

2) Go to Bat for Your Employees

Let’s say you’ve been discussing a potential reorganization with your superiors. However, upon reflection, you believe the timing isn’t right for your organization to make that move. You feel uncomfortable asking your manager to reconsider the current plan.

Be bold. Let your boss know you’ve had a change of heart. Explain your rationale, and be prepared to offer alternative solutions. Regardless of the outcome, your employees will eventually figure out that you had the courage to push back when others would have retreated. Those who walk through the fire with you will stick by your side through thick or thin.

3) Learn to “Manage Up”

In my book, Suddenly in Charge, I explain that managing up isn’t about brown-nosing. It’s about developing strong relationships with those above you and throughout the organization, so you can get your people the resources they need to perform well.

In every company, there are people who are somehow able to get what they need while everyone else waits on the sidelines. These people have taken the time to build strong relationships up and down the organization. You can bet these resourceful leaders have no problem keeping top talent on their team. Observe how they work — and if an opportunity presents itself, ask for some tips.

4) Make Yourself Visible and Accessible

Magnetic leaders are visible both inside and outside their organization. Get involved in a professional association. Whenever possible, step up and volunteer to take a leadership position. You’ll be seen as a leader in your field, based on that affiliation. Don’t be surprised if others come to you seeking advice or a position on your team.

5) Treat People the Way You’d Like to be Treated

I bet you’ve heard this one before, right? It seems so obvious — but when is the last time you saw someone in a managerial role who consistently follows this creed?

In my book, Talent Magnetism, I tell the story of magnetic leader, Chris Patterson, CEO of Interchanges, who took it upon himself to help an employee who was in crisis. Patterson made it his personal mission to provide his employee with the best care possible during a life-threatening illness. He did so with compassion and conviction. This is a guy who is magnetic in every way.

Magnetic leaders are highly valued by their organizations — and are compensated accordingly. But it’s not just a reward for their effort and contributions to corporate objectives. Their employers know that leaders who display these characteristics are highly attractive to competitive organizations.

Do you know role models who demonstrate the value of magnetic leadership? What do they do that makes them so attractive to others in their professional sphere? Please share your experiences and ideas in the comments area.

Roberta-Matuson-Photo(About the Author: Roberta Matuson, The Talent Maximizer®, is the President of Matuson Consulting, a firm that helps organizations achieve dramatic growth and market leadership through the maximization of talent. Her new book, Talent Magnetism, is available for download or purchase at Amazon.com. Connect with Roberta on Twitter or on LinkedIn.)

(Editor’s Note: This post is adapted from Brazen Life, with permission. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, it offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Rebecca Krebs via Flickr

Psst! Leaders, Are You Really Listening?

Listen: ˈlɪs(ə)n/

Verb: To give one’s attention to a sound.
Synonym: hear, pay attention, be attentive, concentrate on hearing, lend an ear to, and to be all ears.

We all understand the mechanics of listening. But too often today, when we have the opportunity to listen, we’re content with just passively letting sound waves travel through our ears. That’s called hearing. Listening is something entirely different. It’s essential for leaders to pay attention when others around us have something to say. Why? Because developing better listening skills is the key to developing a better company.

Lack of Listening Puts Organizations at Risk

Because leaders live in the ‘time is money’ zone, information gathering tends to focus on immediate requirements:

I need an answer! Give me a snapshot, infographic or sound-byte. GO, GO, GO!

However, when input actually arrives, how authentic are you about listening? Do you pretend to care, just for the sake of getting at what you think you need? Or are you receiving, absorbing and processing the entire message?

We’ve all had moments when we politely smile and nod throughout a dialogue. The speaker may feel heard and validated, but we miss out on potentially valuable information. Or how about those moments when we greet someone in passing with a quick, “Hi. How are you?” and continue moving forward without waiting for a response.

Occasionally, that may happen. But what if it’s a habit? What if others in your organization learn to expect that behavior from you? When people assume their ideas and opinions don’t matter, communication quickly breaks down. This kind of moment isn’t just a missed opportunity for meaningful interaction — it’s a legitimate business issue that puts your organization at risk.

Why Don’t We Listen?

When we’re part of a conversation, but we’re not paying attention, we send the message that we just don’t care. However, our intentions may be quite different. These are the most common reasons why we fail at listening:

  We’re developing a response. Instead of maintaining a clear, open mind when others speak, we quickly start composing our reply or rebuttal. Many smart people tend to jump into that response mode — usually less than 40 words into a dialogue.

