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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

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

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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 To Skip The Negative Feedback “Sandwich”

I’ve never fully understood the logic behind the “sandwich” method of delivering performance feedback. (I’m sure you’re familiar with this concept: Open a discussion on a positive note, then insert a negative piece of news, followed by another positive.) We like to think that we’re softening the blow by offering several of bits of positive feedback around a central negative message. However, we’re doing no such thing.

Actually, this approach may be a disservice to both categories of information — each of which plays a unique and highly valuable role in shaping performance. Overall, we need to pay close attention to the “cascade” of emotions and behavior that we initiate when delivering feedback, but also be careful to retain the value of the message.

Performance Feedback: Open Dialogue

Processing negative performance feedback is quite challenging for most of us — even though on a very basic level, we realize that accepting “where to improve” is critical to our careers. While positive feedback serves to motivate and energize our work lives (we all need this on a regular basis), the “negatives” can also provide useful information about where we should direct our attention. To remain competitive, we certainly require both categories of information — and I am not debating the value of either. Rather, I’d like to open a discussion about how negative information can be presented and approached, to afford the most progress possible.

When considering negative feedback, we must acknowledge core human characteristics; including self-efficacy (the belief that individuals can actually impact their situation) and goal orientation (some individuals focus on learning, others focus on demonstrating competence, and others focus upon avoiding negative judgement). To properly deliver negative feedback, we should carefully consider and frame the delivery, so potential damage to an individual’s psyche is minimized and progress is emphasized.

Developing A Constructive Approach

There’s truly an art to presenting information about performance deficits of any kind. When managers practice the sandwich method, I fear that once the “meat” of the sandwich is delivered — the “downside” of performance — we really don’t remember much of anything that follows. (Attempting to “hide” the information doesn’t address the issues.) We can certainly do a better job of moving the conversation to more neutral ground, where performance improvement can follow. But how? Here are some ideas:

3 Behavioral Considerations

1) How humans are “wired” to perceive bad news. We are likely predisposed to pay more attention to negative information, possibly a leftover evolutionary survival mechanism. As a result, we’re likely to become hyper-focused on the negatives. This clouds our “lens.”
2) We sorely need the positives. We should all be allowed to absorb what we are doing well at work. That’s not possible when information about our successes is delivered in conjunction with information about shortcomings.
3) We “digest” slowly. It takes time to process negative information properly. Initially, when you hear information you might not not want to hear, negative thoughts can spiral, leading to responses such as panic and denial. There are stages in this process that cannot be skipped.

5 Ways To Avoid “The Sandwich”

1) Build resiliency. Performance management should never be a once a year, “live or die” event. Ultimately, it’s a continuous process. Provide positive feedback concerning small successes along the way to provide balance. This helps difficult information become easier to absorb.
2) Address self-efficacy. Some individuals have the tendency to believe they cannot impact their performance or build a needed skill set. Explore this predisposition, to encourage a more hopeful perspective.
3) Focus on learning. Research has shown that in contrast to performance goals, learning goals can increase problem solving in relation to performance problems, possibly limiting the “sting” of negative feedback. Setting the tone to “learn from failure” can prove more effective in motivating and directing behavior.
4) Never “drop a bomb.” It’s wise to address negative feedback when it is delivered. Allow enough time to help control anxiety, and at least begin to discuss a plan for improvement.
5) Support the digestion process. After sharing negative feedback, be sure to provide plenty of support. Be highly accessible as an employee works through the information and begins to take logical steps forward.

How do you present negative performance feedback? What are your “best practice” strategies? How have these strategies helped you develop others in the workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

(Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared as a LinkedIn Influencer post. It is republished with permission.)

Image Credit: Kitsa Sakurako/Flickr

How To Skip The Negative Feedback "Sandwich"

I’ve never fully understood the logic behind the “sandwich” method of delivering performance feedback. (I’m sure you’re familiar with this concept: Open a discussion on a positive note, then insert a negative piece of news, followed by another positive.) We like to think that we’re softening the blow by offering several of bits of positive feedback around a central negative message. However, we’re doing no such thing.

Actually, this approach may be a disservice to both categories of information — each of which plays a unique and highly valuable role in shaping performance. Overall, we need to pay close attention to the “cascade” of emotions and behavior that we initiate when delivering feedback, but also be careful to retain the value of the message.

Performance Feedback: Open Dialogue

Processing negative performance feedback is quite challenging for most of us — even though on a very basic level, we realize that accepting “where to improve” is critical to our careers. While positive feedback serves to motivate and energize our work lives (we all need this on a regular basis), the “negatives” can also provide useful information about where we should direct our attention. To remain competitive, we certainly require both categories of information — and I am not debating the value of either. Rather, I’d like to open a discussion about how negative information can be presented and approached, to afford the most progress possible.

When considering negative feedback, we must acknowledge core human characteristics; including self-efficacy (the belief that individuals can actually impact their situation) and goal orientation (some individuals focus on learning, others focus on demonstrating competence, and others focus upon avoiding negative judgement). To properly deliver negative feedback, we should carefully consider and frame the delivery, so potential damage to an individual’s psyche is minimized and progress is emphasized.

