Knowledge Source

3 Keys to Becoming a More Inspiring Leader

Only slightly more than half (55 percent) of employees report that their leaders inspire them, according to Towers Watson’s Global Workforce Study. Maybe this statistic does not surprise you or feel like a mandate for immediate action, but if you’re a leader or aspire to be one someday, it should be a loud wake-up call. Here’s why: According to the research, a leader’s ability to inspire employees is the strongest driver of employee engagement. That is, how invested and productive your people are largely depends on your ability to connect with and motivate them. Since this study suggests that only 40 percent of employees are highly engaged, we can all politely agree, with no fingers pointed,  that maybe there’s some room for improvement Surprisingly, though, I don’t encounter many leaders who are actively working on becoming more inspiring. This might be because of the way inspirational leaders have been portrayed in movies and how we quickly dismiss that type of behavior as being beyond our reach. After all, few can imagine themselves standing on the stage in front of a huge American flag delivering a fiery speech as George C. Scott did in the 1970 movie, Patton. Further, who among us could muster...

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Commitment Comes from Why

  You’re grabbing coffee with colleagues and talking shop and, at some point, the subject of people being more and more non-committal comes up. Somebody says people don’t care as much as they used to, and maybe shares an anecdote about pulling teeth for RSVPs for their wedding. Another person pins the issue on Millennials—they work for a company for three months and expect a big promotion and a thank-you card for simply showing up. Plus, they text everything and yet never answer their phones. Deep down, you know none of these reasons completely capture the issue. So you flex your managerial prowess and pipe up with “Commitment comes from why.” Blank stares. Here’s where I drop in and explain the research behind your record-scratch of a statement to the befuddled group. In May 2016, I partnered with a national research firm to take a closer look at commitment in the modern workplace. I surveyed 1,849 American employees across a range of industries, and found some fascinating data about what inspires us to commit. The responses (91.3%) made it clear that people do show a stronger sense of commitment when their tasks are more personally important, and 98.3% of employees...

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Embrace Opposition for Better Results

Two Heads Are Better Than One Many of us grew up hearing the expression, two heads are better than one. On an intuitive level, this idiom makes sense: you get better results when you invite another person’s perspective to assess a situation, help solve a complex problem, or come up with a new approach. This is especially true when the stakes are high, so why go it alone? Research now supports this idea. Professor Chris Frith of University College London (UCL) found this to be the case when the people involved are relatively competent and able to embrace opposition. In other words, they must be able to respectfully disagree while continuing to move toward a desired outcome. In one experiment, this proved to be true even when one participant had far greater experience and more facts. In short, two heads are better when the people involved can successfully navigate opposing perspectives. If two heads are better than one under these conditions, then what about three, five or even ten people working together to accomplish something important? Is it safe to assume that many heads addressing a tough problem is an even better approach? That seems to be what Dr. Anita...

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The Manager’s Most Important Tool

"Words, words, words." -Hamlet Simply put, management is about getting things done. At times, it’s the manager taking action, but most often, it’s the manager motivating others to take collective action. And the manager generally does this through one common yet powerful medium: words. Written or spoken, words are the manager’s most important tool. How well this tool is used determines nearly every measurable outcome—everything from the engagement level of employees to the team’s results and even the manager’s own career trajectory. If this is the case, as I believe it is, why do we spend relatively little time considering how the words we use impact—or fail to impact—others? Most managers I know are deluged with a daily avalanche of words. In fact, one study suggests that managers spend between two-thirds and three-fourths of their day in conversation. No matter where you work, unless maybe you’re a lighthouse keeper, it’s likely that you spend the vast majority of each day talking or listening. It’s the way we gather information, stay abreast of projects, identify problems, give feedback, make decisions, define strategy, update superiors, and virtually everything else that determines success or failure in organizational life. In short, it’s how we...

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Seeing Diversity through a Different Lens

By Michael Patterson, Ed.D. The need for diverse teams that can embrace different perspectives and collaboratively create innovative solutions has never been greater. Plus, tapping into the best thinking of a wide array of people is only going to become more important as problems become more complex, competition increases, and the pace of just about everything accelerates. In fact, the ability to build diverse and collaborative teams may just be the most important management skill of the decade. Recent research supports this view: McKinsey & Company’s research suggests a “diversity dividend” based on a strong correlation between financial performance and a company’s makeup. Specifically, they found that gender-diverse companies are 15 percent more likely to outperform their peers and ethnically diverse companies are 35 percent more likely to outperform industry averages. MIT’s Center for Collective Intelligence found that teams that are socially sensitive, give everyone a voice in meetings, and include more women work smarter and often make better decisions. The idea that women should be given greater voice in decision-making is also supported by research from Catalyst that found organizations with the highest representation of women on their boards financially outperform their peer companies by wide margins. Deloitte Australia...

