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Category Archives: Leadership Tools

Systematize how you handle failure; you will create a powerful tool for employee learning

In today’s blog post, I’m back with another idea in our ongoing series of specific things that leaders can do to encourage and support employee learning.  Today’s tip: systematize learning from failure.

Normalize failure and systematize how you learn from it

At some point or another, we all fail.  Sometimes it’s a new process that doesn’t work out quite the way we’d hoped or intended.  Other times it’s an idea we tried to sell to others but they weren’t buying.  And on occasion, it’s a calculated risk we took that crashed and burned.  Whatever it is, whenever it occurs, it happens to all of us, even the best of us.

So if we know that at some point or another, failure is inevitable, then it’s time to embrace it and learn from it.  What I’m really saying is that failure is a great teacher – it shows us what our strengths and weaknesses are while motivating us to correct them.  So it’s time to systematize learning from failure.  Make it normal and make it consistent!  Make it an acceptable and regular form of employee learning.

Consistency is key

You can do this in a variety of ways, Continue reading

A leadership lesson from how owls hunt

leadership lessonNature abounds with lessons, and I am always fascinated to discover that many of those lessons offer insights into leadership.  I was recently reading about owls, and I was excited to discover yet another leadership lesson.

Did you know that owls don’t hunt by sight or smell, they hunt primarily by sound?  And nature has given them a very sophisticated and elegant way of ensuring that they can catch prey to survive and thrive.

The ears of many species of owls are asymmetrical, with one ear slightly higher but directed downwards and the other somewhat lower but facing upward. As a result, sounds that originate from below eye level are heard louder in the left ear, while those that come from above are heard more clearly in the right.  The differences in volume and frequency allow to owl to find its prey, even in complete darkness.  The owl’s success lies in its ability to pay attention to what is happening both below and above it.

And therein lies the leadership lesson

Which is not unlike what it takes to be successful as a leader.  Leaders have to pay attention to what is happening both below and above them. Continue reading

Employee growth comes from allowing your people to struggle

For the past several months, I’ve been offering up specific ideas for employee growth, things that you, as a leader, can do to help your people develop and grow into leaders themselves.  So today I have strategy #17 in this series.  Today’s tip is to allow your people to struggle.  This may sound counter-intuitive, so let me explain.

Allow your people to struggle

Consider the process of how a butterfly emerges from a chrysalis.  You may not realize it, but this is a complex, highly-sequential, and intricately choreographed process.  First, the insect’s abdominal muscles contract to increase blood pressure in the head and thoracic area causing the pupal coat to split along a line of weakness.  Next, the flexible and still-folded adult butterfly crawls out.  The blood pressure then relocates to the wings, legs and other soft parts to expand the body into the final, familiar butterfly form.  For the next few hours, the adult butterfly remains at increased blood pressure levels until its coat gradually hardens into the new shape.

What may surprise you is that any attempt to “help” the butterfly leave its cocoon is doomed to certain failure.  Continue reading

Seeking employee development strategies? Implement a tuition reimbursement program

For the past several months, I’ve been sharing specific employee development strategies on the blog via short videos: each time, one explicit, pragmatic, and actionable idea you can use to help your employees develop and grow into accomplished professionals and the future leaders in your organization.  Today’s advice: implement a tuition reimbursement program.

Implement a tuition reimbursement program

A tuition reimbursement program is a great way to support learning that isn’t provided in-house, and to provide assistance to employees who want to further their education. Such programs are usually external learning curriculum provided by colleges, universities, professional associations and vendors in relation to industry certifications.

Now it’s true, an employee who takes classes may not finish the degree for several years.  Continue reading

Boiling the ocean will not result in good decisions

good decisionsAs a leader, it is your responsibility to make good decisions.  In your department or organization, you are likely called on repeatedly to evaluate and implement a variety of projects.  And many of these initiatives will probably require investigation and research in order to determine alternatives and make recommendations.  But exactly how much research should one do to be able to make good decisions?  That is a conundrum that many leaders face.

There are certainly situations where leaders have been known to make decisions too quickly, without considering all available information.  But in my experience, it is the opposite that is much more likely; in their quest for more data or analysis, the job or project is made unnecessarily difficult, and decision-making is delayed.

Don’t try to boil the ocean!

The apt metaphor in this situation is that of boiling a pot of water versus boiling the ocean.  Continue reading

Employee growth and development occurs when we give our people the tools and resources they need

It’s been a while since I last posted in our video series focusing on ideas for employee growth and development, so I’m back with Tip #15.  Today’s advice: give your employees the tools and resources they need to succeed.

Set your people up to succeed by giving them the tools and resources they need

As leaders, we give our employees tasks to complete and obligations to fulfill.  But occasionally, without meaning to, we inadvertently set them up to fail.  “How?” you ask?  We do it by giving them the responsibility for the job, BUT not giving them the authority or the resources they need to get the job done.