Developing A Constructive Approach

There’s truly an art to presenting information about performance deficits of any kind. When managers practice the sandwich method, I fear that once the “meat” of the sandwich is delivered — the “downside” of performance — we really don’t remember much of anything that follows. (Attempting to “hide” the information doesn’t address the issues.) We can certainly do a better job of moving the conversation to more neutral ground, where performance improvement can follow. But how? Here are some ideas:

3 Behavioral Considerations

1) How humans are “wired” to perceive bad news. We are likely predisposed to pay more attention to negative information, possibly a leftover evolutionary survival mechanism. As a result, we’re likely to become hyper-focused on the negatives. This clouds our “lens.”
2) We sorely need the positives. We should all be allowed to absorb what we are doing well at work. That’s not possible when information about our successes is delivered in conjunction with information about shortcomings.
3) We “digest” slowly. It takes time to process negative information properly. Initially, when you hear information you might not not want to hear, negative thoughts can spiral, leading to responses such as panic and denial. There are stages in this process that cannot be skipped.

5 Ways To Avoid “The Sandwich”

1) Build resiliency. Performance management should never be a once a year, “live or die” event. Ultimately, it’s a continuous process. Provide positive feedback concerning small successes along the way to provide balance. This helps difficult information become easier to absorb.
2) Address self-efficacy. Some individuals have the tendency to believe they cannot impact their performance or build a needed skill set. Explore this predisposition, to encourage a more hopeful perspective.
3) Focus on learning. Research has shown that in contrast to performance goals, learning goals can increase problem solving in relation to performance problems, possibly limiting the “sting” of negative feedback. Setting the tone to “learn from failure” can prove more effective in motivating and directing behavior.
4) Never “drop a bomb.” It’s wise to address negative feedback when it is delivered. Allow enough time to help control anxiety, and at least begin to discuss a plan for improvement.
5) Support the digestion process. After sharing negative feedback, be sure to provide plenty of support. Be highly accessible as an employee works through the information and begins to take logical steps forward.

How do you present negative performance feedback? What are your “best practice” strategies? How have these strategies helped you develop others in the workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

(Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared as a LinkedIn Influencer post. It is republished with permission.)

Image Credit: Kitsa Sakurako/Flickr

5 Reasons To Hire Flexible Talent

Having a hard time finding the right employee for the job? You may be looking at the wrong group of candidates. According to recent reports, hiring within the flexible job market has steadily increased over the past 12 months. In addition, employers plan to hire more flexible workers this year than any other year before.

So, why is it in your best interest to consider flexible workers?

This infographic, compiled by Hourly (an employment network that quickly matches people who are interested in flexible positions with the right opportunities), illustrates why the flexible talent pool is the group to watch. Some noteworthy takeaways:

  • 40% of employers plan to hire temp workers this year, and more than 80% plan to increase their flexible workforce;
  • 25 million Americans work part-time, 20 million telecommute, and 10 million are independent contractors;
  • 39% of temporary workers will transition into full-time jobs.

If you’re an employer, what role do flexible workers play in your talent strategy? Or, if you’re on the other side of the table, as part of the flexible workforce, tell us how flexible options have helped or hindered you.

Check out the full infographic below, and share your thoughts in the comments section!

What do you think? What are some other reasons to hire flexible workers?

(Image Credit: Nicole LaPointe-McKay)
(Note: Gumby is a trademark of Premavision Inc/Clokey Productions)

Transforming Culture: The Force Within #TChat Preview

(Editor’s Note: Looking for a full collection of this week’s events and resources? Read the #TChat Recap: “101 Ways To Save The Day With A Paperclip.”)

With employee engagement seemingly stuck at perilously low levels, today’s employers are on a mission to reignite passion and productivity in the workplace.

Many seek fresh perspectives by looking outside their corporate walls. But what about reinvention that starts from within? Why not tap more deeply into sources of ingenuity that are already within you — and within arm’s reach?

How can business leaders make that happen? That’s the focus of this week’s #TChat forums, as our “Summer Restart” series moves from looking at the power of collaborative learning, to envisioning how creative thinking can play a larger role in transforming business culture.

Leading the way is an expert in workplace learning, collaboration and transformation, consultant and author, Marcia Conner.

Marcia briefly framed this topic for me in a recent G+ Hangout:

#TChat Events: Powerful Ways To Transform Your Workforce

This week’s topic is sure to spark new ideas for talent-minded professionals everywhere. So join us on Wednesday, August 7, for another dynamic #TChat double-header. Bring your best ideas, and let’s talk!

#TChat Radio — Wed, Aug 7 at 6:30pmET / 3:30pmPT

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Tune-in to the #TChat Radio show

Marcia joins our hosts, Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman  to explore how to kick-start cultural transformation from with an organization’s ranks. Listen live and dial-in with your questions and feedback!

#TChat Twitter — Wed, Aug 7 at 7pmET / 4pmPT

Immediately following the radio show, we’ll go wide with Marcia for an all-hands community discussion on the #TChat stream. We welcome anyone with a Twitter account to join us, as we explore the role that ingenuity plays in transforming organizational culture. Key questions:

Q1: Why do organizations struggle to retain talent potential?
Q2: How can listening and learning fuel employee engagement?
Q3: How can we, as individuals, develop workforce potential?
Q4: What can business leaders do to ignite workforce innovation?
Q5: What technologies foster workplace learning and engagement?

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

We’ll see you on the stream!