  We’re preoccupied by external factors. In today’s multitasking environments, distractions abound. We’re bombarded with noise from things like open floor plans, and a constant barrage of texts, tabs, emails, calls, and calendar notifications.

•  It’s not a good time for the conversation. Have you ever been rushing to prepare for a meeting when someone stopped you in the hallway with a simple “Got a moment?” While it may be tempting to comply, it’s wise to simply schedule the discussion for another time. You’ll stay on track for the meeting, and can focus on the request as time permits.

Checked Out? Ideas For Stronger Communication

I ask my team questions and invest time in discussions because I’m interested in their answers. Actually, I need those answers. After all, employee feedback is critical for a more engaged, productive, fulfilled workforce.

To foster better understanding, try asking follow-up questions to verify what people intend to convey, and discover how they feel about what they’re saying. This simple gesture will cultivate a culture of openness and camaraderie. Also, we can use tools to streamline the communication process and help us ask smart questions that reveal more about employees.

However, there’s no point asking questions if we only respond with a nod and then move on. If your mind is too cluttered and your day too busy to engage fully, be honest with your team. Assure them that you’ll get back to them when you’re able. And of course, don’t forget to follow up.

How To Make Mindful Conversation a Habit

Still, many leaders struggle with the art of active listening. That’s why it’s important to learn useful techniques and make practice a part of your life.

Deepak Chopra, MD, observes that leaders and followers ideally form a symbiotic relationship. “The greatest leaders are visionaries, but no vision is created in a vacuum. It emerges from the situation at hand.” Effective leadership begins with observation — knowing your audience and understanding the landscape. Even the most eloquent, powerful speech will fall on deaf ears if the speaker doesn’t listen to the pulse of the audience.

It’s never too soon to start practicing this art. Here are 4 easy tips to improve your ability to listen and lead:

1) Repetition. Repeat anything you find interesting. This helps you recall key points after a conversation ends. It’s also a smart technique when you meet someone new. Repeat their name throughout the discussion. This not only solidifies the name in your memory, but also helps build rapport and trust.

2) Read Between the Lines. Pay special attention when a speaker changes tone and volume, pauses, or breaks eye contact. These subtle signals are clues that can reflect emotional highlights or pain points (anger, sadness, happiness). And body language often reveals what words don’t say.

3) Mouth/Eye Coordination. Looking a speaker in the eye establishes a connection and lets them know you’re listening. But don’t hold their gaze too long. Recent research suggests that eye contact is effective only if you already agree with a speaker’s message. Instead, try looking at the speaker’s mouth. That may feel awkward, but this keeps you focused on what they’re saying — and they’ll know it.

4) Reflection. Seal the deal by thinking back to extract meaning. You may be exhilarated by a great conversation — but without a mental debrief, much of it can be forgotten. Reflection is critical in developing the takeaways (and subsequent actions) that make the discussion valuable. Try mentally organizing important points by associating them with a relevant word or two. Then, in the future, you’ll more easily recall the details.

The art of listening is about much more than exchanging facts. Active listening helps those in your company feel validated and connected with you and your organization. Genuine conversations weave their own path. Give them your time and attention. Along the way, you’ll solve problems and generate new ideas that will have a lasting impact on you, your team and your business.

Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events each Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome to participate; or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)

Image Credit: Stock.xchng

Leadership + Influence From The Inside Out #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Are you looking for all the highlights and resource links from this week’s #TChat Events? You’re in luck — they’re right this way at the #TChat Recap: Gut Check: Emotions and Leadership.)

“It’s not personal — it’s strictly business.”
–Mario Puzo “The Godfather

Have you ever heard someone at work echo that classic line to dismiss their ruthless, destructive or self-serving behavior? In the past, that kind of cold-blooded Mafia mindset was all too prevalent in business. But these days it’s losing relevance, as emotional intelligence takes hold.

Although academics continue to debate various “EI” models, the core concept is simple. It’s based on the notion that the more mindful we are of the “human” side of business (in ourselves and others), the more effective our performance will be, and the more likely we’ll influence others’ performance.

While some people resist the term “emotional intelligence,” the concept is gaining traction. Some of the world’s most successful organizations — companies like Google and Microsoft — are actively developing emotional intelligence in their workforce. Why does it matter? And how can it “make” or “break” your professional reputation?

