Creating a Wide-Awake and Engaged Workplace

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The Conscious Leader

We’ve all seen the depressing statistics about employee engagement.  People are not fully engaged at work, not happy, not being utilized, and not fully using their talents.

What’s a leader to do?

Dr. Shelley Reciniello is the author of The Conscious Leader: Nine Principles and Practices to Create a Wide-Awake and Productive Workplace, a leadership approach designed to apply psychological tools to improve individuals and corporate culture.  She works with senior leaders in a wide variety of fields.  She has provided services ranging from employee assistance programs, executive coaching, leadership and diversity training seminars.

 

“What is going on unconsciously is often more important than what is on the surface.” -Dr. Reciniello

 

What is a conscious leader?

A conscious leader is someone who understands that people don’t leave their psychological selves at home when they come into the workplace and that includes the leader.  This kind of leader accepts that all human beings are not rational and that our rational minds are constantly influenced by our unconscious motivations, hidden agendas, unresolved childhood issues, fears, anxieties, fantasies, prejudices, obsessions, and complicated emotions like anger and guilt.  Conscious leaders understand that what is going on unconsciously, out of awareness, is often more important than what is happening on the surface. They know that the rational mind, both the individual one and the corporate one, can only be strengthened by dealing with unconscious issues, not by pretending that they don’t exist.

Starting with themselves, conscious leaders seek to make what is unconscious conscious.  They want to know the whole story about themselves – what emotional baggage they carry, what defenses they habitually use, how others really see them, what their Achilles’ heels are. They are committed to self-development and increasing self-awareness.

Conscious leaders know that in order to create workplaces where people will want to be, they must understand the psychological principles of people at work and apply them daily.

 

The Power of Honest Feedback

Give us an example of one way a leader can be more conscious.

A leader who is open to honest feedback is going to really know how others see him or her.  They may not like what they hear, but they dig down deep in themselves to understand the root of the behavior in question, and then they can begin to fix it.  We have a lot of what we refer to as “narcissistic leaders” — probably the same amount that we have always had, but our culture seems to condone and even admire their grandiosity and bravura.  When I work with a leader like that, it is usually because the board or some other entity has insisted that this person curtail their behavior.  It is not easy for them to change because they cannot believe that their charisma and success aren’t enough.

Cub_TheConsciousLeader-altaI worked with someone like this and I knew that underneath the fascinating façade, he was quite damaged, never felt loved for himself from an early age, so he compensated by creating a larger than life self that he believed would be worthy of love.  In the coaching, he worked hard to understand how others saw him and how he made them feel. He began to see what good behavior looked like. So although we couldn’t change the structure of his personality at such a late age, he was able to become conscious of what the right behavior would be and he would mimic it.

He is actively engaged in trying to modify his behavior and his impact on others.  He uses techniques like active listening to help him have real conversations with his direct reports.  He understands that it isn’t “all about me,” and the discipline it takes for him to listen has been rewarded by the input and ideas that are growing his company.  He tells me that he reminds himself of his story every two hours!

 

Understanding How We Deal With Change

What is one commonly misunderstood psychological principle? How does it relate to organizational leadership?

It is generally acknowledged that more change has occurred in the last decade, largely due to the advances of technology, than at any other time in human history. And there appears to be no end in sight. Principle 8 focuses on the fact that change is a constant in every workplace. Whether the change is initiated by a world event, the marketplace, or comes from within, it will require a particular kind of leadership if it is going to be accepted and implemented on both an organizational and individual level.

 

“All change is loss, and all loss must be mourned.” -Harry Levinson

 

Our natural, evolutionary response as human beings is to fear change and to resist it. It represents the unknown and unfamiliar and carries with it the possibility that we will suffer harm. Over time, we have learned that change can also be positive and lead to good things. The complete truth about change is that it is always hydra-headed; it is about both winning and losing.  In corporate restructuring, for example, change usually results in two groups, those who will win and stay and those who will lose and leave.  But it isn’t as simple as that in reality.  For even the people who get to stay often talk about how things were before the restructuring because something was gained but something was also lost.

My mentor, Harry Levinson, used to say it this way: “All change is loss, and all loss must be mourned.” When we do not allow for the mourning appropriate to the occurrence, successful change is jeopardized. Mourning seems like a natural thing to do.  Think about the crying and other shows of sentimentality at any high school or college graduation.  If leaders jump the gun and demand the swift, dispassionate adherence to change, resistance will kick in and there will be corporate consequences.  The recent recession brought dire economic consequences to many, accompanied by anxiety, depression, and in some cases, suicide. The extent of the changes that occurred, and the speed with which they happened, did not give people the time and resources they needed to adjust to their drastically altered circumstances.