Office Space: Work in Progress #TChat Recap

Every organization needs the right balance of caves and commons. What that precise balance is depends on what the organization’s particular goals and challenges are, and more granularly, what the immediate situation of a work team is.
Leigh Thompson, Harvard Business Review

This week, the TalentCulture community took on “The Office” as our primary topic. No, we didn’t talk about today’s finale of the long-running TV show. Instead, we focused on real-world workspace — what our physical environment means to us, how it influences our mood and behavior, and the role it plays in our creativity and productivity as individuals, teams and organizations. (For highlights from the #TChat Twitter event, see the Storify slideshow at the end of this post.)

Special Guests: Workspace Wizards

Perhaps no other company understands the concept of workspace better than Steelcase. That’s why we invited experts from that company to share their insights at this week’s #TChat events. If you think of Steelcase as a file cabinet manufacturer, think again. It’s now a global leader in design and furnishings for business, healthcare and education markets. I’m familiar with Steelcase from its work with schools. Just as office space shapes business behavior, classroom configuration has an impact on student learning.

This brief video of the Steelcase “Learning Lab” is a great way to see how Steelcase views workspace:

Key Takeaway: “Place” Matters

Yesterday’s #TChat Twitter conversation was the live-action conclusion to our deep dive into workspace issues and ideas. We seemed to agree on one key point:  These days, “workspace” is often determined by our location at any given moment. Many of us are in constant motion, and we take our work along for the ride — for better or worse. That means flexibility and choice are essential.

But all of us have a primary spot that we call “ours” — even if it’s in a bedroom corner. So, throughout the Twitter chat, many participants (including me) shared pictures of our workspace, or our vision of the ideal setting. Not surprisingly, those images are as diverse as the hundreds of #TChat participants who join us each week! One of my favorites is the Pons Huot Office, shared by Katja Matosevic. (Check out the #TChat Highlights Slideshow below for more, or look at this Forbes gallery of 10 Cool Office Spaces.)

Are you inspired yet? Read on!

#TChat Week-in-Review

SAT 5/11

Sneak Peek: Organizational Pyschologist and #TChat Ambassador, Dr. Marla Gottschalk, helped us frame the week’s theme in her TalentCulture blog post, “Your Workspace: How’s It Working For You?”

SUN 5/12

Forbes.com Post: TalentCulture CEO, Meghan M. Biro identified “5 Habits Of Leaders Who Create Workspace Culture” in her weekly Forbes column.

MON 5/13

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Listen to the #TChat Radio recording now

#TChat Preview: Our community manager, Tim McDonald, posted a detailed the week’s theme and key questions in a preview post: “If These Workspace Walls Could Talk.”

TUE 5/14

#TChat Radio: Chris Congdon, Director of Research Communications at Steelcase, offered fascinating perspectives about the human psychological and physical factors that influence workspace design. In particular, she focused on the importance of choice in satisfying diverse preferences and multiple work modes.

WED 5/15

Related Post: Sourcing specialist and #TChat Ambassador, Ashley Lauren Perez, offered another spin on workspace design — specifically its role in supporting talent acquisition and retention. Read her post, “Employer Brands: Big-Company Ideas for the Rest of Us.”

#TChat Twitter: The community conversation was so fast and furious that once again, we trended on Twitter! Did you get in on the action? If not (or if you want a refresh), see highlights in the slideshow below:

#TChat Twitter Highlights Slideshow: “If These Workspace Walls Could Talk”

[javascript src=”//storify.com/TalentCulture/tchat-insights-if-these-workspace-walls-could-tal.js?template=slideshow”]

Closing Notes & What’s Ahead

SPECIAL THANKS: Again, thanks to Chris Congdon and Steelcase for sharing your perspectives on workspace design and organizational culture. It feels like this discussion has only just begun!

NOTE TO BLOGGERS: Did this week’s events prompt you to write about workspace issues? We’re happy to share your thoughts. Just post a link on Twitter (include #TChat or @TalentCulture), or insert a comment below, and we’ll pass it along.

WHAT’S AHEAD: Next week — reward yourself! Join us for events focused on recognition and employee engagement, with special guests, Stan Phelps founder of 9 Inch Marketing, and S. Max Brown, Principal of Leadership Directives at Rideau Recognition Management Institute.

Until then, as always, the World of Work conversation continues each day. So join us on the #TChat Twitter stream, or on our new LinkedIn discussion group. And feel free to explore other areas of our redesigned website. The lights are always on at TalentCulture, and your ideas and opinions are always welcome.

We’ll see you on the stream!

 Photo: Thanks to Tom Bolt for the Einstein inspiration

How to Get Ahead in the Talent War

I’ve frequently talked not only about the necessity of creating a personal, humanized brand statement for job seekers and employees in general, but also about how a company’s employer brand becomes key in the talent acquisition and retention process.

NOTE this post is mine from 2010. I’m still here talking about this topic I’m passionate about. Why – You ask? Because we have more work to do. Our next Social Talent Show is tomorrow with the one and only Libby Sartain, former HR executive for Yahoo and Southwest, who will focus on these topics and share tips on how to align employee and company brand. One of my very favorite topics for many reasons.

Very often, leaders believe a company’s brand is just a marketing tool, and that it doesn’t have to do with the people working for the company. That’s exactly the opposite. The best talent will be attracted to your business because of its appealing brand, the image it conveys to the public, and your employees will want to stay and give their best because of your workplace culture.

