The Importance of Leadership in the Workplace

Higher education, known as continued education in the US and further education (FE) in the UK, is greatly in need of leaders. College, like any businesses, needs driven individuals to help it succeed. Yet, many don’t really appreciate the importance of leadership in the workplace, in roles in further education, or how important finding these staff members is for the all businesses in every industry.

Here, we look at how the FE sector in the UK is finding the best leaders, what the benefits are for them and how leadership can change a business.

Leadership needs industry experts to fill valuable roles

While leaders form an integral, internal role. That doesn’t mean they should always be found and fostered from within your current staff. Leadership roles are abundant in many colleges in both the UK and US and so roles are ripe for the taking. But if they are so abundant, why aren’t they being filled? Well, in many instances, it’s because potential hires don’t realize how suitable they can be for these roles. Many follow a linear career path, coming in as juniors, working up to management and then either moving into ownership or the same role in another business.

Outside experience leads to new perspectives and ideas

Leaders in colleges form part of the integral growth of the college. Modern models for college success are increasingly based on distributed leadership. Hence, leadership roles are prevalent at every level and every department.

Distributed leadership requires informed, motivated and dedicated individuals to drive progress, new systems and offer innovative ideas in each of their specialist areas. Together they can transform schools into even great places of learning for college students.

This is the same for any business. Leaders create new opportunities by thinking outside the box. With internal training, especially of those staff who have stayed within the same company for many years, they will have been ingrained to think a certain way, making it more difficult to innovate.

Colleges look for leaders who have real world experience, for example in mechanics, to advance their engineering departments by laying their real world knowledge over the college structure. These leaders add a new perspective.

So, what would attract someone to a leadership in FE or your business?

Leaders get new challenges and promote business growth

The career pivot, from one industry to another, helps you find the best leaders for leadership roles. This is because those seeking new challenges are best suited for these roles. Leaders are required to innovate and affect change within departments. It’s not just a job, it’s a driving position with a college or company.

The best leaders are the kind of people who want to seek a new challenge and are eager to find solutions, ways to improve already existing frameworks.

This is why FE colleges look for those with plenty of years experience, especially those who are ready for a career pivot.

Along with new challenges, leaders from other industries can affect real change across departments, seeing improvements and growth at their colleges. All this contributes to a positive work environment, which leads to further improvements.

Additionally for many, especially those heading for retirement, not having new ways to use their skills can be a disappointing prospect. Moving into a leadership role, which can be managerial in administration or more directive in certain course subjects, offers a less pressurized environment, but where the new leaders are considered invaluable.

Finding a leader for your businesses is not simply about finding someone to fill a role. The potential of the candidate has to be clear, with their knowledge offering your business or department skills that you don’t have within. Be prepared to let them make significant changes. Leaders, by definition, shouldn’t be happy with your current framework, they should want to make improvements and tweaks, changes that may seem rash, but will benefit your business in the long run.

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Using Your Super Powers For Good

Life doesn’t happen TO you.  Rather, it can happen BECAUSE of you.  You have far more power and influence than you can possibly imagine.  And once you decide, you can use your power to affect your own life as well as the life of the people around you.” Dick Sutphen

In the movie, “The Avengers,” each character has a specific super power that enables him or her to make a difference.  They have a choice – they can use their power for good or for evil purposes.

Iron Man can fly, and fight, and has a suit of armor to protect him.  (It doesn’t hurt that he is beyond wealthy and has a beautiful girlfriend either.)  However – what helps him the most is his brilliance.  He is cocky, arrogant and very full of himself, but when brains are needed to save the universe, he is the one to figure out how to put it all together.

In her Huffington Post article, Susan Steinbrecher quotes Iron Man as saying, “Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not by the powers they are graced with.”  She goes on to remind us, “You are only as powerful as your people. Show appreciation for your employees by providing positive feedback, asking for their input and involving them in your pivotal decisions. This builds self-esteem and ultimately, loyalty.”

