Why Strong Leaders Have the Courage to Show Vulnerability

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“A great leader needs to love and respect people, and he needs to be comfortable with himself and with the world. He also needs to be able to forgive himself and others. In other words, a leader needs grace.”

~ Leo Hindery, Jr. ~

Bill did his best to model fearlessness, capability, and decisiveness for the people he supervised—all the qualities associated with strong leadership. In all his interactions with them, though, they seemed anxious and afraid. In meetings, he could never seem to spark a robust discussion—they would just give lip service to his questions. He couldn’t understand why they acted just the opposite of the example he tried to set.

Bill didn’t realize that his attitude of invincibility was not actually setting a good example. Rather, playing the part of the fearless leader was stifling discussion and creativity. He was forgetting that success requires risks, and when taking risks, a leader is by nature in a place of vulnerability. His attitude that failure is not an option masked the reality that we all risk failure when we reach toward high goals. Pretending he was invincible showed his deep fear of failure, which is a weakness, not a strength. Like Bill, if you want to become a strong leader in your company, have the confidence to believe that even if you do fail on any one project, you’ll bounce back and succeed in the future. When strong leaders show vulnerability, it projects this confidence to the world.

That doesn’t mean you should walk around griping about your insecurities all day. Rather, just be comfortable enough in yourself to show you know you’re far from perfect, and learn to view mistakes and weakness as learning opportunities.

1. Being authentic

When you show your vulnerabilities, you are being authentic, and that helps others to see you as trustworthy. In other words, let people see your whole self rather than picking and choosing the aspects you want them to see. People can tell whether you’re being authentic or not, particularly when you work with them every day. When you’re authentic with them, they’ll learn to trust you more rather than feeling that on some level you’re deceiving them.

2. Creating a culture of openness

Talking about your own mistakes will help the people you manage and work with to feel comfortable talking about theirs too. This will help create a culture of learning from mistakes by examining, with honesty and transparency, what went wrong. The whole group will then learn from each individual’s experiences, rather than everyone keeping things bottled up inside.

Further, this culture of openness will help your team understand the full history of a project, rather than just knowing it succeeded or it failed. The team will understand how each decision played a part in reaching the final outcome.

Likewise, be transparent about what’s happening with the company, and if you don’t know something, say so. When employees know you’re doing your best to keep them informed, they’ll trust you more.

3. Making team members feel needed

A leader who’s afraid to be vulnerable might fear that if an employee is more intelligent or capable than him in certain ways, that employee might upstage him. A vulnerable leader has let go of the need to be the mastermind behind every decision. Remember that you don’t have to know how to solve every problem to be a good leader. You need to know how to find and nurture the people who do. Don’t feel threatened by their abilities—recruit them actively, and provide them with the mentorship and incentives that will help them succeed. Give team members meaningful responsibilities with opportunities to use their own creativity, and let them know you appreciate that they can do things that you can’t.

4. Being easier to work with

If you’re hard to approach at work, imagine how much energy it takes for people to confront you about their concerns. That energy would be much better spent on team projects than on this unnecessary stress. Being the first to admit your shortcomings makes you more approachable, and it shows insight and self-awareness. It also makes problems easier to correct, allowing work to flow more smoothly. Sharpening your communication skills by learning to listen actively, use open body language, and stay fully engaged will help you make the most of these conversations.

5. Learning to grow

Strong leaders proactively ask for feedback, which puts them in an inherently vulnerable position. They might sometimes feel dismayed by the feedback they receive, but they realize this feedback provides a valuable opportunity to grow. By going outside of your comfort zone to ask for this feedback, you’ll move beyond the limitations that a false sense of invulnerability can impose.

As you become a stronger leader by showing vulnerability in these ways, your team members’ trust and respect for you will grow. Relax, take a deep breath, and let your ability to work with your own imperfection shine.

Make a list of five ways you can show your vulnerability with people you supervise. Try doing one every day over the course of a week. Do you notice a difference in how team members relate to you? Email Joel to discuss your results.

Talkback: Have you ever had a boss who was good at showing vulnerability? Did it help you to grow as an employee? Share your experiences here.

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Setting Work Performance Goals
with Your Employees

Goal setting

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment”

~Jim Rohn~

Setting Work Performance Goals with Your Employees

If you are in a leadership position, you are constantly faced with the challenge of keeping your employees motivated and productive. Most companies use work performance goals as a means of evaluating employees. However, from the employee’s point of view, they are often looked on as an arbitrary and rigid means of doling out raises. That is because many organizations fail to use goals properly.

