5 Top Leadership Articles for the Week of February 13, 2017

Welcome to a special Valentines Day edition of the Top 5 Leadership Articles. In addition to this week’s top articles, Karin Hurt and I share thoughts on why your engagement and morale-boosting activities don’t always work.

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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.

A Manager’s Guide to Navigating High-Stress Times by Julie Giulioni

Whether it’s a merger, an acquisition, a reorganization, downsizing, a new product launch or political turmoil, there will always be periods of time during which employees experience elevated levels of stress. And as much as we’d like to invoke the old ‘leave it at the door’ mentality, it simply isn’t realistic or viable given today’s workforce.

During these high-stress periods, what leaders choose to do can have far-reaching effects beyond simply helping employees focus on the work at hand. Supporting others as they process anxiety creates a very human connection. It builds trust, elevates engagement, and inspires greater levels of loyalty.

My Comment: When you lead well through times of high stress you can often forge amazing teams who know what they’re capable of in ways others never will. (Not that you want to manufacture these stressful occasions – life throws enough of them our way as it is.) Giulioni shaes vital steps you can take to help your people navigate these times. Remember that in times of stress, people usually need more information, clarity, and reassurance – which is the opposite of what most leaders provide.

Is Your Confidence Perceived as Arrogance? by Mary Kelly, PhD, US Navy (Ret)

There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance. When leaders are confident, they have a deep belief in their ability to help others and make a difference in the world. Confidence is an important competency in leadership, and it’s critical to leadership success. Confidence is motivational and inspirational to others. It gives those around you the ability to take risks needed to stay innovative and push the team or organization further ahead.

Arrogance crosses the line of confidence. Arrogant people believe they no longer have a need to learn, grow, or change. They wholeheartedly believe they are right and that others are wrong.

My Comment: Winning Well begins with the combined values of confidence and humility. Confidence without the humility to see the value in others, to recognize your own vulnerabilities, and to invite challenges to your own thinking quickly turns into arrogance. Kelly gives you six warning signs that your confidence may need a dose of humility to prevent it becoming arrogance. Take a look at these indicators and see how you’re doing.

Why Do Millennials Expect to Be Promoted? by Jared Buckley

Every talk, training, or workshop I present, a leader will ask about millennials and entitlement. Whether millennials are entitled or not is the wrong conversation. The real conversation needs to focus on expectation. As soon as I steer the conversation into expectation, the follow up question sounds like this, “Okay then, why do millennials expect to be promoted so quickly?” That’s a better question because then I can share insight about training millennials for leadership, a real business matter. If the conversation stays on entitlement, it becomes a complaining Q&A.

Millennials Expectation of Promotion Makes Sense…

My Comment: Generally, I’m cautious about generalizations (even that one…). Especially when we try to apply broad labels and characteristics to entire generations, we run the risk of self-fulfilling prophecies. That said, as with Buckley, one of the characteristics I frequently hear from Gen X and Boomer managers is that millennials want to be promoted quickly (and by “quickly”, they mean faster than they were). I appreciate Buckley’s approach here: don’t squash or ridicule their desire. Use it. Help them understand the path from where they are to where they want to get. Discuss their reasons for wanting promotion – ensure promotions go to people focused on People and Purpose, not Pride, Pennies, or Power.

My own experience with millennial employees has been no different than with any other generation. Some work incredibly hard, others not so much. Generally, they want their work to matter – but then so does everyone. They want to grow – and so does everyone. Yes, they have a shorter timeframe, but then didn’t you when you were 25?

Coaching to Empowerment: How to promote personal responsibility by Marlene Chism at SmartBrief

I have worked with leaders who tell me they work 70 hours a week because they are putting out fires all day long.

When leaders fix problems, they unintentionally teach employees to adopt a victim mentality. Instead of taking initiative, the employee runs to the leader complaining and expecting the leader to take action. Coaching (versus fixing) is a better method of promoting a culture of personal responsibility and improving productivity. Here are the simple steps to coach employees to empowerment.

My Comment: If you want to reclaim your time for the work only you can do, have employees who can problem solve without you, and end the parade of people asking you to solve their problems, coaching is the answer. Specifically: you coaching your employees in how to problem solve and think critically. Chism offers some good steps to get you started. For a more in-depth approach to coaching, check out the Coaching Conversations flowchart on page 14 of our free Winning Well Toolkit. It goes well with Chapter 14 of Winning Well.

Whatever you do, don’t start by telling your inexperienced employees ‘don’t bring me a problem without a solution.’ If they don’t know how to come up with a solution, you’ve just told them not to bring you problems – and now they go unaddressed and will fester. First coach them so they learn how to generate those solutions.

How Middle Managers Can Boost Employee Engagement and Customer Experience by Adrian Swinscoe at Customer Think

It’s pretty well understood that having a high level of employee engagement fuels better levels of service, a more engaging customer experience and better business results. Gallup research supports this and shows that firms with a highly engaged workforce experience tend to have:

  • 37% less absenteeism;
  • Between 25% and 65% lower staff turnover, depending on the industry;
  • Up to 41% fewer quality issues;
  • 48% fewer safety incidents;
  • 28% less shrinkage;
  • 10% higher customer ratings;
  • 21% higher productivity; and
  • 22% higher profitability.

Moreover, research by the Temkin Group published in their 2015 Employee Engagement Benchmark Study found that companies that had a market leading customer experience had 50% more engaged employees than the majority of their competitors.

But, what holds back many organizations efforts to improve their employee engagement? Well, according to Gallup, 70% percent of the variance between top quartile and bottom quartile performing companies, in terms of employee engagement, can be explained by the quality of that organization’s managers.

My Comment: I frequently talk with Human Resource and Learning and Development directors who are frustrated because there is a leadership disconnect around employee engagement. Seniors executives see statistics like these and often want to ‘move the needle’ on their engagement scores. So they bring HR or L&D and tell them to “get on it.” The problem with that way of thinking is that employee engagement is a product of great leadership and management. It can’t be outsourced. Yes, your systems, policies, and development opportunities all have a role to play, but engagement results from good leadership. If you want to improve engagement, focus on developing fantastic managers and leaders at every level. They’re only taking care of your most valuable resource – your people.


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