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Monthly Archives: March 2019

Strategy #8 in our video series on developing your employees

In my last instalment on ideas for developing your employees, I suggested you ask further questions in response to questions asked by your employees.  Today’s tip in this series: find opportunities to showcase your people’s strengths.

Find opportunities to showcase your people’s strengths

An important component of developing your employees is to build up their self-esteem and their confidence, and when we, as leaders, can find ways to highlight and showcase their strengths, we set our people up to succeed!  Every employee has certain things they are good at.  Perhaps one of your staff members is very strong analytically, and a second is good at doing presentations.  Maybe one of your people is very detail-oriented, and another has a knack for seeing the big picture implications of a situation.  Yet another has demonstrated expertise in complicated negotiations.

Whatever an employee’s strengths, when you give assignments that emphasize those attributes, you also give the employee an opportunity to shine.  And when employees get the satisfaction that comes with not only doing the job well, but knowing that others also observe them at their best, their self-confidence climbs.  Continue reading

Use the Zeigarnik Effect to overcome procrastination

procrastinationAre you guilty of procrastination?  If so, you’re not alone.  As a leader, you’re constantly juggling many priorities, and there are always a few items on the to-do list that seem to slip from one list to the next.  Usually, the procrastination is either because the task is so large that the even the thought of tackling it is overwhelming.  Or it’s because the task is just something that you don’t really want to do.  Either way, the end result of procrastination is that the task gets pushed further out into the future.  And sometimes it simply just doesn’t get done.

If you think it’s time for the procrastination to end, then consider how you can use the Zeigarnik Effect to your advantage.  So called because it was observed by Russian psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik, the Zeigarnik Effect states that people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks.

Use the Zeigarnik Effect to your advantage

To better understand the connection between procrastination and the Zeigarnik Effect, some background information about Zeigarnik’s research is useful.  In a series of experiments, she asked individuals to do several simple tasks such as solving puzzles and stringing beads.  For some of the tasks, the participants were allowed to complete them, and for others, they were interrupted about half-way through.  Interestingly, she discovered that people were twice as likely to recall the tasks during which they’d been interrupted than those they completed.

So …. if you want to overcome procrastination, the best thing to do is to get started.  If you just initiate the task and get it underway, the Zeigarnik Effect will kick in.  Because the project will now be incomplete, you won’t be able to forget about it.  And you will seek to relieve the tension by bringing closure.  Ergo, getting the job done!  Item checked off the to-do list!

So … I’m curious to know.  Have you used the Zeigarnik Effect to your benefit?  Perhaps you’ve been using it all along, but you just didn’t know that it had a name!  Do share your experiences by commenting below.

P.S.  If you want even more insights into to how to overcome procrastination, then you may find this helpful: A 9-point plan for overcoming procrastination, which I wrote as one of my regular columns for ProfitGuide, the online portal for Profit Magazine.

Six steps you can take today to work towards a leadership role tomorrow

If you aspire to be a manager or supervisor, your success in a future leadership role will depend significantly on making a critical mental shift from task management to people leadership. Let’s be clear – the two are not the same. In fact, the skills that lead to accomplishment as a “doer” of tasks are the very ones that will cause you to fail as “leader” of people. Because in a leadership role, your success no longer rests on just you; your success now depends on how well you can get things done through others.

So what do you need to do to position yourself for a future leadership role?

While still delivering results as an individual contributor, there are things you can do today to position yourself as a future leader, in the eyes of those who can help get you there.  And in my latest column for The Globe and Mail, I lay out six specific steps you can take.

Six steps to take today, toward a leadership role tomorrow

leadership role

If you get the print version of The Globe, you would have seen it on page B10 in Monday’s edition.

So these are top six ideas I share with my young (to leadership) clients.  But I’d love to hear your input.  If you’re a veteran leader, what advice would you offer?  And if you’re relatively new to leadership, what have been your experiences?  Please share by either commenting below, or if you wish, you can comment directly on The Globe’s site.

Boost employee development by asking further questions in response to an employee’s query

In last week’s video instalment in our ongoing series on specific ideas for employee development and growth, I told you that getting your staff to train others is a very powerful way to improve their skill level.  Here is another.  Answer questions with another question.