A swift-moving, action-oriented business model leaves little time for people, whether they are going or staying, to readjust and acclimate to a changed environment.  No one is immune and everyone feels vulnerable.  The unspoken contract between employer and employee, and the trust that goes with it, are forever broken.

 

The Family Dynamic at Work

Procrastinate on Purpose

Learn How to Be A Multiplier

If you’ve tried all of the tips, tricks, tools, apps, checklists, planners and technology gimmicks to improve your productivity, you may wonder why it is that you still haven’t mastered your time.

 

“Creating the next level of results requires the next level of thinking.” –Rory Vaden

 

My friend Rory Vaden, cofounder of international company Southwestern Consulting, NYT bestselling author of Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success, says that:

  • Everything you know about time management is wrong.
  • The most productive people in the world do things differently.
  • We need to understand the emotional aspects of time management.
  • We need to learn how to multiply our time.
  • We need to learn how to procrastinate on purpose.

9780399170621His new book, Procrastinate on Purpose: 5 Permissions to Multiply Your Time has just been released. A few weeks ago, I sat down with Rory to talk about his extensive research into time management.

If you want to be more productive, more effective, more impactful – and who doesn’t – Rory’s research will propel you along.

3 Types of Procrastination

Learn about the 3 different types of procrastination:

3 Ways to Motivate Your Team

successful business team winning an award

What are the best ways to motivate a team? Are there best practices that managers can use to lead?

 

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I’m always asking people these questions, trying to improve my understanding of team motivation.  Entrepreneur, speaker, and CEO of MyEmployees, David Long, is an expert on motivation and rewards.  His company specializes in helping managers link rewards and recognition to the desired goals of the company.  The firm he founded has been working at this for twenty five years.  His new book, Built to Lead: 7 Management R.E.W.A.R.D.S Principles for Becoming a Top 10% Manager, is David’s view of what it takes to become a Top 10% manager.

I asked David:  what are three ways to best motivate a team?  His answer:

 

Value Opinions

1: Show your employees you value their opinions.
Anytime we seek to improve something in a particular department or process within our company, we always tell the employees what we want to happen.  Then we ask them, “In an ideal world, what changes can we make to improve the process and make your job easier?”  Why do we ask them instead of just telling them what to do?  It’s quite simple really.  We want buy-in to the needed changes being made, and we insure that by involving them and their input.

 

“Success leaves clues.” -Tony Robbins

 

Note: Your front-line employees should always be involved in the process when developing the system in which they are expected to produce and perform.  If they help create the system, it greatly increases the likelihood of them adopting any changes that may be created as a result.  Without that happening, there will definitely be unnecessary resistance.

 

“No man will make a great leader who wants to get all the credit for doing it.” -Andrew Carnegie

 

Recognize Excellent Work

2: Recognize excellence at every opportunity.
Someone once said, “What gets recognized gets repeated.”  You want more innovation within your company, then recognize it.  You want more employees to take ownership of their responsibilities and care about the success of the company as if it were their own, then recognize it!  You want to improve any quantifiable metric of success within your company, such as sales, increased profits, higher dollar per client, then recognize it.

 

Research shows that every employee should be recognized at least once every 7 days.

3 Smartcuts to Accelerate Your Success

Maze Shortcut

Are you looking for a shortcut?  Or the secret that will unlock your career?

Why do some companies launch to huge public success while others are never discovered?  Is the secret of success hard work and determination?

Or is there something else at work?

 

Take A Smartcut

Entrepreneur, cofounder and chief creative officer of media technology company Contently, Shane Snow, has just authored a book called Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success.  Every week, I’m asked by executives for the most recent, most thoughtful book I have read.

I now have the answer:

Smartcuts.  It is an extraordinarily interesting read, full of insights and yet entertaining.  The book was just released.

Let me introduce three of Shane’s smartcuts that will make you think about success differently.

Your book is full of hacks, ways to become successful much faster than average.  As I read your book, I noticed that you often upended traditional thinking over and over.  We can’t begin to hit them all, so let’s talk about just three of them:

 

The secret to success is not hard work and persistence.

 

Hard work.  Persistence.  Put in your dues.  You throw all the commonsense wisdom out and instead offer “Smartcuts.”  What is a smartcut?  Would you share an example of one?