Goals are most effective when the individual expected to meet them has a part in setting them. As a manager it is important to put yourself in the place of the employee and ask yourself these basic questions:

  • What kind of goals would motivate me in this position?
  • What sort of goals would make me happier and more productive in this position?

With these two questions in mind and with the help of the following pointers, employees will no longer view goals as mere management tools but rather as they should be: personal motivators for success that can help your employees succeed.

1. Include employees in the process

But give them guidance along the way. As their manager, you know best what they need to achieve in order to meet company objectives. But having them contribute to their own goal setting in a meaningful way will also help motivate them to meet the performance goals for their jobs. Failing to reach a goal we set for ourselves is always harder to swallow than failing to reach a goal we think leadership arbitrarily set for us. On a side note, having the employee help set goals will give you valuable insight into what motivates each individual.

2. Set deadlines

Open-ended goals promote procrastination. Many companies employ quarterly goals in conjunction with long-term annual goals. However, short-term goals will also provide an ongoing metric of the employee’s progress.  Deadlines should also be set according to the rhythm of the metric they measure. For example, if you are servicing clients on monthly contracts then the goals should naturally have a monthly deadline. In such a case, weekly or bi-weekly goals will help the employee keep on track with reaching their objectives.

3. Make goals measurable

For goals to work they must be tied to some quantifiable data. That way when the deadline arrives there is no question whether the goal was reached or not. If you are unsure of how to measure success, enlist the help of your employee.

4. Give feedback

Regular feedback is vital in helping your employees reach the goals set for their work performance.  When speaking to them, look for opportunities to give encouragement. But don’t allow the feedback to be one-sided. Listen to any concerns or suggestions the employee may have. Open communication may make the difference between a goal that is simply reached and one that is blown out of the water.

5. Reward success

Make the reward worth the work needed to obtain it. Again, consider what the employee will value. Some employees respond to cash incentives, extra time off, or gift cards. Others may prefer the public recognition of receiving an award. Who wouldn’t like to display an art glass award on their desk? Allowing the employee to help determine the reward will motivate them to work toward achieving it. Get creative and change rewards frequently so they don’t become routine.

6. Tweak as needed

Some goals will remain the same as long as the company is in business. These strategic goals reflect the core values of the company. But many goals are dynamic and should reflect the changing responsibilities and talents of the employee. Pin job performance goals to areas where the employee can improve. Finally, as the employee gains experience and additional responsibilities, make sure their goals grow with them.

 A note on failure:

If an employee fails to meet their goals, it is not the end of the world. Of paramount importance is the attitude of the employee. Did their failure result from a lack of activity, or did they give their best but simply come up short? If an employee has put forth noticeable effort and still failed it would be counterproductive for a manager to humiliate or punish them. Failure from inactivity is what should be punished.

Performance goals are a benchmark of success. As long as an employee continues putting forth effort to reach them, they should continue to receive support from their managers. If you are having a hard time with this idea, consider some of the great failures in history. These would include the likes of Einstein, da Vinci, and Michael Jordan. Although known for their successes, these individuals had greater failure rates than their peers. But they kept striving toward their goals and eventually reached them.

 Dennis Phoenix is a human resource specialist and avid business writer. He writes primarily on topics ranging from business relationships to employee satisfaction for Able Trophies.

Talkback: How have you increased the effectiveness of your employees work performance goals? List your ideas below. 

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10 Presentations to Recognize & Retain Your Employees

Business people having party in office

“The true way to render ourselves happy is to love our work and find in it our pleasures.”

~ Francoise Demotte Bille ~

Client Paul Asks:  I’m tired of the same-old recognition presentations.  I want my employees to know that I value them.  I want to retain my top talent.  But I want a fresh approach, a different way to recognize them.

Coach Joel Answers: You’re on the right track.  Recently, when companies were asked if they thought employee aptitude or attitude was most critical for success, they chose attitude.

When you reward employees with interesting presentations, you will enhance workplace attitudes and keep your key people happy.  But it doesn’t have to be boring.  You can make those announcements of great performance fun and interesting.

Add a little humor, do something zany or off the wall to brighten things up.  Or make it special or memorable.