Bruce Banner is a nice, somewhat nerdy scientist that everyone likes, however when he gets riled up and turns into the Hulk, he becomes quite dangerous and everyone is afraid of him.  (Spoiler alert) The bad guy actually plays on the Hulk’s involvement with the team in order to bring them all down.  When it comes down to it, the Hulk is able to harness his incredible strength and power for good (and he takes out a lot of bad guys to save the planet).

Thor has strength and physical beauty, but he also has to deal with his conscious.  Does he do what is right or try to save a family member?  He also chooses to use his super powers to collaborate with the others and form a stronger team.  Ultimately (and as expected), their joint efforts give them more power than the bad guys and they win. (If you see the movie, stay until the very end of the credits for a treat.)

Peter Bregman shares how to use your super powers for good in his Harvard Business Review article, “We can make people feel good or bad by as simple a thing as a gesture, an expression, a word, or a tone of voice.

“Here’s what we know: Like the common cold, emotions are contagious. Caroline Bartel at New York University and Richard Saavedra at the University of Michigan studied 70 work groups across a variety of industries and found that people who worked together ended up sharing moods, good and bad. Moods converge.”

In the book, The Science of Getting Rich,  Wallace Wattles talks about becoming a person of increase.  You do this by letting everyone you come into contact with know that they will be better off because of their association with you.  You give more than you expect to receive, and you receive graciously.  People want to be around people whom they believe can honor and support them, and when you enhance the lives of others, you have the power to expand your own life for the good as well.

We are not superheroes, but we have plenty of power of make a difference.  We have the ability to make a profound positive impact in other’s lives.  Look at the choices you make throughout your day – you can CHOOSE to be grumpy when you’re handing over your cash to the local coffee barista, or you can DECIDE to smile and say, “Thanks so much for being happy this morning, what a nice way to start my day!”  Which of these responses do you think will set you apart from the crowd?  It’s the little things that count.

By offering a warm smile, a kind word, a caring look and treating others in a spirit of kindness, recognition and appreciation, we all have the choice to positively impact everyone that comes into our lives on a daily basis.   Which of your “super powers” are you going to use to make someone’s day today?


Employee Engagement Expert and Motivational Speaker, Lisa Ryan works with organizations to help them keep their top talent and best customers from becoming someone else’s.  She achieves this through personalized employee engagement and customer retention keynotes, workshops and seminars. She is the best-selling author of seven books, and is featured in two films including the award-winning, “The Keeper of the Keys” with Jack Canfield of Chicken Soup for the Soul. For more information, please connect with Lisa at her website:

7 Weird Ways To Be More Productive At Work

Although most of us frequently complain about how busy we are, a study published in the journal of Psychological Science reveals that we secretly love all of our “busyness,” and are actually happiest when we’re hard at work.

So how can you ensure that you’re getting the most out of your time?

You’ve probably heard all the usual advice about making lists, taking breaks and eliminating distractions, and maybe you’ve even tried some of the many productivity apps and gadgets out there, but what about the less obvious tactics?

From laughing to Facebooking, here are some of the most outlandish strategies for boosting your productivity, and the science to back them up.

1. Turn Up The Heat

If your office or workspace is chilly or downright frigid, you probably aren’t nearly as productive as you could be during working hours.

Why? Research shows that when our body temperature drops, we expend more energy just to keep warm, which means there is less energy left for the concentration and inspiration that you need to get the job done.

One study found that when temperatures were below 68F (or 20C), employees made 44% more errors and were less than half as productive as when the room temperature was 77F (25C) degrees.

2. Don’t Take Your Work (Or Yourself) Too Seriously

Though it might seem counterintuitive, numerous studies show that the key to getting more done is to simply stop taking things so seriously. Humor and laughter have been proven to boost creativity and increase productivity, whereas seriousness just stresses you out.

A survey by Wirthlin Worldwide found that 60% of employees believe they would be more productive if their employers encouraged humor. Another study confirmed this by showing that managers who use humor have the most productive employees.

3. Bring Some Greenery To Your Workspace

Your environment can have a big impact on your mood and work ethic and according to a study from the University of Exeter in the UK, “green” offices with plants make staff happier and more productive.

