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Category Archives: Leadership Tools

What happens when people can’t see the “big picture”

I am repeatedly surprised at how often people miss the big picture. Like the time when Costco’s online ordering system forced me to go to their competitor. And the several times when the management team at a large organization made bone-headed moves in order to save a few dollars but in the process destroyed employee morale (see below for links to those blog posts). Or this story, where once again, I am reminded of how prevalent this “can’t see the big picture” disease is!

big pictureMy in-laws moved into a senior-friendly apartment and so they were selling their home. To help them get their house ready for sale, I contracted with a company to replace all the flooring. On the last day of the job, the installer called me.

“As I went to put the toilet back on in the bathroom,” he said, “the tank broke.”

“It broke?” I asked.

“Well I didn’t do anything to it, it just broke,” he replied defensively. “It’s old, and I’m not a plumber. All I did was take it off to put down the floor tile, and then try to put it back on again. And it just broke.” Continue reading

If you want to sustain your employee development efforts, don’t forget this!

Today’s post continues with our 2019 series of video tips on employee development – specific practical things you can do as a leader to help your employees learn and grow into the future leaders of your organization.  Today’s strategy: promote and support mental and physical health initiatives for your people.

Promote and support mental and physical health

At first glance, you might think this is an unusual piece of advice.  But it actually makes a great deal of sense.  Let’s take a closer look.  Employee development is about creating highly-engaged employees.  But significant research has shown us that highly-engaged employees are not always healthy – physically and mentally – which means that their effectiveness is only short-term.  Think about it – a high-potential, highly-engaged staff member who works long, demanding hours but doesn’t know how to cope or take care of his health is someone whose productivity will only last until he burns out.  So if you want to your employee development efforts to be successful, you need to help and support your people in managing their daily stress loads. Continue reading

Last chance for professional development credits in 2019!

For the 5th year in a row, I am so pleased to be partnering with the Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta (CPA Alberta) to deliver high-quality cost-effective leadership training in a series of twelve “public” programs until March 2019.  Each of these sessions is eligible for professional development credits in most professional associations.  Five sessions took place in October already, but I now have two more dates coming up in December in Calgary and Edmonton.

On Tuesday December 3 in Calgary and on Tuesday December 17 in Edmonton, I’ll be facilitating Just for Leaders: Project management 101.  In this fast-paced and content-rich day, I’ll be covering a broad, yet practical overview of project management – the nuts-and-bolts skills combined with the non-technical components, the details tied into the big picture.  My focus will be on giving you what you need to successfully manage projects without having to attend days or even weeks of in-depth project management training.

If you belong to a professional association that requires you to complete a specified number of professional development credits annually, then these one-day programs will most definitely qualify (and may be one of your last chances to get your 2019 requirement met).

You don’t have to be a member of CPA Alberta to attend

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Are you falling into the complacency trap?

I saw the following words on a poster in my bank manager’s office the other day.

Complacency. Just because things are going well now, doesn’t mean that they can’t suddenly go horribly wrong.complacency

It was just below a photograph of a snail resting on a railway track, with a train approaching in the distance.  While I realize that the poster was slightly tongue-in-cheek, I was still reminded about how easily and quickly leaders can fall into this very trap.

Sure, it’s nice to have a period of time when things seem to be moving along smoothly, when the bumps in the road are small enough that they can almost be ignored.  But the reality is that while a short reprieve to catch your breath and celebrate success is well-deserved, resting on your laurels for too long can only get you into trouble.  When we get complacent, we tend to both under-estimate the risks we face, as well as over-estimate our own abilities.  And when complacency kicks in, things can suddenly go horribly wrong.

How would you know?

This poster got me thinking about how we would know if we are falling into the complacency trap.  What are the clues you should watch for as a leader that might indicate you are taking the status quo for granted?  Here is the list I came up with: Continue reading

Acknowledgement and praise are powerful tools to develop your employees

We’ve been talking all year on the blog about specific ideas to develop your employees, and today’s tip now brings us up to Strategy #23.  It is to deliberately and consciously seek out opportunities to praise and acknowledge your staff for good work.

Be deliberate about praising and acknowledging your staff for their good work

In order to grow and develop, people need to know how they’re doing.  In fact, back in Strategy #10, I talked about both why and how to give constructive feedback.  The goal was that employees should have enough information to change their behaviours and actions for the better.  But don’t just tell your staff what to improve.  Positive feedback, praise, acknowledgement for a job well done is just as powerful a tool to develop your employees.

Two powerful reasons to do this!

When we praise and acknowledge, it tells employees what they are doing well, and therefore, encourages them to continue.  That alone, is a really good reason to do it!  But even more than that, recognition for doing good work builds morale.  When staff feel good about themselves, they are more invested in themselves and in the department or organization, which means that productivity and performance will go up too.  So make it a point to deliberately and thoughtfully recognize your staff whenever you can.  Even though more is possible, a simple thank you that is tied to a specific action or behavior will suffice.  Praise and recognition can be given privately or publicly, think about what will be more appreciated by the person you are acknowledging.  It doesn’t matter how or where, just do it.  Try it, I think you’ll find that praise and acknowledgement can be a simple, yet powerfully effective tool to develop your employees.

So …. I’d love to hear from you.  Are you being deliberate about acknowledging and praising good work done by your employees?  If not, why not?  I’d love to hear more.

I referred to Strategy #10 above.  But if you’re looking for more, you can access the complete series in our Video Archives.

