Top 5 List – Ways To Be A Better Leader

Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain
Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain

Much has been written about the different ways to lead a  business or lead a team. Unfortunately, some leaders underestimate the importance of leadership skills. Some leaders just don’t think it’s important or they value marketing, finance, sales, technical or other skills more highly. And other leaders simply don’t grasp what it takes to lead others in their own business or as part of a larger team – unable to judge how much others look up to them for leadership.

It’s rare to find a leader who truly cares about the people who work for them and knows how to grow a successful team or business. While at the same time building a loyal, productive, happy, and empowered team. Here’s a shortlist of 5 things (plus a few BONUS things) that experts in the leadership development field have shared that will help leaders become better at growing their teams or their businesses.

Clear expectations – Everybody needs clear direction from the leader about where the business is going. Too many leaders believe that such things are self-evident. Expectations need to be articulated early and often.

Be consistent – Great leaders provide consistent messages. These leaders also make reasoned decisions without appearing to be arbitrary. This doesn’t mean they don’t change their mind. When they do change their mind they clearly communicate the reasons for the change going forward.

Relentless communication – Great leaders stay in constant contact with the people they lead. They don’t just check in from time to time via email or wait for others to come to them. They provide information, ask questions, and seek opinions. This does not require endless meetings, but it does require a measure of skill to make communications clear.

Seek input – Some leaders think that they have all of the answers themselves. Even if that’s true, great leaders will still seek input from others. Successful leaders are decisive – they don’t put things off or offer half-decisions that leave people wondering what they’re supposed to do.

Avoid overload – Many teams and businesses may find themselves in a fast-paced environment with high intensity similar to that of a startup that feels like a 24/7 job. An environment with a significant number of emails and urgent projects debated all hours of the night and on the weekends can overload a team quickly. Sometimes that goes with the territory. The great leaders are the ones who are sensitive to it and find ways to relieve some pressure by keeping meetings to a minimum and making them highly efficient.

BONUS: Culture – Great leaders recognize that most people want a work environment that’s about much more than simply earning a paycheck or collecting a bonus. Great leaders surround themselves with people who have mutual respect for each other and care about one another on a personal level. These great leaders recognize people as individuals not just as workers or staff members.

BONUS: Show gratitude – Great leaders live by the practice of “praising publicly and criticizing privately”. It’s amazing how gratitude and public praise can lift others and spur them to do more or to take on more. People simply want to be appreciated. Leaders who show appreciation by offering praise or gratitude will in return foster a team of individuals who are loyal and willing to go the extra mile to help the group be successful.

BONUS: Help others be successful – this is one of the fundamentals of great leadership. It’s one thing to praise people and quite another to constantly be on alert about what guidance and resources they need to be successful. It starts with leaders caring about others’ success as much – if not more – than they care about their own.

-RG

Top 5 List – Bad Leadership Skills

Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain
Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain

Recently a small group of colleagues and I met for a regular informal meeting about the world of work and what that looks like now. The discussion quickly turned to an article a couple of us had seen online…the topic was leadership. In this case, bad leadership. We all agreed that leadership is simply defined as developing the members of your team to their fullest potential (or something very close to this). The author presented 5 of the most common bad leadership behaviors they had witnessed. In summary, those 5 are:

Lacking integrity – Employees will know when questionable decisions are made for financial gain or for the personal benefit of leadership. If the employees know,  then the respect has already been lost. Leaders should lead their teams by example and always show integrity in the decision-making process. 

Failure to provide ongoing feedback – The typical annual performance review and its process often doesn’t result in positive feedback. Typically in this process, managers will bank a year’s worth of views and perspectives until review time dumping them all at once on the employee. This experience often leaves the employees feeling dazed and confused overwhelmed and even irritated.

Not recognizing good work – Gallup has surveyed millions of employees from around the world. The results of the surveys show that people who receive regular recognition for doing good work increase their productivity, increase their engagement, and are more likely to be retained as an employee. 

Being disrespectful – Last year (2020), Resumelab conducted a poll on what it means to be considered a bad leader. This poll found that 72% of those surveyed were treated in a rude or disrespectful manner by their supervisor. Another 70% were criticized in front of their peers and 83% of them felt bad about it.

Failure to communicate – Communication issues are common. There can be too much communication, too little communication, or wrong messages being conveyed. Whatever form poor communication arrives in it can affect employee morale, disengage employees, and even create problems with customers. Communication should be crystal clear in every form.

-RG

Let’s Talk

Let's Talk...
Let’s Talk…

Remember that part of the Holidays is about being present in the moment with those closest to you. You may break bread to connect with these people in your life. The food is there to signify the importance of the event and also to make it easier to focus on the conversation. And to be present in the moment may require a conversation starter.

Get to know each other better, ask the question(s) you always wanted to ask.