The researchers examined the impact of both lean and green offices on employees’ concentration, workplace satisfaction and productivity levels and found that offices with plants help workers feel more engaged by making them more physically, cognitively and emotionally involved in their work.

4. Give Yourself The Option Of Not Doing Anything

How you frame your choices has a big impact on whether or not you will follow through with what you initially decided to do.

According to research by Wharton and Georgia State University professors, when you have to choose between two options, it’s more productive to include the additional option of doing nothing at all, because this makes you feel surer of your decision down the line.

5. Lists Don’t Always Need To Be Organized

List-making tends to be a very organized activity: you start at the top left corner of the page, number the first item with a tidy number “1”, and then continue down the page in the same manner.

Recently, though, writer and author Ben Schott suggested a rather revolutionary idea – haphazard lists.

The idea behind this is that our thoughts aren’t organized or linear, so our lists shouldn’t be either. According to Schott, it could be far more effective to start in the center of the page and write lists as clouds of related tasks, kind of like mind maps, which have been shown to boost creativity and productivity.

6. Belittle The Most Important Tasks

Another symptom of list-making is that we tend to put the most important tasks at the top because we assume this will help us get to them first. But, according to Stanford philosopher John Perry, putting too much emphasis on the really important things actually makes us want to do them even less.

Perry suggests using “structured procrastination,” which really just means making things that aren’t important seem more important than they are. He advises placing daunting or even impossible tasks at the top of the list, and then positioning the more doable tasks that actually need to be completed lower down.

7. Embrace Social Media

It’s hard to resist the temptation to check our favorite social media sites every five minutes, and for those of us with desk jobs, this can be a real productivity killer without the right safeguards.

But one survey found that contrary to popular belief, employees who use up to four social networks are more efficient, and also tend to stay in their jobs longer.

The researchers surveyed 100,000 call center employees and found that those who belonged to more than four social media networks had a 1.6% higher sales conversion and a 2.8% lower average call time – maybe because they just couldn’t wait to get back to Facebook or Instagram that picture of their lunch?

About the Author: Marianne Stenger is a writer with Open Colleges. She covers educational psychology, career development and workplace productivity.

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Wanted, Preferably Alive And Having Fun With Your Company Culture

“The grim fightin’ hero’s troubles
are always private –
He wants to know where ‘I fit in’
in herd wars –
Sometimes you see villains so ancient…

…you gotta go a long way in the West
to find a good man –”

–William S. Burroughs, from “Old Western Movies”

That’s when the tumbleweed rolls by, followed by a swirling dust devil. You look at the ragged brochure in your hand and think, This wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.

You’re smack dab in the middle of Main Street, the baked earth of road ahead splits rows of empty storefronts and vacant wooden sidewalks. There’s not a soul to be seen. You lift the too-small plastic cowboy hat from your sweaty head and mop your forehead with your too-small bandana and wishWoodyd they’d sent you a real cowboy outfit, and not Woody’s from the Toy Story movies.

You hear a distant titter, like a child laughing. Then nothing. You walk further into the town of Desperanto, and through the dirty, dimly lit windows on either side of the street, you see ghostly faces staring back at you. Men and women alike, faces soured with misery, shaking their heads.

Then, severely stapled to one wooden post in front of the saloon, you see it: a yellowed poster with your smiling face and the words:

Wanted Dead or Alive:
This Guy (Or Gal)
For His Desperately Needed Skills
Being Happily Engaged Is Optional
It’s Always Optional
Reward: Mounds of Cold, Lifeless Cash

Directly across from the saloon is a drug store. On one side of the entrance is a wooden executive, and on the other side is a water cooler. Your doppelganger is dressed nearly identical to you in Woody’s clothes, drinking from a small paper cup.

He (or she) tosses the empty cup and walks to the middle of the street, actual spurs on boots jingling, and you think, This is really bizarre.cowboy boots

“On the count of three, draw,” he (she) says. “It’s either you or me for this company.”

He (she) sneers and adds, “You’re gonna die with your boots on, baby.”