The big tech companies understood that very early: The talent war is rampant in technology, and engineers are now attracted not only by financial aspects, but mostly because of a brand’s name, and when they do join these companies, the workplace culture is so strong, every little detail embodies what the company stands for –  that employees all feel part of a kind of family.

Now I’m not saying you need to build a cult or anything like that, but workplace culture and the employer’s brand go hand in hand, becoming the best ways to attract and retain talent that is slipping away.

And that leads me to my second tip: If you have both, great, but it’s incredibly important for the employer’s brand benot only to be appealing, but also to genuinely reflect “what it’s like” to work there; otherwise, after a few months or weeks, employees will feel fooled and start looking elsewhere.

In the same manner, when a company “oversells” their employer brand in the recruiting process, leaders run the risk of losing talent in the long run due to poor communication in the recruiting, hiring, and onboarding process.

So how to avoid that? As a company, build a brand that is true to you, to what the company is really about, nothing more, and then LIVE your brand. It will be that much easier if it’s genuine, and workplace culture will get reflected in everyday life at work.

It’s a little bit like the story of a pet store that wouldn’t allow employees to bring their dogs in. Not very authentic. But if the pet store’s brand promise is the love of dogs, then everybody working there should feel that love: The company can even have a dog sitting system, or employees’ dog contests, to truly live the brand.

Build a workplace culture that is consistent with the brand displayed to the public. You can win!

That’s my take. For more on these topics, join us tomorrow with Libby Sartain, HR expert and employer branding guru, at 2pm EST and 11 am PST – Register here! Share your story and join the conversation to build the future of work!

Image Credit: Pixabay

Demand for Great Leadership Exceeds Supply: #TChat Recap

I’m not going to throw you any softballs. We did enough of that in last night’s #TChat.

Instead, I’m going to throw the next pitch really fast – the money ball – straight down the middle. C’mon, let’s see you swing. I want to see you knock it out of the park.

Because for the most part, we’re not knocking it out. My hope has always been that future leadership leads us out of our corrupt economic quagmire and into new world of ethical capitalism.

I’m also still hopeful about my fellow brothers and sisters today, even when time and again our mindful presence fails us. Like in today’s business and politics.

What about personal leadership today? What about us?

Polarized incivility and corruption are celebrated by the fringe and given the mainstream spotlight – for business, politics and pleasure.

But the radical center in many of us worldwide is rising up. We’re demanding better leadership; we’re learning to lead ourselves out of this quagmire.

No business school or political party or leadership program or religious movement has done that to date.

This, from a recent The Economist article, The new middle classes rise up:

This focus on corruption suggests that, at the moment, middle-class activism is a protest movement rather than a political force in the broader sense. It is an attempt to reform the government, not replace it. But that could change. In most middle-income countries, corruption is more than just a matter of criminality; it is also the product of an old way of doing politics, one that is unaccountable, untransparent and undemocratic.

Great leaders don’t give in to destructive impulses. They may dabble in the dark arts, but we forgive when it’s for the greater good. We are human. We are fallible.

We are leaders, each unto ourselves

But we have to be personally responsible, to own our every decision and its ensuing consequence. All leadership sparks start with self, the true fiery heart of inspired innovation.

Fanning the flames won’t mean that everyone catches fire, and I don’t disparage tough business leadership and those who succeed while others struggle to feed their families with no job prospects in sight.

I do empathize, though. Empathy is a leadership quality still too often bullied and laughed at. But it’s experience by failure and emotional intelligence that fights back with the insidious subtlety of a dry-witted comic.

Who’s laughing with you, not at you.

Today, the demand for great leadership exceeds the supply. The good news? Most of us are willing to transform the economic status quo.

Read Matt Charney’s precap here and here were the questions from last night:

  • Q1: What role do leaders play in driving innovation? Collaboration?
  • Q2: What makes someone a “leader?” Is this a matter of role/responsibility or perception?
  • Q3: Which matters most for leaders: education, experience or emotional intelligence?
  • Q4: What can organizations do better to hire and develop future leaders?
  • Q5: What role does social media and technology play in determining leadership efficacy?
  • Q6: How is leadership evolving, if at all? What does the future of leadership look like in 5 years? 10?

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 @HRmarketer and of course @Focus.

Diversity Still Matters in Today’s Workplace? #TChat Preview

Originally posted by Joe Gerstandt on MonsterThinking Blog


Intersections baby, its all about the intersections…

The majority of the work that we do around diversity and inclusion as HR professionals is focused on identity diversity, which is differences in our social identities…things like age, gender, race, ethnicity, orientation, physical ability, etc.

I think that there are probably some interesting discussions to be had  about how effective this work has been and currently is, but I think we can at least agree that there is a lot of work still to be done.

I would suggest that, not only do we need to be more aggressive and more innovative with this body of work, we need to do a better job of integrating other kinds of difference into the conversation as well.  Differences in who we are and where we come from certainly do matter; as do differences in what and how we think, or cognitive diversity.

The ability to leverage cognitive diversity is becoming critical to the success of our organizations, yet it still has not received much serious attention.