Another powerful strategy for developing your employees

Today’s blog post is another instalment in our continuing video series on specific ideas for growing and developing your employees.  Today’s strategy for developing your employees is to include them in the hiring process for new staff members.

Let your high-potential employees help you hire other staff

The benefits of this strategy are two-fold.  First, the more obvious one is that it develops their skills.  If you envision that your high-potential employees are going to be the future leaders in your organization, then the skills of recruiting, screening, interviewing and selecting the right employees are ones that they need to acquire and hone.  What better way to accomplish this than to include them in the process so that they can observe and learn from you and other experts in your company.  Not only will they develop these very important skills, but being actively involved in the process gives them a first-hand insight into what it takes to get the right people in the right jobs for the success of the organization.

The second benefit is that Continue reading

Influence employee behaviour by using the Convenient Fruit Principle

FruitBowlOne of my favourite hotels always has a large bowl of fruit sitting on the counter in their front desk area, available to any of their hotel clientele who want a quick snack.  Recently, as I checked in one evening, I mentioned to the front desk agent that I felt the onset of a cold.  She helpfully recommended that I boost my Vitamin C consumption.  To which I laughingly responded that their fruit bowl never contained oranges, only apples and bananas.  She paused, and then earnestly replied, “Oh, we tried adding oranges, but no one ever takes the oranges, just the apples and bananas.  So now we just leave them out.”

The convenient fruit principle

At first thought, you might assume that this discrepancy exists because most people like apples and bananas more than oranges.  But when you consider it further, the reason is much simpler.  Apples and bananas are easy to eat, but oranges are not.  As delicious as oranges are, you usually need a knife to eat them.  And if they can be peeled, most times they are quite messy.  So hotel guests looking for a quick and easy snack always pick the apples and bananas.  I call this the “convenient fruit principle”, and it applies just as much in the workplace as it does at snack time.

Use the convenient fruit principle to motivate desired behaviour

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Seven lessons learned as a first-time entrepreneur

Many people dream of taking the leap from employee to entrepreneur.  Whether it’s the idea of following a passion to make a difference, the appeal of being in control of your own destiny, or the flexibility of working for yourself, the desire to “go out on your own” is one that I hear repeatedly.

When I started my leadership development consultancy in 2002, I took a giant leap of faith.  I left the security of a thriving career as a financial manager in a multinational company to venture into the enormous abyss of building a company from the ground up.  “I didn’t know what I did not know” is an apt synopsis for my early years.  Today, almost eighteen years later, I have the benefit of hindsight.  So in my regular column in today’s issue of The Globe and Mail, I share seven distinct lessons that I learned as an entrepreneur.  True, everyone’s entrepreneurial journey will be different.  But if you’re considering the leap from employee to entrepreneur, then I hope that my lessons learned will help you avoid a few speedbumps along the way.

Seven lessons learned as a first-time entrepreneur

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If you get the print version of The Globe, you’ll find this column on page B10. Continue reading

Develop your staff in financial literacy and you will build your future leaders

Today’s blog post is Strategy #21 in our ongoing series on specific ideas to develop your staff as the current and future leaders in your organization.  And it is: regularly discuss and explain your financial results.

Discuss and explain your financial results regularly

If you are going to develop your staff as the future of your organization, then they need to understand the numbers.  Where are your revenues coming from?  What are you spending on?  How much do you pay in taxes? And what is left over for profit?  Even if you are a not-for-profit entity, your people still need to know what your funding sources are, where the funds are being spent, and whether and how you are in a surplus or deficit position.  If you are going to grow and develop your staff, then they need to be financially literate; they need to know about the dollars and cents.  And one of the best ways to build this financial literacy in your people is to regularly discuss and explain your financial results.

Do three things to develop your staff in financial literacy

At minimum, to develop your staff in financial literacy, you should be doing three things.  First, share your organization’s and department’s financial results monthly.  Now don’t just mass-distribute the financial statements; most people find them overwhelming and they’ll likely get ignored.  Instead give your staff simplified versions that report just on your company’s critical numbers.  Continue reading

Relevant and cost-effective public leadership training in October

A couple of weeks ago, I shared our exciting news – for the 5th year in the row, I am partnering with the Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta (CPA Alberta) to offer public leadership training in Calgary and Edmonton.  “Public” means that these programs are available to anyone from any organization … you DO NOT have to be a member of CPA Alberta to register.  If you work in a smaller organization that doesn’t have the budget to conduct an onsite leadership training program, this is your stellar cost-effective opportunity to invest in yourself and your leaders’ competency and skill development!

Coming up next month … five to choose from!

Five of these are coming up in October so if you want in, now is the time to sign up (before it’s too late!)

Calgary:

  • How to Communicate with Confidence, Clarity, and Credibility – Thursday October 3
  • Productivity Skills for Leaders – Wednesday October 23
  • NEW! Building Bridges and Fighting Fires: Tools and Skills for Problem-solving and Decision-Making – Thursday October 24

Edmonton:

  • Coping with Stressors and Pressure at Work – Tuesday October 15
  • Productivity Skills for Leaders – Wednesday October 16

For further information on any of these courses, go to the Search page at the CPA Alberta site and enter “Gupta” in the Instructor field. You will need to create a secure account on their system in order to register; it’s a quick and easy process.

And please, let me know if you’ll be attending – it’s always exciting to know who’s going to be there!