  1. Place the commendation in the midst of a power point presentation.  Imagine the impact on the room when a heart-felt commendation is presented, out-of-the blue in the middle of a meeting.
  2. Have fortune cookies made up with notes mentioning how great your employee or your team is.  Then share them at a special presentation and see their faces light up.
  3. A personal, handwritten note, while not a public declaration, represents your time and indicates your appreciation in a way that is unmatched. Regular affirmations, even private ones, can make the recipient look forward to coming to work each day.
  4. Learn your employee’s favorite restaurant and give them a gift certificate for that place.  Or perhaps tickets for their team’s event.
  5. Order a mug or T-shirt specially designed for the employee you want to recognize. Make the presentation and invite your worker to “dress down” and wear the T-shirt for the rest of the day.  If it’s a mug, then fill it with his or her favorite coffee or tea.
  6. Throw a party for the honoree. Order in munchies, party hats or noise makers and let everyone know they are enjoying the break because of the great work of the employee you want to honor and retain.
  7. Award the top team with a lunch on you. Give them that freedom to eat and enjoy some down time as a way of saying “Thank you for a job well done.”
  8. Create a traveling “Good Job” trophy.  It can sit on the desk of the employee you want to recognize for a week or two until the next worker is presented with the trophy.
  9. Make a giant card. Put it on an easel and have everyone write one thing they appreciate about your star employee.
  10. Construct a large sign with appropriate wording to honor your key player.  It might be something that could hang outside his or her office for a period of time.  It could be serious, wacky, or funny, depending on your office culture.

Paul, employees always appreciate a financial reward for hard work, but a creative presentation can make your workers feel valued.  It will make the office more interesting and interactive.  And when your staff is having fun and knowing they are appreciated, they will want to stay with you.

If you’re looking for unusual or interesting employee retention presentations, contact Joel. He’ll help you improve the attitudes of your staff.

Talkback: What out-of-the-box presentations have you given to reward your employees?

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How to Keep Personal Biases
from Making You a Bad Boss

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“Good managers have a bias for action.”

~Tom Peters~

No one ever said it was easy being the boss.  In addition to being the point person you are also the fall guy (or gal).  People expect a lot from you and whether you are dealing with employees, clients or higher-ups’ they all tend to come from a place of take-take-take.  Overall it can be an exhausting position to handle…but are certain factors wearing you out more than others?

While you may be a manager, you need to keep in mind that you are human too.  Even if you are not consciously aware of them, hidden biases can affect your decision-making and leadership ability.  This is why it is important to be aware of situations where your personal (sometimes even hidden) biases try to take over.  Read on to learn how to discover your professional biases and more important, how to overcome them.

Lay Your Biases On The Table

Chances are you hired people onto you team because they shared similar ideals and fostered an attitude that matched your work place.  This is common, people tend to gravitate toward people they can relate to; the tendency to act this way actually reinforces your natural biases.  The same thing might happen when dealing with clients or higher-ups’, you want those people to get along with you and might not even realize that your compliance is causing you to adopt their own preferences.

The first step in uncovering your biases is to discover the emotion(s) behind them.  Say for example, that you hate pitching new clients; your bias requires you to avoid the pitch process at all costs.  Now, try to think back to when that “hate” first started.  Perhaps in the past you were publicly embarrassed and ridiculed by a client who did not like your pitch.

If you can come to terms with those emotions (embarrassment, shame) that are connected to your prejudice, then you have a better chance of overcoming it.  Just because you had a bad pitch experience in the past, does not mean that history is going to repeat itself.  Strive to actively work on the professional biases that are holding you and business back.

Refresh Your Leadership Perspective

While you may be able to pinpoint how your biases are holding you back, it may be a little bit more difficult to see how they are holding your team members back too.  Say for example, your distaste for gossip causes you to glaze over the office chatterbox.  Just because you do not like the talkative attribute, does not mean that that employee does not have great qualities to offer.  For example, your office’s social butterfly could be the perfect person to head up your social media accounts.

Flip the example; say as a talkative person, you never really connected with the shy person on your team.  Without really noticing, you might pass pet projects onto people you know better because your shy co-worker never seems to come to mind.  You can see here how personal biases can make you a bad boss.  Just because you don’t like a quality about someone or you don’t necessarily connect to it, does not mean you should pass those people the short end of the stick.

Ask yourself, what are my natural leadership tendencies?  What motivations drive those tendencies?  What emotions are attached to them?  With some introspective thought and exploration, your biases can come to light, and from there you can work on changing them.

Get Input

It’s only natural to foster some personal biases, however you have the power to eliminate them for the better.  Throughout this process, don’t undervalue the power of your team.  Because of the distance, they might be able to spot those tendencies with greater ease than you can.