“Cognitive diversity is the extent to which the group reflects differences in knowledge, including beliefs, preferences and perspectives.” -Miller, et al (1998) Strategic Management Journal

Regardless of the organization or industry, decision making, problem solving and innovation are increasingly important competencies and opportunities for competitive advantage and all of these things are all fed by cognitive diversity.

With all the talk there is about innovation and creative problem solving, you would assume that our understanding of the mechanics involved exists on the level of common sense, but that is obviously not the case.

While we work very hard in this profession to get good at figuring out how to find and hire the right person…we seem to care little about building the right kinds of teams. Hiring the person with the right education or grades or certifications does not necessarily mean that we are building the right kind of team.

The fact of the matter is that groups of really, really smart individuals can collectively be very dumb.

“Groups of diverse problem solvers can outperform groups of high-ability problem solvers.Lu Hong, Scott Page

Not only do we need to get better at understanding the value of thinking differently, we need to make sure that we are not being wasteful with the cognitive diversity that we already have on board.  Teams, whether they are work teams or leadership teams often are not terribly good at disagreeing with each other.

In some organizations disagreeing is seen as counterproductive or even disrespectful.  While it needs to be done respectfully, disagreeing is incredibly important; if we are not able to do that we are wasting any and all cognitive diversity that we have access to.

“Groups often fail to outperform individuals because they prematurely move to consensus, with dissenting opinions being suppressed or dismissed.-Hackman & Morris, Advances in Experimental Social Psychology

For more on driving innovation through cognitive diversity, make sure to check out Joe’s SHRM 2011 presentation, “Great Minds DO NOT Think Alike! Putting Cognitive Diversity to Work For Your Organization,” June 28, 2011 from 2:15-3:30 PM at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

#TChat Questions and Recommended Reading: 06.21.2011

We hope you can join us tonight at 8 PM ET/5 PM PT for this week’s #TChat: Does Diversity Still Matter in Today’s World of Work? We’ll be discussing the current state of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, what employees and employers really think about diversity initiatives and taking a look at opportunities – and challenges – of building and maintaining a diverse workforce in today’s evolving world of work.

It’s sure to be a lively discussion, so we hope you can join us at 8 PM ET on Twitter for #TChat.

Here are tonight’s questions, along with some related posts on leadership and talent  we think are worth checking out.  This background reading isn’t mandatory to get in on tonight’s joint #TChat action, but we suggest checking out these articles by top diversity and inclusion thought leaders before the chat (or if you missed it):

Q1: What Does “Diversity” Mean to You in 140 Characters or Less?

Read: What Affirmative Action, Diversity and Inclusion Mean to Workers

Q2: What role does diversity plan in an employer’s bigger talent picture?

Read: Why Organizations Struggle With Diversity Recruiting Initiatives

Q3: Has anything changed about the way employers and employees look at diversity?

Read: Diversity’s Three Legged Stool

Q4: How can organizations benefit from building and maintaining a diverse workforce?

Read: Diversity and Inclusion: From Corrective Action to Competitive Advantage

Q5: What are some of the biggest myths or misconceptions about diversity in today’s workplace?

Read: Stop Stereotyping: Overcome Your Worst Diversity Enemy

Q6: What role should leaders play in diversity and inclusion?

Read: To Achieve Workplace Diversity, Go Beyond Good Intentions

Q7: Does diversity still matter in today’s world of work?  What’s the future of diversity look like?

Read: The New Diversity of Workplace: The Diversity of Thought?

Visit www.talentculture.com for more great information on #TChat, as well as other great resources on careers and hiring.

Monster’s social media team supports #TChat’s mission of sharing “ideas to help your business and your career accelerate — the right people, the right ideas, at the right time.”

We’ll be joining the conversation this Tuesday night as co-hosts with Meghan M. Biro and Kevin W. Grossman from 8-9 p.m. (Eastern) via @MonsterCareers and @Monster_Works.

Leaders Create Solutions, Not Dysfunction: #TChat Recap

There’s a scene in the movie The Company Men where a laid-off executive (Tommy Lee Jones) confronts his old CEO (Craig T. Nelson), who happens to be his partner with whom he started the now struggling shipping business.

The fired exec taunts his CEO about all the recent lay offs and his selfish focus on shareholder value. The CEO fires back “this is a business, not a charity.” And when the CEO reveals that the company was bought out at $X per share for a lucrative return, the fired exec says, “Good for you.”

Then the CEO asks his old partner pointedly, “How many shares did you have?”

I won’t spoil the plot any further with what happens next, but the story tells of the divergence in leadership choices, business and personal lives, and the ultimate impact of those choices. We’ve seen this plot play-out in reality again and again – through boom years – and most recently through the protracted bust.

The reality is that business leaders are responsible for growing a business, which means they have an important hand in selecting who helps them do just that, which means their employees must be a partner in that if they want to share in any success, but not at the expense of all our humanity and our very livelihoods.

That sentimental gibberish used to get you shot in the executive washroom, but these times they’ve been a-changin’, again, with corporate social responsibility taking center stage in many early-stage ventures, start-ups and growing SMB’s with the focus on the talent that makes it all happen, as opposed to the focus making it all happen at the expense of the talent.