Here are some sample questions to use with working adults:

  • What are you most excited about right now? Why?
  • What have you learned from this experience?
  • What is not perfect yet?
  • What are you willing to do to make it the way you want it?
  • What are you willing to NOT do to make it the way you want it?
  • How can you enjoy the process?
  • What is the most innovative thing you’ve done recently?

Focus on the conversation. Get to really know what is going on with this person.

Here are some sample questions to use when speaking with children:

  • What was your favorite part of the day?
  • What’s your favorite class or subject at school? Why?
  • What’s your least favorite or toughest subject at school? Why?
  • What was the biggest challenge for you right now?
  • What made you smile or feel happy today?
  • What made you frown or feel sad today?
  • What is your favorite thing to do with the family?
  • You can also ask children: “Would you rather” questions, such as “If you could choose a superpower, would you rather choose flying or invisibility? Why?

Here are some sample questions to use when speaking with elders:

  • What are the most rewarding things about getting older?
  • What are the most difficult things about getting older?
  • What do you remember about your parents and grandparents?
  • What do you want family and friends to remember about you?
  • What life advice would you pass on to your family and friends?
  • What was your favorite thing about school when you were young?
  • What were your friends like when you grew up?
  • What was your first job?
  • What was your favorite job?
  • Who were your heroes and role models when you were young?

There are many more questions that you can ask. 

Remember to look into the eyes of the person you are speaking with and have fun with the questions…

-RG

Embrace Diversity In The Work Environment

Smiling Faces
Smiling Faces

There is no single (or preferred) strategy to help embrace diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the work environment. It’s important that all members of the organization recognize that continuous forward motion is the only way to achieve success. Here are a few strategies to get started:

Start the conversation – this starts with the leadership team. Open the door, set the tone, and send a very clear message that DEI is something that will be discussed openly and acted upon.

Increase transparency and accountability – organizations that do not operate with a high level of transparency and understanding of what is being done to increase DEI, will not feel that enough is being done to make a sustained improvement.

Inclusive leadership skills must be developed – simply being aware of unconscious bias or having a basic business sense for DEI is not enough. Awareness is important, however, it doesn’t automatically mean that action will be taken. Leadership needs to learn the tools, understand the frameworks, and utilize the skills to help close the gap between theory and practice.

Take notice of diversity during conversations and decisions – leadership must create the conditions in which diverse viewpoints will be represented, they must be purposeful in seeking out people with opposing viewpoints, they must delegate equitably, and then proactively identify opportunities for all to maximize professional development.

Pay attention – the growing challenges of DEI efforts have been highlighted due to hybrid and virtual working conditions. Some groups have reported that the virtual working environments come as a relief where being at home has provided a safer place to conduct work during the pandemic. It is clear that flexible work arrangements bring huge benefits, it also creates a risk for widening the diversity gaps and possibly creating new ones. Leadership (and all other members of the organization) need to pay attention to how all people are being treated. Leaders should be intentional in the way they engage and acknowledge each person and their value to the organization.

Act as an ally – acting as an ally for someone is similar to being a catalyst for change. To embrace diversity in the workplace is to advocate on behalf of others and contribute to creating fair working conditions for everyone. Additionally acting as an ally becomes even more critical when supporting historically those groups that have been excluded and may face unique challenges.

Commit to change – to look inward is a very critical piece to enhancing a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Each member of the organization should consider their own leadership strengths and opportunities as they relate to these best behaviors and best practices.

Building a platform – it takes every member of an organization to take action to embrace diversity. It requires the work of the individual, the team, and the entire organization. This work is difficult, so all of those involved should be considerate of others by maintaining their coworker’s sense of self-esteem and demonstrating empathy. Empathy is key. Leadership should continue to spread the message that there is always work being done in this area as well as modeling the behaviors they want to see in their teams and develop a loop for feedback.

-RG

Top 5 List – Tips To Prepare Students For College

Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain
Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain

You might be surprised to learn that more than half of first-year college students say they aren’t prepared for college, despite being academically eligible to attend.

College readiness can ensure this doesn’t happen.

By definition, college readiness is the set of skills, behaviors, and knowledge a high school student should have before enrollment in their first year of college. Counselors and teachers play a key role in making sure this happens and can help students find academic success in college. If you’re already a teacher or studying to become one, it’s important to know how you can effectively prepare your students for college.

Why is College Readiness Important?

The transition from high school to college is a major one. In many cases, students move away from home and embark on a new life chapter—both academically and personally. It’s crucial for parents and teachers to understand why college readiness is important so that they can better prepare students for a successful college experience even before enrollment.

Multiple studies show that college readiness improves a student’s chance of actually completing their degree. But the impact is even bigger than that. According to a report by American College Testing (ACT), high school graduates need to be college and career-ready in order to have a properly skilled workforce that meets the demands of the 21st century.