You open your mouth to protest, but a train whistle cuts you off. You turn, and lo and behold, it’s Thomas the Train. Suddenly the sky rains paper. You grab one page and read:

10 ways to create a positive work environment:

  1. Build Trust
  2. Communicate Positively and Openly
  3. Expect the Best from Your Staff
  4. Create Team Spirit
  5. Give Recognition and Appreciation
  6. Give Credit and Take Responsibility
  7. Be Approachable
  8. Provide a Positive Physical Environment
  9. Make Staff Evaluations a Positive Experience
  10. Make It Fun

“I’ll take ‘make it fun,’” you whisper, and run to the train…

Ah, my world of work daydreaming of late has taken me from skill-starved zombies to old Western in-demand shootouts.

Again, as I’ve mentioned previously, according to BLS’ JOLTS report, or Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, there were 2.0 official unemployed per job opening for August 2014. Job openings were nearly 5 million, with hiring coming in at a lower rate than July. In fact, job openings returned to pre-recession levels while hires have only increased 27% since June 2009, and private sector job openings have also recovered to pre-recession levels while hires have only increased 28% from their 2009 lows.

Add to that the intense skill shortages we’re facing across industries (just to name a few):

  • Finding programmers, especially to fill positions in the growing field of health IT, is a global challenge.
  • The problem of not being able to find enough skilled craft workers is reaching nearly universal levels in the U.S. construction industry.
  • Manufacturing wages are rising at a rapid clip in some major industrial states as shortages of certain skills and gradually falling unemployment rates force more companies to pay up to attract and retain workers.

Highly skilled workers in any field are certainly hot commodities, but it doesn’t have to be like the Wild West. The “10 ways to create a positive work environment” list above, courtesy of Ventana Research, is being applied by more and more companies today, from recruiting to retaining, creating cultures that align personal purpose with passion and the business bottom line.

On the TalentCulture #TChat Show, Josh Levine shared that culture is increasingly a legitimate business concern in the world of work, and that means methods for measuring and managing it are more critical than ever before.

The problem is, when businesses scale at any speed, operational concerns often take priority over people concerns. When left unchecked, rapid growth “grooms” disengaged workers and then the problems mount when leaders realize how difficult it is to hire and retain top talent. That’s when short-term incentives are counter to long-term sustainable business (channeling Roger Martin here).

And by the way, high-performers can smell a poorly managed culture from a mile away (especially when it’s a ghost town). Add to that the fact that employee tenure continues to shrink and the prospect of building a strong, sustainable culture grows even grimmer.

Turnover isn’t just a financial burden; it’s a culture roadblock. For the seasoned organization, culture is inseparable from company brand. Of course, engaged employees are committed to culture and accomplishing valuable things for the world around them, including the company and themselves. We all want the rewarding burden of responsibilities and opportunities to help achieve our mothership’s mission.

Unfortunately over 40% of U.S. employees don’t know what their companies stand for and what makes their brand different from their competitors’ brands, according to the State of the Global Workplace survey.

What to do? I’ll take at least two shots (1 and 10) from the list above:

  1. Build Trust. It doesn’t have to be a constant shootout because of the Wild West of reactivity and short-term incentives. Sure, business can feel lawless and chaotic at times, but if leadership is being as transparent as they can, keeping their workforce informed as to the state of their state, as well as skilled up and rewarded for doing so to help the company grow, with a key focus on purpose and passion, then dammit, they’re gonna give you lots of small town love. It won’t always be a 4th of July picnic, but at least we’ll celebrate the ups and downs together.
  2. Make It Fun. Because work life can seem like a ghost town at times baking in the desert heat, tumbleweeds tumbling by. If the workforce is valued as engaged people driving operations, and not cutthroat operations driving people, then even those most excruciating moments of reactivity, and they will come no matter how great your culture is, companies dramatically increase their productivity and revenue. And then everyone wins (hopefully). Fun isn’t just about the special activities outside of work; it’s about any activity inside of work. Period.

So instead of “Wanted Dead or Alive,” let’s shoot for “Wanted, Preferably Alive and Having Fun With Your Company Culture.”

You gotta a long way in the West to find good culture. Giddy Up.

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