These new business leaders, and those of the reformed nature, understand that they need to work with their “talent” acquisition and development teams to align business strategy with needed competencies/skills and a splash of authenticity, transparency, salt and pepper to taste and bam! We’ve got the new age of talent management. Today’s street-smart business leaders know not everyone can be a complete “right” fit, but they’re smarter if they work with those with promise, actually welcoming them into the fold and talking with them directly about the business and their new role. Business leaders today also need the “crystal ball” insight into their talent with predictive workforce analytics, so then workforce planning can take promising shape. Without direct involvement and detailed insight, organizations are just flailing in the dark.

And as Matt wrote in his #TChat preview, “when it comes to attracting and retaining talent, active, engaged and innovative leaders provide a key competitive advantage. After all, it’s that magnetism they possess which creates a powerful draw for potential workers (and customers), not to mention providing a potent, and public, voice for communicating with both internal and external stakeholders.”

And as a leader, if you’re not part of the talent solution from the beginning, then you’re probably part of the self-serving dysfunction that destroys businesses and lives in the end, regardless of how much you cash in. Conservative and progressive leaders alike and all in between, if you’re not of mindful presence and high emotional intelligence, then as far as I’m concerned you shouldn’t be leading anything except a 12-step program. Everyone’s a leader of self and Me, Inc., but that doesn’t mean it’s at the expense of building and growing a company.

Inspire your team to own it as you do, baby. That’s the truest form of success.

Again, you can read the #TChat preview for the first ever, and highly successful, joint #TChat and #LeadershipChat last night. A very special thanks to Lisa Petrilli and Steve Woodruff from #LeadershipChat! Here were the questions we explored:

  • Q1: What is the role of a leader when it comes to making talent decisions?
  • Q2: What should a leader consider when addressing “talent alignment?”
  • Q3: How can a leader show genuine authenticity to new recruits and current employees?
  • Q4: How does being a genuine leader impact a workplace culture brand?

Transforming the Workplace: Charting a Path to a Better Place

Originally posted by Chris Jones, a TalentCulture contributing writer. He is an IT Strategy & Change Management consultant, with a passion for driving new levels of engagement and learning in the modern organization. His research areas include the dynamics of organization culture, and more recently, the importance and implications of critical thinking. Check out his blog, Driving Innovation in a Complex World, for more.

In my last TC post, we did a deep dive on critical thinking in the workplace.  We discussed ways to drive innovation in our day to day exchanges by tracing the value of engagement in the modern organization and focusing on the mechanics of collaboration as a more rigorous way to solve problems.

These are all core elements of a desirable future state culture.  If achieved, they could serve to foster organization-wide learning.

But what about culture change itself?

So often executives will speak of the need to drive a full transformation of the business or its culture. It’s not too difficult to imagine an alternate future state.  But it can be difficult to know how to get there.

The research I’ve done in this space indicates that culture change can be guided by leadership, provided there is a focused, coordinated, and ongoing effort to achieve it. Too often culture is viewed as a quick fix, a “memo” to the team (remember those?), or a simple expectation of management for the troops to ‘figure it out’.

Organization change is too complex for simple solutions. Learned behaviors run deep into the fabric of the organization, and are not easily changed.

I see value in attacking the problem at two levels simultaneously, a simple, high-level framing like the one recently popularized by Chip and Dan Heath in Switch (2010), supplemented by a more detailed approach, such as the one famously outlined by John Kotter in Leading Change (1996).  A combination provides a reinforcing framework, a ‘scaffolding’ of sorts, that will be resilient due to its diverse structure.

Let’s take a look at a synthesis of these two models, and outline what the core transformational elements might be:

Viability of an Organization’s Vision

Stakeholders must be able to see themselves in the future state, and will gain value from participating in the visioning exercises.  The vision must be achievable and actionable, and defined in a language recognizable to those who must seek it.

Ability of Leaders to Motivate

A guiding coalition must form around the change effort to create a believable, unified front to shepherd the changes through.  This coalition, representing elements of the entire organization, must be able to articulate a clear “value” story for stakeholders to rally behind. A “burning platform” is ideal to create a sense of urgency.  There must be an emotional appeal for an organization to be truly motivated, and a sense of empowerment that gets people engaged.

Ability of Managers to Clear a Path

Hurdles and roadblocks will invariably get raised, because human nature is to avoid change and maintain a status quo.  Pockets of resistance and politics will resit new approaches, and the guiding coalition must be sure that the team receives full support.  Communication will be critical, as well as establishing momentum, and, eventually, being sure to embed changes into daily operations.

Neither a checklist nor a new framework will be sufficient for an organization’s transformation to be successful.  It takes commitment and focus, and an investment of energy over the long-term.  Working together, stakeholders can build a transformation road map, charting a path to a better place.

Do you think these steps could serve as a means for driving change in an organization? Which of these steps have worked for you?  What do you see as challenges?

Let’s discuss adoption.  It would be great to compare notes, and to drive this thinking forward.

IMAGE VIA bbsc30

Superstar Leadership: Workplace Damage Control

I’ve written lately about various aspects of workplace culture…People are always the number one consideration in my opinion. This topic always directly relates to recruitment and employee retention. It’s inescapable. It’s part of your workplace DNA. Performing a workplace culture audit of a prospective employer and how to nurture company culture, both as a manager and as an employee are so key.  Let’s keep tackling the dark side – repairing a damaged corporate culture.