Below are some ways teachers can equip their students for that next academic step.

How Can Teachers Measure College Readiness?

True college readiness requires both academic and real-world skills. In fact, the ability to solve problems, work in a team, and be resourceful are viewed by some experts as equally important to mastering mathematics and reading. So, while many colleges use ACT/SAT scores or a student’s high school GPA to measure college readiness, there are other indicators or “soft skills” that teachers can look for.

Essential Soft Skills for College Readiness

  • Time management
  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Networking
  • Goal setting
  • Collaboration
  • Problem-solving

Here are five tips you can use to better equip students for college success.

Focus on Executive Function Skills

Executive function refers to the mental skills that we use every day to learn and manage our daily lives. They include things such as memory, flexible thinking, and self-control. These skills can develop at different rates in different students. One way you can help support students in developing these skills is to establish a mindfulness routine that includes regular self-check-ins, self-reflection, intention setting, and gratitude practice.

Make the Classroom More Rigorous

It might be a challenge at first, but updates to the curriculum to include more intensive coursework is the key to ensuring students are well equipped with the broader set of strategies they’ll need for college. You can do this by implementing a challenging curriculum and assigning longer, more complex assignments that involve things such as research, collaboration, and problem-solving.

Another thing you can do to help prepare your students for college is to teach them the value of extracurricular activities or after-school jobs. These things demonstrate to college admission officers that a student is well-rounded and capable of handling the responsibilities that come with college.

Consider Social Aspects of College

Teachers can better prepare their students for college by teaching them social-emotional skills that they need to thrive in a post-secondary setting. Assigning group projects that promote collaboration and encourage students to become involved in school activities, volunteer opportunities, or cultural events can encourage students to flex their interpersonal skills.

Teach Practical Skills

The best way to teach practical skills is to create coursework that allows students to put them into practice. Educators should look for opportunities to incorporate real-world skills into their instruction. For example, if you’re a math teacher, you can teach students how various math concepts relate to financial literacy, budgeting, or even preparing food.

Encourage Additional Preparation Resources

Prep courses and Advanced Placement (AP) classes are two of the best ways to academically prepare students for college. Not only do they give students a preview of what’s to come, but in many cases, students can earn college credit and get a head start on their college careers.

Preparing students for the financial responsibility of college is important, too. The Department of Education’s financial aid toolkit offers multiple free resources for teachers and their students.

-RG

Reflection And Change

Change – CC0 Public Domain
Change – CC0 Public Domain

Tips for Faculty: Reflection and time to consider a change

The pandemic resulted in a dramatic shift in instruction and learning models for college faculty. What began as temporary measures in response to an emergency may end as a catalyst for the transformation of higher education. The end of the fall semester is an opportunity to review and reflect on what is and is not working as institutions continue to navigate uncertain times.

Most campuses will welcome students back for full-time, in-person learning this fall. As a result of continuing COVID outbreaks, many courses are still being offered as a mix of in-person and online learning. The seismic disruption to higher education has resulted in the largest adoption of technology ever, allowing faculty to reconsider how they teach and explore new ways to teach, mentor, and coach students.

For all the upheaval, this has been a time of experimentation. Institutions have had to shake up every process and policy to respond to the needs of faculty and students. It is time to fully embrace technology, particularly with routine tasks. Technology can support faculty in spending most of their time in direct engagement with students in person or online.

This break between semesters is a good opportunity to reflect on new practices that promise flexibility in how instructors teach and assess their students. Questions to consider include:

  • Are the courses and topics connected to students’ personal and career goals?
  • Are there frequent opportunities for students to collaborate and learn from one another?
  • Are feedback loops between students and faculty open and productive?
  • Is course content and pedagogy still relevant after all this change?
  • Have new practices to stimulate student engagement been implemented?
  • Are equity and student success embedded in new practices?
  • Has the focus shifted from instructor-led to student-centered learning?
  • Do students have agency in how they manage their own learning process?

Faculty should be encouraged to take time to review and reflect on how the last 14-16 months have changed their teaching practice.

-RG

Top 5 List: Improve Service To Others

Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain
Top Five List – CC0 Public Domain

Many business owners operate from this mindset related to customer service: “if you can make your customers happy everything else will simply take care of itself”. But what about those small businesses that simply don’t have the resources to create and implement an effective program for customer service that their employees can use? Here are five easy ways that can improve customer service that won’t require any special training or any additional resources.

Be professional – a professional exchange with customers in-person, on the phone, or in an email will have a major impact on how people communicate with you. Be caring, courteous, polite, and attentive at all times.

Thank you – simply say thank you and let your customers know you appreciate them and their business. This can be done with a quick phone call, a handwritten note, a small gift, an email… Or simply remembering them the next time you interact with them.

Accessible – make it easy for customers to reach you or a member of your team. This can be done through email, voice mail, text messaging, and even social media. These are all great ways to make yourself available and to respond promptly.