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Could You Be the Reason People Are Leaving?

  Become the Reason People Stay. Why do good people leave organizations? I often ask this question when I lead workshops or speak at conferences. Inevitably, someone offers up that people leave managers—not companies. And, while nearly everyone agrees with this maxim, there is also data that proves it. Research from Gallup shows that roughly 50% of employees will leave a job at some point because of a poor relationship with their manager. In fact, while reading this blog, you are probably thinking about some exasperating boss that was at least a factor in you leaving a job. I see this data come to life when people share how they felt an overwhelming need to “escape” an employment situation in order to restore a sense of dignity to their lives. I hear words like “toxic” and “miserable” and “suffocating”—to describe how people spent the better part of their waking hours. As I listen to these stories, I wonder how we got to this point and why we’re not doing better in this crucial area of leadership. Here’s where it gets (even more) interesting—most of the people in my sessions are managers themselves. Yet, when I ask whether they have ever...

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Boys and Girls Clubs of America

Strengthening Accountability

How would you like to be accountable to 4 million boys and girls? Just ask the staff at Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA). Every year, they are accountable to help these children grow, develop, thrive, and fulfill their potential.

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Developing the Skill of Accountability

  A Dozen Things You can do after Core Strengths Accountability Training to Sustain and Extend the Learning Now what? It’s the essence of a question the authors of Core Strengths Accountability (CSA) training and our Master Facilitator Team often hear. The questions arise from the realization that no matter how good the CSA training experience, if there is not additional reinforcement and personal commitment on the part of learners, sustainable change and better performance in high-stakes situations is a hit-or-miss proposition. Metaphors abound that make this point. Imagine going to the best gym in town, working with a professional, knowledgeable, and engaging personal trainer who puts you through the best workout you’ve ever experienced. Then, you leave the gym, return to your old habits, and expect your fitness and health to be forever improved. Although we all wish this were the case, it’s not. Lasting change requires intentional effort and in most cases, hard work. Fortunately, for accountability skills, it’s an enjoyable process that simply requires people to do what they really want to do anyway—take ownership and take initiative—and help others do likewise. So whether you are a CSA facilitator, a L&D executive, or a line leader trying...

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Better Decision-Making Through Accountability

 I recently had a conversation with a friend who was wrestling with a tough decision. Oftentimes, tough decisions involve choosing between two less-than-ideal options — discerning the lesser of two evils. In my friend’s case, there were two good options. Both would likely yield a positive outcome in the near and long-term future. Surprisingly, it didn’t make the decision any easier for him. In fact, the choice remained incredibly difficult. The conversation made me think about David Brooks’ recent op-ed in the New York Times, The Choice Explosion. In the article, Brooks describes social science research that reveals how Americans crave options, yet don’t feel equipped to consistently make good choices. In fact, in some ways, we are wired to make poor choices. While experts offer a variety of techniques for weighing options, Brooks eventually prescribes a large dose of self-awareness as perhaps the most critical component of better decision-making. At this point, my friend had been deliberating for weeks already, struggling to make the right decision or at least the one that would be best for his career and family, and allow him to feel good about the path forward. He was more than willing to take responsibility for...

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The Learning Theory of Accountability

Five Ways in which Core Strengths Accountability Aligns with Adult Learning Theory Thanks to Malcolm Knowles (1913-1997), talent development professionals have had the opportunity to use the very erudite-sounding word, andragogy, to describe something most of us know intuitively: adults learn differently than children. While it’s sometimes fun to throw around “six-dollar words,” it really comes down to the fact that adults need to be involved in the learning process, find what they’re learning to be relevant to their real-world situations, and recognize opportunities for immediate application. Without these elements, training can fall flat with little hope for a sustainable performance boost. Although adult learning theory has informed the design of corporate training for the last 30 years, some courses more closely align with the critical principles of andragogy than others. In this paper, I will explain how the design and delivery of Core Strengths Accountability honors the principles of adult learning. In fact, Core Strengths Accountability can truly be transformative as learners begin to see themselves, their colleagues, and their world differently. What We Know about Adult Learners Nearly everyone agrees on a few key ideas when it comes to designing and delivering effective workplace learning: 1. Teachers are...

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