That’s the topic we’re discussing this week at #TChat Events, with EI expert, Steve Gutzler, President of Leadership Quest, a Seattle leadership consultancy, and author of “Emotional Intelligence for Personal Leadership.”

“Sneak Peek” Hangout

To kick-off this week’s discussion, Steve joined me for a G+ Hangout, where he briefly shared some fascinating insights about the importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace:

This week’s #TChat Events promise to be helpful for anyone who wants to work more effectively with and through others. So bring your questions and ideas — and let’s talk!

#TChat Events: Emotional Intelligence, Leadership and Influence

#TChat Radio — Wed, Dec 18 — 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT

TChatRadio_logo_020813

Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

Our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman talk with Steve Gutzler about why emotional intelligence matters in the workplace, and its connection with influence. Tune-in LIVE online this Wednesday!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Dec 18 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, Meghan, Kevin and Steve will move to the #TChat Twitter stream, where Dr. Nancy Rubin will lead an open chat with the entire TalentCulture community. Everyone with a Twitter account is invited to participate, as we address these 5 related questions:

Q1: Why is emotional intelligence so critical for today’s leaders?
Q2: How do emotional “soft skills” complement hard-edge business skills?
Q3: What is emotional hijacking vs. emotional self-management?
Q4: How can business leaders offer productive emotional influence?
Q5: What technologies can foster employee appreciation + emotional commitment?

We look forward to hearing your feedback, as talent-minded professionals, who care about the human side of business.

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

How Good People Can Deliver Bad News at Work

Written by Sarah Colomé

Something has gone terribly wrong at work. (It happens.) You’re terrified about telling your manager. (That also happens.) Breaking bad news to your boss can feel like you’re the designated driver on girls’ night out — while it’s not easy, someone has to take the hit.

However, if you take a closer look at this situation, you may find it’s a blessing in disguise for your career.

Employers are looking for contributors who know how to think on their feet, adapt quickly and  communicate effectively. If you reframe a work nightmare by offering timely, useful, well-researched solutions, you’ll demonstrate that you’re not only a smart thinker, but also a doer with management potential.

So, when that moment strikes and you have to break bad news to the person who decides your fate, consider these three strategies:

1) Bring the whole story to the table

Rushing to squeal that the keynote speaker for your annual conference just dissed your company on social media isn’t going to improve the situation.

Before you make a move, consider your source of information. Is this a credible individual or channel? Repeating uninformed, disruptive information only adds to the chaos. Research the facts (quickly!) so you can provide decision makers with relevant context. Your extra legwork can help them make an informed choice about how to proceed.

Knowing details helps frame the situation, allows for a better decision making process and makes you look like a mature, level-headed colleague rather than an reactive tattletale.

2) Think and speak objectively

Taking sides and passing blame does nothing to solve the problem. Instead, you’ll only paint yourself in a negative and self-serving manner — the complete opposite of what you want.

While this doesn’t mean you should hide pertinent information you have about the problem, you also don’t need to wrap a particular person up in a bow and pin them to a bull’s eye.

Pointing fingers isn’t necessary to solving the immediate problem. If necessary at all, it should be set aside until a solution has been found. Focusing on the fixing the problem helps you avoid looking like you’re stepping on another employee to make yourself look good. Plus, you’ll protect your working relationships with all parties involved — including the idiot who ordered 200 bottles of pineapple juice instead of Pinot Grigio for the donor banquet. Besides, if someone on the crew is truly inept, their actions will speak for themselves.

3) Offer problem-solving options

Showing up empty-handed to announce bad news accomplishes nothing. You need ammo. Prepare to suggest possible next-step ideas, so you’re less likely to become the target of a manager’s negative reaction.

Your goal is to avoid adding more stress to a difficult situation, by being ready to offer viable options. Research alternatives that save time or money, and assess the likely outcomes, so you can help determine a workable plan of action.

But keep in mind that offering effective solutions requires more than just a Google search and a few thrown-together spreadsheets. No solution can be implemented without investing employee energy, so assess the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for each path. This approach can help your manager avoid costly missteps — while simultaneously portraying you as a proactive, strategic thinker.

Delivering bad news is never easy, but reframing a negative work situation into a positive professional opportunity can be beneficial both for you and your company.

The next time someone accidentally sends detailed employee compensation data to everyone in your company, don’t fret. Get the whole story, be objective and come with a solution in hand.