Share with your team that you’re trying to freshen up your leadership style.  Ask them if they would be willing to share their thoughts on policies and procedures they think would benefit from being changed.

Understand that not everyone will be comfortable critiquing their boss so do your best to provide anonymity with blind feedback. By asking them what things they might like to see a change in, you could open yourself up to other biases and new opportunities for fair improvement.

About the author:Kelly Gregorio writes about leadership trends and tips while working at Advantage Capital Funds, a merchant cash advance provider. You can read her daily business blog here.

Talkback: What career and leadership biases have you uncovered? Share your ideas below.

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5 Tips for Promoting From Within

Promote from Within

“Yesterday I was a dog. Today I’m a dog. Tomorrow I’ll probably still be a dog. Sigh. . . There’s so little hope for advancement.”

~ Snoopy (Charles M. Schulz) ~

Jeremy had a major wake-up call while reviewing his company’s quarterly financials. It seems that his recruiting costs have skyrocketed this year. The company has never had a solid succession plan in place and Jeremy knew he and his senior managers tended to grab the phone and call a recruiting agency every time there was a vacancy. In addition to the bottom line impact, Jeremy had noticed deteriorating morale and productivity among his existing staff as well. He decided it was time to develop a different strategy.

Jeremy began to research best practices used by other companies. Details from a recent study published in the Wall Street Journal provided some startling statistics. Matthew Bidwell, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, found that external hires get paid 18% to 20% more than existing employees for doing the same job. However, external hires score worse on performance reviews during their first two years of employment. In addition, they are 61% more likely to get laid off or fired and 21% more likely to leave the company voluntarily.

When he realized what it’s costing the company not to promote from within, Jeremy brainstormed some ideas with his business coach. Then he called a meeting with his direct reports and together they came up with five action steps for a new promotion policy.

  1. Anticipate
  2. Identify
  3. Train
  4. Publicize
  5. Evaluate

1. Anticipate. Jeremy and his staff conducted a company-wide evaluation designed to show their personnel needs for the next 24 months. They considered possible growth and expansion of the company’s operations as well as existing positions where changes might be needed. With no succession plan in place, they realized that the company was putting itself at substantial risk.

2. Identify. When managers at all levels are programmed to be on the lookout for employees who offer exceptional promise, promoting from within can be seamless and virtually cost-free. Once they had discussed future open positions, the group went through their entire employee talent pool to identify people with potential to move up. They decided that in the future career paths should be discussed with employees even as early as during the hiring process. This would create a systematic path for promotion, alert management to look for promotable employees, and minimize the potential for misplaced jealousy and competition among existing staff.

3. Train. Managers met with employees who were in line for promotions to discuss possibilities. They worked one-on-one with each candidate so that people had the opportunity to give their input regarding increased time commitment that would be required, new responsibilities, and their overall career goals. Employees participated with management in expressing their skill development needs and designing their own cross-training programs. Training and mentoring programs assured existing employees that they were taking positive steps to secure their own futures. Since existing employees already understand company policies and operations, promoting from within represents a substantial cost savings when compared with the learning curve required to bring an outside hire up to speed.

 4. Publicize. Jeremy felt it was important that the whole policy be transparent from start to finish. When someone is promoted from within the ranks, it provides substantial motivation and inspiration to others as employees see that they will be rewarded for dedication and hard work. Rather than just talk about the policy informally, Jeremy and his managers formalized it in writing as part of the new-hire package used by HR. The policy was announced and discussed at an all-hands meeting and later incorporated into the employee handbook.

 5. Evaluate. Jeremy set up milestones at 12 and 24 months following the promotion policy implementation. This evaluation included three components:

  • One-on-one meetings with employees who had been promoted or were on a promotion track to discuss the program’s effectiveness and their future needs.
  • Discussions with HR staff to determine how the policy was playing to new external hires.
  • Year-over-year cost comparisons, including an evaluation of recruiting, training, and turnover expenses.

One year later Jeremy was pleased with his results. Intangibles such as employee morale and productivity had improved, and tangible cost savings were having a positive impact on his bottom line. Most of all, he felt that the increased loyalty of all his employees had created a win-win situation for all concerned.

If you don’t have a formal policy for promoting from within, or if the one you have needs a makeover, contact Joel today to discuss possibilities.

Talkback: Do you promote from within? How do your employees feel about your current career path policies? Share your ideas here.

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