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

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

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: Unique Study Habits

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

A crucial part of the successful completion of any degree program is studying. And knowing this so many things still get in the way of a successful study session. Finding the right groove that works for each individual can be challenging. The study tips that are provided by advisers and counselors may just not do the trick. Yes, it helps to have a quiet space free of any distractions where the focus can be prioritized. But what else can be added to maximize the use of this time?

Here are a few study habits that may help to get studies back on track:

Video – one of the trending items in higher education today is the use of “study along” or “study with me” videos. These videos don’t exactly teach you how to study, these are videos that have been created by others showing themselves simply studying. These video creators might suggest some ambient noise or soft music in the background to help enhance the environment. These videos simply show others reading, taking notes, reviewing notecards, etc. Those that use these types of videos report that seeing others in the act of studying find that studying becomes contagious and helps them make the best use of their time.

Sing – at one time or another we’ve all had a song get stuck in her head and simply can’t get rid of it. Take the same idea and put it into use during your next study session. You can make up a few lyrics or a simple jingle about the fact you want to remember or even the key points that could help you on a test. This could be a lifesaver when you need it the most. Turn to your favorite track or a familiar melody to help you memorize different skills it’ll be much easier than you might imagine. Have some fun with it!

Music – many students report that simply listening to some type of study music and letting that same music play why they sleep has helped them improve their academic performance. Try some new style of music. Perhaps some ambient noise or simply some instrumental music that you may not normally listen to.

Rewards – consider rewarding yourself after a study session. Just like a high-performing athlete may have one cheat day where they can enjoy a slice of pizza. Perhaps as a hard-working student, you can set aside your favorite dessert when the studying is done. This can even be a small reward if you enjoy a favorite candy, reward yourself with a piece after reading a few pages in that textbook required for your class. If creating notecards is part of your process for studying, consider setting aside a handful of your favorite snacks once you’re done.

Accessorize – creating a Study area includes more than just setting the mood that applies to your desk arrangement or the lighting. This can apply to your study implements. Perhaps having a special set of pens, notebooks, planners, and stationery will help you visualize success and will support your study sessions. Setting up your surroundings including accessories can go a long way towards putting you in the right state of mind to begin your successful study session.

-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

 

Top 5 List – Find Motivation

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

Here is a Top 5 List to help you get back in the work groove after vacation, even if you’d still rather be at the beach. Or at any time during the year when motivation is lacking.

Create lists. The night before or the first thing in the morning, make a list of everything you need to do for the day – especially the difficult stuff. This is most effective if you write it on paper instead of inputting it into your device. Make multiple lists if needed (example – personal & business). This will result in more things being checked off. Actively checking things off a list provides the motivation to do the next task.

Celebrate all achievements. Set small, attainable goals for yourself to complete throughout the day, everything from making phone calls to finishing a report. Then take some time to reward yourself when each goal is reached. Get a coffee, go for a short walk, or listen to a brief podcast…something not work related. As long as it is within reason, whatever you feel you deserve.

Start with the difficult items. A long list of tasks can be overwhelming and discouraging, resulting in very little being accomplished. Especially, if you delay addressing those difficult items. You’ll feel better about yourself and your ability to take on the tougher jobs and finish the day with more enjoyable tasks.

Change things. Many of us fall into a routine, both at home and at work. Breaking that routine, even just once in a while can give us a fresh perspective and renewed energy. Perhaps work from home, change your hours, or simply hold meetings in an unusual place.

Collaborate. Surrounding yourself with others, even those who may also feel unmotivated, can lift the whole group. Keep it light and fun. Get people laughing. Try some word games or company trivia before getting down to business. Sometimes the best way to improve productivity is to think less about being productive.

-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

Effective Communication Strategies For Students

Question Mark – CC0 Public Domain
Question Mark – CC0 Public Domain

Faculty often tell me…when students reach out they often express their concerns about their courses, they confess their shortcomings as students and writers, and they ask for some advice. The conversation might look like this:

Student: “What’s the one thing I can do to increase my chances of doing well?”