Smartcuts are a smarter way of doing things.  Essentially, it’s the mindset that the conventional path everyone else takes in business (or any career) is by definition average.  To beat the average, you have to think differently.  Shortcuts, or cheating, tend not to be sustainable; Smartcuts are a faster, often counter-intuitive way that manages to speed success while providing value.  For example, it turns out that some of the most successful U.S. presidents, CEOs, and entertainers manage to get to the top and make game-changing breakthroughs without having paid as many dues as their counterparts.  They do incredible things and change lives but without having slogged it out in Congress for 30 years, etc.  This demonstrates what we humans are good at doing: correlating the wrong things.  Time spent, it turns out, does not equal merit.  The danger, of course, is that no time spent does not equal merit either.  There’s something about these “ladder hacking” success stories that makes the difference, and there’s something about their nontraditional journeys that lead them to be good leaders and players without having to go the needlessly slow route.  I get into the nuances of how they “hack the ladder” in the first three chapters of the book.

 

Time spent does not equal merit.

 

 

Positive feedback is not always the best way to improve performance.

 

“You did really well!” says the parent, thinking that positive motivation is the way to build self-esteem.  Instead, you say that negative feedback is a better route to success.  Why?

SmartcutsResearch shows that negative feedback helps us learn and grow more quickly than positive feedback.  Muscles build when you test their limits.  However, negative feedback only works if we’re in the right mindset, otherwise it can be catastrophic.  You see experts in many fields accelerate their growth by craving negative feedback, and that’s because they’ve managed to de-personalize feedback—make it about the thing they did and not about them.  That depersonalization is hard to do, and it’s why our bowling game gets worse when our friends tell us everything we’re doing wrong (and we start to get in our heads about it).  You have to be really secure to feel good about yourself if all you’re getting is critiqued.

So really, the key is to build up your kids’ self-esteem muscles by showing them that they are ok when things go wrong, and that feedback is about what they’re doing and not who they are. De-couple the performance from the self-esteem.  When you can do that, you can push them like the Karate Kid, and they’ll grow much more quickly.

In the book, I talk about how The Second City comedy school puts this principle into practice, to take frightened students and turn them into stars in a short time.

5 Ways to Increase Trust in the Workplace

Building up trust concept: Black alphabetic letters forming the

Recently, I had the opportunity to ask James M. Kerr a few questions about culture, trust and engagement.  Jim is a Partner at BlumShapiro Consulting. He is a business strategist and organizational behaviorist.  His latest book is The Executive Checklist: A Guide for Setting Direction and Managing Change.

Increasing Trust

 

You cite studies showing that trust in business is at an all time low.  What do you do to reverse that and increase trust?

It’s really up to the senior management team to set the tone and do what is necessary to build a high trust work environment.  Some of the ideas that I discuss in The Executive Checklist: A Guide for Setting Direction and Managing Change to reverse the trend include:

 

1.  Place Focus on the Outside

The competition lives outside the four walls of the organization.  In-fighting just wastes time and energy and can contribute to distrust.  Placing focus on the competition allows a firm to put that energy to good use and diminishes the time that staff dedicates to internal politics and positioning.

 

“Focus on the competition to diminish the time dedicated to internal politics.” -James Kerr

 

2.  Make It a “No Spin” Zone

Management must set an expectation that all of the business dealings of an enterprise are done with the whole truth, and nothing but the truth in mind.  Eliminating “spin” improves transparency and enhances trust.

 

“Eliminating spin improves transparency and trust.” -James Kerr

 

3.  Don’t Play Games

If you play games and pit one group against another, you’re encouraging others to follow suit.  Play the work setting straight-up, with no innuendo – just honesty.  Trust will follow.

 

“Play the work with no innuendo – just honesty. Trust will follow.” -James Kerr

 

4.  Do Your Job

It’s our job to ensure that everyone knows what success is and what their role is in achieving it.  Once that is established, attention must shift to making sure everyone “does their job.”  This focus contributes to establish a high trust work environment.

 

“Ensure everyone knows what success is and what their role is in achieving it.” -James Kerr

 

5.  Do Your Best

Expect the best and people will rise to the occasion.  As they do, confidence will rise accordingly.  The need to play games and be deceitful will lessen and trust will fill the void left behind.

 

“Expect the best and people will rise to the occasion.” -James Kerr

 

Creating a Winning Culture