5 Top Leadership Articles for the Week of June 5, 2017.

Summer is nearly upon us here in the northern hemisphere. Invest in yourself and the leaders in your life: get a copy of Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul and equip yourself with the tools you need to blend the bottom line and the huma spirit.

Karin and I are booking companies and association events for 2017 fall and 2018 spring. Email or call to bring us and Winning Well to your leaders.

Each week I read a number of leadership articles from various online resources and share them across social media. Here are the five leadership articles readers found most valuable last week. I have added my comment about each article and would like to hear what you think, too.

Half Full or Half Empty: Negativity Kills Employee Engagement by Jenna Cyprus

Employee engagement is a fickle thing. And while every individual has different needs, preferences and personality traits, widespread negativity is a recipe for disaster. Not only does it kill employee engagement, but it has the potential to tear your company culture apart at the seams.

Negativity: The silent killer of employee engagement

There’s a time and place for being critical in the workplace. Companies can’t improve and move forward without listening to what people have to say and correcting their mistakes. However, there’s a difference between constructive feedback and chronic negativity…

My Comment: Cyprus makes such a good point here. You’ve assuredly met that manager who is constantly critical, negative, and for whom nothing is ever good enough (regardless of its actual quality). The fundamental problem with this kind of consistent negative refrain is that it crowds out hope.

People without hope just give up. You may have a team where little is going well or right…and you may need to ditch the diaper genie and say that it no uncertain terms – but you still need to give them a path to success. That path is hope. The essence of leadership is that together we can have a better tomorrow than we do today. Eliminate that hope and you’re not leading, you’re just complaining.

Why the Fuss Over Employee Engagement? Interview with Kevin Kruse by Jathan Janove

JATHAN JANOVE: Is “employee engagement” simply the latest fad or is there something more to it?

KEVIN KRUSE: I think it’s often misunderstood, but definitely not a fad. I’ve been a student and practitioner of it for about 20 years, and I think engagement is one of the secrets behind so many of my companies. Engagement is when we feel emotionally committed to our employer and it’s mission. When we are engaged, we actually care.

JJ: How are American employers doing when it comes to fully engaged work environments?….

My Comment: In this interview, Kruse covers some fundamentals about employee engagement – a highlight of which, in my mind, is that true engagement is not a function of HR. Human Resource professionals can champion and train, but if you want engagement on your team, train your leaders and expect them to lead well.

3 Strategies for Making Meetings Really Work for You by Jill Schiefelbein at Entrpreneur.com

A lot of people cringe when they see “Let’s set up a meeting” in an email or instant message. I understand. Many organizations have meetings just for the sake of having meetings, where people feel forced to come up with something to talk about. These meetings, without a clear purpose or goal, are why they get a bad rep.

But meetings are an essential part of business. And learning to run them effectively and efficiently can help you be a better manager and leader. Here are some strategies for making your meetings work for you…

My Comment: In our Winning Well workshops we often address the “truth” that people hate meetings. I don’t believe that. I believe people hate bad meetings. Good meetings – productive, helpful discussions that move your results forward, build relationships, and solve problems are enjoyable. They get results and people want to attend. In this article, Schiefelbein shares some excellent suggestions to help you make your meetings productive.

I couldn’t agree more with her invitation to clarify the rules of engagement. In addition to her suggestions here, I would add: be clear about who owns the decision to be made. Is it you? Your boss? A majority of the team? Or a consensus among the team as a whole? When you clarify the purpose of the meeting, clarify who owns the decisions and empower people to share meaningful input and eliminate hurt feelings that arise when someone assumed they have a vote, but are really being asked for input.

Are You a Bridge Building Leader? By Chip Bell at Lead Change Group

A crowded Montgomery, AL city bus stopped at its usual spot and a middle-aged African-American woman boarded the bus. As the bus pulled away, she realized every seat on the bus was taken and was prepared to take the trip standing on her feet. But, something changed that stance. Three different white men in three different locations on the bus simultaneously got up to give their seat to the middle-aged woman.

It was cold morning in early December 2016; almost exactly sixty-one years after Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man boarding the Montgomery city bus near the exact same bus stop. It was a commentary on the unifying impact this “mother of civil rights” made through her non-violent act of courage.

My Comment: When he addresses the impact that Rosa Parks, Nelson Mandela and other bridge-building leaders have had on society, Bell calls each of us to take a hard look at the purpose and meaning in our own leadership. At the conclusion of Winning Well with the reminder that most of the time, your legacy is not the product you make or the service you provide. Your leadership legacy is the impact you have on the people – employees, clients, and colleagues – you work with every day. You might have thought you were taking a simple management job. But leadership is bigger than that – it speaks to the soul of every human being you work with. It calls you and your team to a bigger purpose. What is the bridge you are building?

5 Questions Leaders Need to Ask to Increase Morale at Work by Mary Kelly, PhD, CMD, US Navy (Ret)

Keeping employees motivated is crucial to maintaining an effective and productive workplace. The American Management Association points out that increasing morale doesn’t come from gimmicky management fads, it comes from within the workplace. Sometimes asking a few simple questions can yield amazingly productive results.

Be warned: If you ask the question, and you don’t do anything with the response, your lack of activity may make the workplace situation worse, as you will be perceived as being all talk and no action. If you are going to ask your people questions, then you have a responsibility to respond. Be prepared to walk the walk.

My Comment: This doesn’t happen very often, but this is one of those weeks! Mary Kelly is back with an article that has remained in the top five most popular for two straight weeks. These really are great questions.

Part of the power of these questions is that they get your team thinking positively and productively. People usually find what they look for – if you ask your employees what’s wrong, you’ll likely get a morale-draining litany of problems. In contrast, when you ask “what would make our workplace more enjoyable” or “what keeps you motivated,” you’ve focused on the opportunity and positive aspects in a way that helps you build on them, without being a Pollyanna or foolish about the reality of your workplace.

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