Have you stepped up when there was a melt-down at work? How did you deliver the news — and did it help you grow in your career? Share your experiences in the comments area.

Sarah Colome (2)(About the Author: Sarah Colomé, M.S. is an educator, advocate and the SOARS Booking Director for A Long Walk Home, Inc. Based in Chicago, Sarah has traveled both nationally and internationally as a competitive collegiate public speaker. She teaches on topics related to social justice and diversity, health education, sexual violence and persuasive speaking. Connect with her on Twitter.)

(Editor’s Note: This post is adapted from Brazen Life, with permission. Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, it offers edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!)

(Also Note: To discuss World of Work topics like this with others in the TalentCulture community, join our online #TChat Events every Wednesday, from 6:30-8pm ET. Everyone is welcome at events, or join our ongoing Twitter conversation anytime. Learn more…)


Image Credit: Mugley via Flickr

"No Labels" Workforce: Sneak Peek Videos

(Editorial Note: Want to read the RECAP of this week’s events? See The Best-of-All-Ages Workplace #TChat Recap)

Age discrimination. Sometimes it’s very subtle. Sometimes it’s painfully obvious. Either way, it still can play a role in workplace culture. How can organizations move beyond the labels that hold back individuals, teams and corporate performance?

That’s our focus this week in the TalentCulture community. Our guests sat down for several minutes in Google+ Hangouts with me to discuss several key issues. Check it out:

One of our very own #TChat Ambassadors, Ashley Lauren Perez, defines key terms and offers advice for professionals who are considered part of “Generation Y”…

Next, Ashley’s boss, John Wilson, Founder and CEO WilsonHCG.com briefly explains why labels don’t make sense in the world of work…

It promises to be a fascinating week! The more voices who join the conversation, the better.

So join us at #TChat events this week, where we’ll take a closer look at labels in the workplace, and how to build cultures that value diversity in all of its forms:

NOTE: If you don’t see the G+ Hangout videos above in this post, you can watch them on YouTube:

“No Labels” Workforce: Sneak Peek Videos

(Editorial Note: Want to read the RECAP of this week’s events? See The Best-of-All-Ages Workplace #TChat Recap)

Age discrimination. Sometimes it’s very subtle. Sometimes it’s painfully obvious. Either way, it still can play a role in workplace culture. How can organizations move beyond the labels that hold back individuals, teams and corporate performance?

That’s our focus this week in the TalentCulture community. Our guests sat down for several minutes in Google+ Hangouts with me to discuss several key issues. Check it out:

One of our very own #TChat Ambassadors, Ashley Lauren Perez, defines key terms and offers advice for professionals who are considered part of “Generation Y”…

Next, Ashley’s boss, John Wilson, Founder and CEO WilsonHCG.com briefly explains why labels don’t make sense in the world of work…

It promises to be a fascinating week! The more voices who join the conversation, the better.

So join us at #TChat events this week, where we’ll take a closer look at labels in the workplace, and how to build cultures that value diversity in all of its forms:

NOTE: If you don’t see the G+ Hangout videos above in this post, you can watch them on YouTube:

Helping Other Talented People to Help You

Are you (or someone you know) having ongoing career challenges that to go beyond, “It’s a tough business environment these days and everybody feels stressed”?

Do you feel as if you have so much work you can never get even the important things accomplished? Worse yet, does it seem you can’t get those around you – even members of your own team – to cooperate, contribute, and do their part in moving projects and deliverables forward?

Have these types of challenges followed you through multiple positions, even multiple companies?

If you are answering “Yes” to most or all of these questions, it may be you have problems letting other people help you be successful.

Getting in Your Own Way

I can look back through my career and recognize people who constantly made it difficult, if not impossible, for others to provide the assistance they so desperately needed to be more successful. Some of these individuals expressed frustration at the apparent inability to move projects ahead. Most, however, did not recognize how they personally created barriers to their teams making progress.

Working inside a corporation for an extended time, it was much more manageable to work around or avoid these types of people to get things done. Now, working with corporate clients from the outside looking in, we typically have a relatively small group of client contacts with whom we work on projects. When one of these contacts cannot get out of their own way to let a project advance, we generally have very few options to work around them since you cannot just stop interacting with your own client!

As a result, I have been thinking a lot more about ways to help someone realize they have a problem allowing others to help them and proper ways to coach and mentor someone through improving.