Answer questions with another question

As leaders, employees often come to us with questions, and our natural instinct is to answer.  After all, we’re the leaders, right?  But in fact, we can significantly boost employee development simply by choosing to instead ASK questions of our employees instead of just answering them.  Let me explain.

When an employee comes to you with an issue or challenge, just giving them an answer may seem like the most expedient approach, particularly if you happen to know the answer.  But you will be losing out on a perfect opportunity for employee development.  Instead, if you make it a point to ask open-ended questions, you will actually help the employee think through the situation and arrive at an acceptable solution, all the while, helping them grow in skill and confidence.

So what are open-ended questions?  Continue reading

A unique employee team-building idea from one of my client organizations

Three weeks ago, I shared a fantastic idea from a client organization about a unique way to acknowledge and motivate employees – to hold “fake” retirement parties.  Well, today I’m thrilled to tell you about another great example of employee team-building and motivation from another client organization.

Monthly culture “moments”

employee team-buildingThis particular company has a very diverse workforce with people from a variety of different ethnicities and cultures.  So as a way to build understanding, to strengthen teamwork, and to have fun, their Corporate Finance team created monthly culture moments.  At their monthly team meetings, over a period of several months, they’ve showcased the different cultures and nationalities represented in their department.  Even though they’ve called it culture “moments”, it is in fact the theme for the entire meeting.

One or two employees (who are from that culture) make a short presentation sharing the background and history of their heritage countries.  They also tell the rest of the team about a core societal value and a common workplace behaviour.  Continue reading

One of the best ways to develop your staff? Let them train others!

Last week, in our series on specific actions you can take to grow and develop your staff, I said that you should thoughtfully communicate your long-term goals and plans to them.  Today’s idea: Let them teach others.

Let them teach others

This one is so brilliant that I am always astonished when people seem surprised to hear this!  For thousands of years, people have known that the best way to understand a concept is to explain it to someone else. In fact, the Roman philosopher Seneca is credited with saying “While we teach, we learn,” in the 1st century AD.  And this notion is absolutely applicable in the workplace, to great advantage.

If you want to grow and develop your staff, get them to train others.  Sure, the obvious benefit is that it will help them develop greater depth in whatever their area of expertise is, but the advantages go far beyond that.  Continue reading

When it comes to managing the rumour mill, partial information is better than no information

rumour millThe ancient philosopher Aristotle said Horror vacui, or “Nature abhors a vacuum.” His point was that if a vacuum exists in the physical world, it is only momentary, as it immediately fills with the material surrounding it, without any regard as to what the substance is.  It doesn’t matter if the neighbouring material is similar, or of the needed quality, or even if it is suitable for the purpose, it immediately moves to fill the vacuum.  The same principle is at work in organizations, specifically to do with communication and more specifically, the organization’s rumour mill.  In fact, I wrote about using the company grapevine to your advantage in one of my regular columns in The Globe and Mail, back in March 2015!

Just as nature abhors a vacuum, people in organizations also abhor vacuums … in information. When there is a lack of knowledge – about people, about processes, about upcoming plans and changes – information, accurate or not, immediately moves in to fill the vacuum.  And ironically, the larger the vacuum, the more incorrect and outlandish is what moves in to fill it.

Managing the rumour mill

Which leads me to the point of this article.  The best way to combat rumours, misinformation, and the general distortions and fabrications that seem to take hold in just about every organization is to continually and deliberately offer correct, quality information to fill the void.  Even if it is incomplete!  Continue reading

Enhance leadership development by thoughtfully communicating long-term plans

In my last instalment in this video series on employee leadership development, I explained how showing your people that you’re vulnerable will create an atmosphere in which continuous learning is encouraged and supported.  Today’s strategy is to regularly share information with your employees on your organization’s long-term goals and plans.

Let your employees know about long-term goals and plans

There is an old saying – “If you don’t know where you’re going, don’t be surprised if you don’t get there.”  And it certainly applies here.  If your employees don’t know what your goals and intentions are for the long-term, then they will not be in any position to help you get there.  In fact, they may inadvertently work at cross-purposes to your plans, simply because they don’t know any better.

But … if you share this information with them frequently and regularly, then the opposite will happen.  Continue reading