Faculty: “Simple, keep the lines of communication open.”

The most successful students are the ones who aren’t afraid to reach out to the faculty members with questions, concerns, and comments. As a student, if you’re not used to communicating with your instructors, here are some helpful tips to help you get the most out of each interaction:

Reach Out Early – Most universities and colleges require their instructors to respond to student inquiries within 24 – 48 hours. So, if you have a paper due by 11:59 PM on Sunday, you don’t want to wait until 11:00 PM to email your instructor. Look over the assignments in the beginning of the week and send questions as soon as they arise!

Avoid Vague Comments and Questions – If you ask vague questions, you’ll get vague answers. If you ask clear and specific questions, then you’ll get clear and specific responses.

Be Prepared – Every now and then, faculty members get a student who will send an email like this: “I’m confused by the assignment. Explain it to me, please.” Most faculty provide assignments with detailed instructions and rubrics. So, faculty members are not willing to simply rewrite the instructions. However, they ARE willing to respond to a specific question with a specific direction or a specific piece of language from the rubric.

Use the Appropriate Communication Channels – Be sure you’re using your instructor’s preferred method of communication. If he/she encourages you to call, then call – just be respectful, and don’t call in the middle of the night! If he/she asks you to communicate via school email, do so. If you don’t use the proper communication channels, you may stall the conversation.

Be Patient – Online courses are available 24/7. Online instructors are not. If the school promises a 24-hour response time, then be sure you give your instructor a full 24 hours before firing another email.

Be Nice – Professors are people. They don’t like to be yelled at. They don’t like to be called names. They are more willing to work with people who are kind to them. So, be professional and be kind.

Bottom line: Don’t be afraid to reach out to your instructors. Good communication can make the difference between an okay learning experience and a great one.

-RG

Stay Focused During the Holiday Season

Priority – CC0 Public Domain
Priority – CC0 Public Domain

Thanksgiving approaches. The short holiday break is almost here. It’s a stressful time for all students, faculty & staff members in higher education. Here are some strategies to make for a productive and relaxing holiday season – or at least a more relaxing holiday season.

Make a List of Important Dates – November and December are prime months for term papers, presentations, and final exams. They are also busy months filled with teacher conferences, holiday parties, and winter concerts. So, list all the important dates you need to remember. Once you do that, you can start figuring out a more concrete schedule.

Prioritize – Not all assignments or events are created equal. You want to make sure you’re focusing your energy on the big-ticket items. Make a list of all the major assignments and the mandatory engagements. Figure out how much time you’ll need to devote to those obligations, and create a schedule that will allow you to make the most out of your time.

Plan Your Work, Work Your Plan – Develop a very detailed and thorough plan of attack. Allow plenty of time (hint: use your list of priorities mentioned above to create a realistic timetable). If you can, spread your work over several days. Avoid waiting until the last minute to write that term paper or study for that final exam. You’re more likely to do well and less likely to get overwhelmed if you take things bit-by-bit.

Practice Self-Care – The holiday season has a way of making even the most well-adjusted individual a little crazy. Likewise, the end-of-the-term chaos can overwhelm even the most diligent student. You add holiday madness to the end-of-the-term madness, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. What can you do to stay grounded? Make a point to do something for you. Take time for yourself every single day. You don’t need to jet off to the spa or go to a ballgame. Just set aside 15 minutes each day to relax – take a break from studying or holiday prepping. Practice self-care by:

  • Reading a book or at least a portion of a book (no textbooks allowed!)
  • Taking a walk around the neighborhood
  • Having an extra cup of coffee/tea
  • Having a nice glass of wine (only if you’re of legal age)
  • Completing a Sudoku, Word-search or crossword puzzle
  • Taking a power nap
  • Having a quick dance party
  • Work on a jigsaw puzzle
  • Meditating
  • Enjoying some holiday music

The holiday season can be a magical and joyous time. Stay focused and organized…enjoy it!

-RG