Signs There is a Problem

There are several signs indicating someone has a problem in letting those around them provide much needed assistance. These include:

  • Churn in staff and/or team members.
  • A personal feeling of being over-worked.
  • A chronic inability to accomplish goals.
  • A sense of having to juggle too many details across too many projects.
  • Repeated lack of knowledge or awareness in who to involve or how to involve others in moving a project forward.

If you see these signs in yourself or others, you owe it to all those involved to attempt to improve.

What Can Be Done to Improve Performance

Here are 12 behaviors to address, all of which can let others help you, as a boss or leader, be more effective:

  1. Identify your strengths, weaknesses, and where you need help.
  2. Put people in place who are stronger than you are where you are weak.
  3. Don’t hold or delay projects too long and delegate them too late.
  4. Hold yourself accountable for hitting deadlines.
  5. Understand and articulate the objective without specifying how it should be done.
  6. Share your framework for decision making along with sharing other vital information that allows people to act.
  7. Allow people to meaningfully use their talents without your overly close supervision.
  8. Surrender appropriate responsibility and ownership for an effort to the people who have been stepping up to contribute.
  9. Be responsive when your team DOES ask for input.
  10. Be open to and listen to ideas from others.
  11. Speak when your perspective is needed and others still have time to act. After that, forever hold your peace.
  12. Make a decision and stick with it.

None of these behaviors should be that difficult to improve upon in your work style. While getting better at them takes determination, as you improve, you’ll reap tremendous benefits as those around you are freed up to perform better for you.

If Work isn't Fun, You're Doing it Wrong: #TChat Recap

Also known by the less fun title of:  The Business Heresy of Uninterrupted Power Supplies….

Are we having fun yet?

On Tuesday of this week at the fourth annual National Clean Energy Summit, Vice President Joe Biden said, “Our country has a choice — what kind of country are we going to be? Are we going to rise to the challenges, like our grandfathers and grandmothers did? Or are we going to be a follower? It’s sad that we’re having this debate [about investing in clean tech initiatives] — in the past America has always led.”

And then a day later, in the heart of innovation-leading Silicon Valley, solar panel manufacturer Solyndra shut its doors and laid off all 1,100 of its employees, without any severance packages. This isn’t a political post either way; fierce global competition continues to knock the wind out of manufacturing in this country, and losing money on every solar panel you sell isn’t the way to stay in business, regardless of how much investment you’ve received.

In the past America has always led…

There are times when it’s hard for me to listen to the passionate Zappos social media hippie lovefest of culture-centric companies that focus on the customer and strive to create an emotional connection between product/service and consumer.

[Chuckle] Hey, if it isn’t fun, you’re doing it wrong. Tell that to the millions of professionals out of work and scrambling to reinvent their relevancy in a world looking more and more like the surface of Mars.

However, there is life on Mars. According to the latest ADP jobs report, 91,000 new private sector jobs were created in August. It won’t move the unemployment needle, but there’s still a heartbeat out there. The ADP report said the majority of the job gains in August came from small business. Employers with under 50 workers added 58,000 jobs.

Thankfully many of us are reinventing our relevancy; sparks of innovation are flying all over the world like lighting bugs at dusk. The new lovefest of business leaders are helping to rebuild a world where culture and human connectivity are queen, and recombined business models of sustainability are being applied to industries new and old.

Of course not everyone’s going to make it. Businesses will fail and the lights will go out. Those that do keep the power on want self-powered and empowered employees who help drive the business from the top down, the bottom up and side to side like power lines stretched from here to…

Mars maybe. Or at least the UK, since Borri UPS Systems starting following me on Twitter today, manufacturer and distributor of uninterruptible power supplies (UPS).

We can use more of that business heresy.

A very special thank you to 12 Most for being our special guests last night, including Ted Coine, Chris Westfall, Sean McGinnis, Steve Woodruff, Anthony Iannarino and Daniel Newman. 12 Most is a business and social media blogger collective of amazing credentials and savvy. And thank you to our very own Matt Charney for rounding out the special guest list as well.

You can catch the #TChat precap here as well as relive last night’s 2nd #TChat Radio show, The Realities of Business Heresy.

The #TChat Twitter chat and #TChat Radio are created and hosted by @MeghanMBiro @KevinWGrossman and powered by our friends and partners @TalentCulture @Monster_WORKS @MonsterCareers and of course @Focus.