So we ask an employee to process invoices online but it takes three days for him to get the system access he requires to do it.  We’ve set him up to fail.

We bring a new employee on board but there is insufficient time to get her fully trained to do what she needs to do.  We’ve set her up to fail.

A staff member is responsible for conducting inventory in the warehouse, but rather than giving him a handheld scanner, we hand him a notebook and a pencil, and tell him to do a manual count.  We’ve just set him up to fail. Continue reading

Nomophobia. Should leaders be concerned?

Nomophobia

Nomophobia.  Ever had that moment when you’ve left the house and are on your way to your destination when you suddenly realize you left your mobile device on the hallway table, or plugged in and charging on the kitchen counter?  Yeah, that moment when your palms and brow break out in a sweat, or your heart starts to beat faster, or your anxiety level goes up (or all of the above!).  I mean, what if someone tries to call you while you’re out, or if you need to look up something on Google, or an important email comes in?  How will you cope?!

Okay, sure, I write this a little tongue-in-cheek, but also because it’s not that unusual, it’s happened to the best of us.  What may surprise you though is that this is actually a thing – it has a name – nomophobia (no mo-bile phobia).  It is a real condition, described as the irrational fear of being without your mobile phone or being unable to use your phone for some reason, such as the absence of a signal or running out of minutes or battery power.  And recent research out of HEC Montreal indicates that nomophobia can lead to chronic stress and reduced job performance.

So what should leaders do?

So what should a leader do to mitigate the negative effects of nomophobia?  Well, I can think of two directions to pursue.  Continue reading

The lobster as a metaphor for continuous learning

Several times in its life, a lobster casts off its shell. When the shell begins to inhibit the lobster’s growth and development, the lobster has no choice but to discard its old shell and grow a new one. It is the same with humans.  And it offers an important lesson to leaders – in order to stay relevant, both for us and the people we lead, continuous learning is paramount.

In my latest column in The Globe and Mail, published in this morning’s print edition, I offer three specific ideas to embrace continuous learning, to grow your mind and develop your abilities, so that you won’t become stagnant, so that you will always be relevant, no matter what the changes are in your working environment.

continuous learning

You need to cast off your shell if you want to continue to grow

If you get the print version of The Globe, you’ll find it on page B11.

Note: if you are a subscriber to The Globe and Mail, you can also read the column directly at their website at this link: https://tgam.ca/2XhyBzl

So what are you doing?

As always, I’d love to hear from you.  What are specific things you do to ensure that you are continuously learning?  What are you doing to be a lobster?  Please share your perspectives by adding your comments below.

If you’ve been a reader of the blog for a while, you probably already know that I have a book titled Why Does the Lobster Cast Off Its Shell? which published in its third edition in 2017.  In the book, I offer three more strategies to grow your mind and develop your abilities, as well as 171 Ways to Be a Lobster! Scroll down the page once you click on the link.

Create employee engagement by monitoring performance metrics

Today’s blog post takes us to Strategy #14 in my ongoing series of video tips outlining specific ideas to develop and grow your employees.  Employee growth is a natural outcome of employee engagement, and a sure-fire way to create employee engagement is to establish and monitor performance metrics.

Establish and monitor performance targets

We’ve all heard the saying, “What gets measured gets done.” It simply means that regular measurement and reporting keeps people attentive and focused.  And when people know how they’re doing, they are deliberate and thoughtful about making decisions to improve their results.

So establish metrics.  What are those vital few indicators that tell you things in your department are working as intended?  Make sure that this is information that can be collected easily. Because if it’s too difficult, it won’t happen. Continue reading

A leadership lesson from monarch butterflies

monarch butterfliesEvery fall, millions of monarch butterflies leave their summer homes in Canada and the northern United States and travel over 3,000 miles south to their winter home in the mountains of central Mexico.

Even though the journey is long and arduous, instinctively, the butterflies know that they need to find a safe place to spend the winter.  This makes sense.  But what is very unusual is how the butterflies make their spring return trip to their breeding and feeding territories in Canada.

You see, the individual butterflies that leave the north are not the ones that will return.  While favourable air currents permit the monarchs to make their way south to Mexico relatively quickly, the return trip to northern climes takes much longer.  In fact, because the life cycle of a butterfly is just 5-7 weeks, individual monarchs stop for breeding and feeding cycles, and eventually they die before completing the journey.

However, their offspring continue the journey. Eventually, it takes the monarchs four to five generations to actually make the entire trip back up to Canada.

We still don’t know why …

Science is still deciphering how an individual monarch knows to return to the summer breeding and feeding grounds from several generations ago.  Is it Continue reading