Ask – ask customers what they need or what can be done to make things right for them. Never put your customers on the defensive by asking why is there a problem here.

Follow up – follow up with customers especially in those cases where you feel a customer may not be 100% satisfied. It’s surprising to see how few businesses actually do this in a way that is personalized or individualized to that particular customer.

-RG

Build Trust

Trust
Trust

One of the greatest skills that we are all possessed with is that of building trust. And because of this our skill to build trust can be strengthened deliberately and improved upon.

Trust simply means “to believe that something is true”.

There’re some very simple reasons for not trusting others:

  • We don’t believe they have the knowledge or skills to get the job done
  • We don’t feel that they are experienced enough to do their job well
  • We don’t trust people because they are different, or do things differently
  • We don’t trust that people will deliver results consistently

If we don’t believe that it is true that someone will do a proper job for us, then we simply don’t trust them.

Regardless of your role or position within your organization, it is imperative to take a leadership approach to identify where trust is broken – and then fix it.

Let’s agree to do good things by developing and building trust with each other… Rather than simply just trying to identify those people, we can’t trust. 

Stop labeling people as being “not worthy of trust”.

I’m confident that by removing judgment, identifying the pillar of trust that needs to be repaired, we will build more positive and engaging work relationships built on trust.

-RG

 

Unlock Your Potential – Do This

Leadership – CC0 Public Domain
Leadership – CC0 Public Domain

What are you most proud of?

Grab that thought that just appeared in your mind. That’s right, the very first one that appeared when you read the question. For me, the answer has little to do with achievement, and much more to do with a time where I was able to contribute beyond what I originally thought I was capable of. In my mid-20s, I became the Senior Project Manager for a large retailer. What was supposed to be a temporary journey to lead several of their new construction projects, turned into a multi-year, amazing adventure.

The most profound times of our lives are the situations and challenges we couldn’t have planned for; yet choice-by-choice and effort-by-effort we ended up making it through better off than when we started.

The key to surprising yourself with what you’re capable of is to stay open to discovering more on your journey. When faced with challenge, don’t default to “I can’t.” Instead, center on what you can work towards. The reward is the richness of experience and the awareness that your capability often extends far past what you imagined being possible.

I’ve seen many examples of leaders (in the news this year) stepping up during the pandemic to work towards achieving more:

The manager who made the ask of her greater department to donate leave for an employee who needed extended time off to recover from COVID.

The coach who expanded his team’s roster to take on more players so more kids could have the opportunity to play and exercise during online school.

The senior manager who went without pay for three months to retain junior team members.

The boss who wouldn’t accept a parent’s resignation so she could provide childcare for her kids; instead, he worked to create a flexible schedule for her to get through until schools reopened.

Each of these leaders approached challenges with an eye for how they could be of service to others, finding a way to make things happen, even when it meant sacrifice or extra effort. When you face challenge, focus on the work towards mentality: the first step you can take to overcome it. Then, keep stepping, knowing that with the most difficult matters we face, the value is in the experience not the outcome. And, through it all, look for ways you can contribute to supporting others. That’s leadership.

-RG

Say No – To Being Time Poor

Need More Time
Need More Time

Like many, I’m time poor. (I actually think I may be bankrupt.) But, I’m learning a few powerful lessons during this stress test (known as the Global Pandemic) that I’d like to share.

Before You Commit to Anything, Get Clear on Your Priorities. You might think it’s crazy to take on all of these things that we do and I do agree, I’d also like to offer that all of these activities must be aligned with our top priorities. For example:

  • Family
  • Professional Development
  • Support & Service To Employer (and community)

For the record, I’ve said “no” to things recently, to make room for my “yes” replies When asked if I want to get involved in anything new, I say, “let me think about it” before I agree to move forward. Clear priorities give me guidelines on whether I should say “yes” to anything new.

You Can’t Do Everything. We all have limitations. What I’ve learned is that I can’t be everywhere at once, I don’t always make the best decisions, and there are others willing to step up and help when asked. To manage, we have to delegate and empower. Sometimes it’s hard for people to give up control as they assume more responsibility. You can delegate authority, but not responsibility. When you delegate authority, you give people autonomy – something we all crave. Any task that has been delegated can be a great learning opportunity for someone else.

Sometimes Good Enough Is….Good Enough. We’re all busy and in the greater scheme of our lives, things matter but maybe not as much as we think. When you’re busy, how you allocate your minutes is critical. During the week, there are things I spend time on and things I don’t. There are things that I perfect, and there are things I choose not to. In your world, you know when you’re trying to make perfect things that don’t matter. The key is being able to recognize when good enough is really good enough.

For all of us, we strive to feel full lives. I’ve given up on the idea that life can feel balanced – is anything ever really balanced?

-RG