Every workplace culture/organization (and employee) has good and bad days. Culture takes little hits on the bad days, but a string of bad days or months can turn into permanent damage. Unfortunately as those days and months grind on it can become easy to miss the signs of damage. A stressed management team may be focused on keeping the company afloat; a stressed manager with personal issues or job challenges may turn a deaf ear to rumblings of dissatisfaction.

In the first example, if management fails to communicate its trials, distrust will flower and thrive. In the latter example, also, a failure to communicate, compounded by a lack of responsibility on the part of the manager, creates a breach between employer and employee. Into that breach will creep distrust and its close cousin, unwillingness to believe anything management says. This is not good and should be stopped in it’s tracks.

Communication and trust are the underpinnings of healthy workplace culture. Other culture markers – a shared sense of mission, shared goals, respect – are rooted in trust and communication.

When trust goes, so also goes culture, that valuable mix of the personality of the workplace and its brand and the collective experience of what it means to work in the organization.

A simple measure of damage to a company’s culture is employee turnover. One local small company I know has had 95 percent turnover in the past three years. Yep, almost 100 percent. This happens.

The managers’ reaction? A tone-deaf range of comments, from ‘It was time for those people to move on’ to ‘We’re glad they didn’t go to competitors’; even the suggestion that the massive turnover is a ‘sign of growth on the part of employees fostered by the unique culture at X Company.’

Once you’ve pulled your jaw off the floor, let me assure you this example is real. Not surprisingly, this particular workplace culture is in dire need of repair. The company’s survivors are hardened and sour and new recruits into the organization are often bewildered and leaderless.

Here’s the basic prescription I would suggest to the executives if asked and from there I would refer them to my list of colleagues who specialize in this specific arena of employee retention and engagement (although this culture is so damaged they haven’t sought advice):

First, assess what’s really happened:

  • Make a list of those who left and when. Review notes from their exit interviews and look for repetition of words and themes. These repetitions are the top-level clues to what is wrong with the organization.
  • Correlate reasons given for leaving. I predict there will be very few ‘uniques’ in this group.
  • Cross-reference the above data with time of year as well as acquisition (or loss) of business.
  • Review every email sent to the company announcing a defection and look for patterns describing the person’s reason for leaving.

Now you have a lexicon of words, a vocabulary of loss of culture and cohesion. The next step is to assess what remains. This step is best taken with the help of a third party, a neutral coach or consultant.

Survey the remaining employees and any new employees on basic measures of job satisfaction:

  • Is compensation competitive? Benefits?
  • Is training adequate?
  • Is the work challenging and rewarding?
  • Do employees have a reasonable level of autonomy and responsibility?
  • How are initiative and excellence rewarded?
  • Is the physical work environment adequate? Are tools and systems in place that improve productivity and reduce drudge work?
  • Do employees feel comfortable talking to managers? If not, why?
  • Do employees feel that management tells the truth?
  • How frequent and relevant are communications?
  • Is feedback used to improve the work environment? Is it ignored?
  • Would you recruit a friend?

Now it’s time to step back and look at what employees and line managers said.

At this point, it’s imperative to commit to, and communicate, intent to change.

  • Communicate results of the survey.
  • Take ownership for the issues, and do not try to deflect responsibility.
  • If something can’t be changed or fixed say why.
  • Create a change action plan with dates, asking employees to help prioritize change items.
  • Implement the change action plan, honoring dates and milestones.
  • Communicate at every step.
  • Re-survey in three months and again in six months, and communicate the results.

Then tackle the hardest part:

  • Assign team leaders and give them responsibility and power to enact change. Support them (or they may fail.)
  • Meet with team leaders regularly and listen to them. Don’t talk over them or challenge what you hear, listen.

Without thoughtful intervention, a broken workplace culture with disheartened people can’t really be repaired. This is often the sad truth. Retention and recruiting will fail too. Employees will continue to head for the exits, and customers may even follow.

Take a look here to read about three companies using workplace culture for retention. This is a very useful case study for all to absorb.

What steps would you take to rescue a damaged corporate culture?

IMAGE via Flickr

Play Devil's Advocate: Create Collaboration in the Workplace

Written by Kirsten Taggart

I’m currently taking a course called Media Criticism where we students reflect on how news organizations responded to major historical events. Perhaps made obvious by the title, our main focus is geared towards moments where journalism has “failed” society, or more precisely, failed to practice critical thinking and challenge the norm. What’s surprising is that the press’ mistakes could have been avoided simply through effective communication.

The void in communication may be due to a lack of questioning.  I’ve come to think that there is a lack of “why” in present day workplace culture. As always, there are exceptions to this theory, but overall I feel that people have become hesitant to ask questions in the workforce, new media, school, etc.

Of course no one particularly wants to challenge their superiors (although a good leader shouldn’t make you feel intimidated or afraid of confrontation!), but I guarantee that without asking critical questions, creative and corporate progression will be compromised to an extent.

A diverse staff with contrasting views and opinions is the most effect way to build a constructive workplace community, and it doesn’t require a monumental shift in work ethic to change a workplace full of “yes’” into one of “what ifs?”  Who will be your Chief Collaboration Officer?

Teach your team how to effectively play devil’s advocate:

  • Allot a certain amount of time each week to sit down as a group and talk. Encourage people to speak openly and offer ideas and opinions. This open communication will encourage co-workers to bounce ideas off of each other and improve proposals with constructive criticism
  • Opt to work with people who will challenge your thought process
  • Remind people that they should avoid being defensive and instead be open to suggestions
  • Create an environment that encourages openness

The point of collaborating ideas is to advance as a group and reach a collective goal. With positive thinking and a creative atmosphere, the workplace can become the ultimate environment for innovative thinking and new ideas.

The Ever-Changing Face of Leadership

The term, ‘leader,’ can be such a broad word. According to Dictionary.com, the definition of ‘lead’  follows (I’ve bolded my preferred wording):

– To go before or with to show the way; conduct or escort.
– To conduct by holding and guiding.
– To influence or induce.

Scrolling down a bit, the definition of ‘lead’ also includes:

  • to command or direct.
  • To go at the head of in advance of (a procession, list, body, etc.). Proceed first in.

I’ve been struggling a bit with the whole ‘leadership’ terminology for a while now. Possibly, it is because individuals anointed as leaders sometimes are perceived by non-leaders to be ego-driven, and that can be untenable and unattractive.

Or, perhaps it has more to do with the fact most of us don’t want to consider ourselves followers – most folks want to be important, in their own right. Whether we are considered a ‘leader’ in our field, ‘leader’ of a specific subject matter or, leader of our own self, most of us want to be independent and impactful, independently of others’ telling us how to be so.

Gripped by Inspiration, Not Dictated to by a Boss

Mike Henry, Sr., Leadership Developer and President, Lead Change Group, invited me into a radio conversation last year. During that interview, he used the term, self-leader. According to Mike, “No one wants to grow up to be a follower.” I agree!

In the best of situations, individuals never feel like they are following, but instead are inspired and compelled to engage their limited amount of energy into an initiative, event, project, program, etc.  The feeling of inspiration is so gripping, therefore, it seems that there just ‘happens’ to be a leader at the ‘helm’ who is doing the coaxing, inspiring and orchestrating of the collective energy to come together for a harmonic outcome.

I collaborate with leadership folks every day – they are my professional and executive clients who are either in the throes of career transition, wish to make a vertical or lateral move, and/or wish to propel their careers to new heights. Whatever the case, many of these folks have been bestowed the leadership moniker: Finance Manager, Senior Marketing Manager, Engineering Director, Vice President of Technology, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Executive Officer … and the list goes on.  Most of these leaders earned those titles through progressive career advancement and continual proof of leadership results, measured ultimately by corporate revenue and profit growth.

However, without an innate and well-honed ability to guide their teams through obstacles, challenges, change and other improvement and growth activities, these leaders would not be where they are today, at the helms of their own ships, steaming forward.

The Best Leaders Are Beacons of Light

The best of these leaders are both directors of initiatives and beacons of light to which their individual contributors, managers and teams aspire to reach. They are not ‘in charge’ of others, bossing them around; they do not wield their authority to ensure their plebes simply heed their commands, without question.

No, in fact, most successful leaders I have interviewed over the past 13+ years possess a unique combination of attributes including confidence and humility and a focus on individual and team needs equal to, and sometimes, above their own.

As one recent client divulged, during a merger and acquisition initiative, he selectively ‘took bullets’ for his managers so that they could better foster relationships with members of an acquired company. In other words, he didn’t put his own agenda over the company’s or individual contributors’ and managers’ needs. At the end of the day, in fact, he sacrificed his own position for the betterment of the company and the individuals thereto.

Moreover, the best of the best leaders identify the strengths of their staff and leverage those to create a win-win for both the company and the individual talent contributors. A focus on people’s talent strengths, versus exerting undue energy on what is someone’s weakness, therefore, propels an organization forward.

#TChat contributor J. Keith Dunbar, Fearless Transformational Global Leader, underscores this idea well, by saying:

“I leverage people’s strengths and put them in a position to be successful. By taking this approach, it positions the team, and ultimately the organization, for increased opportunities for success.”

Finally, strong, effective leaders lead by example. As Felix P. Nater, CSC, President of Nater Associates, Ltd., recently said on Twitter:

“Leading by example empowers adults.”

Sometimes We Must Simply Follow

That said, from time to time, we all put on our follower hats, and I believe there is a good reason to do so.

For those of you on Twitter, think about reasons you ‘follow’ others. Perhaps it is to learn from them as they fuel their Tweets with nourishing information, including thoughtful data, insights and blog post links that further drill down to the why, how, when, where and what of the matter. In other words, you look to that person for guidance, experience and lessons that you may incorporate in your own knowledge bank and day-to-day activity.

Or, maybe those you follow are more experienced in the job or industry with which you aspire to connect. In addition to wanting to learn from them, you may also want to model their behaviors, get to know them personally and network with them – perhaps tapping into their intellectual knowledge base and wealth of relationships to further your own career and business needs.

Our Roles, Regardless of Title, Assume Traits of Influence and Leadership

At the end of the day, though, each of us, as individuals, wants to assume a position of independence, specifically and uniquely contributing to individual and group goals. As well, we all, from time to time, regardless of our titles, switch from leading to following, then back to leading and then to following  … and (you get the drift). It’s a continuum and the roles of leading and following are not clearly distinguished by titles and job descriptions. In fact, the leadership ideal is one that we all carry around and exude in our individual and group, personal and work lives.