Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Good leaders know how, when to listen

Facilitative listening is one of the most important skills that good leaders demonstrate. It shows respect and encourages communication from others.
Listening involves a set of nonverbal and verbal behaviors. Nonverbally, people feel listened to when others make respectful eye contact. Often, when we slightly lean toward the other person, have appropriate, positive facial expressions, and nod our heads, people feel that we are listening to them.
Verbally, listening behaviors include questions that clarify the statements made, comments that capture the thoughts of the other person, or comments that summarize the thoughts of the other person, or comments that summarize the thoughts of the other person.
Questions that are more open than closed-ended are also seen as enhancing dialogue. Open-ended questions tend to start with the words what, how, or when. Closed-ended questions begin with is, do, or can. Open-ended questions give the respondent more options as to how to answer the question. Closed-ended questions usually elicit shorter "yes" or "no" responses. When you combine verbal and nonverbal listening behaviors, the other person knows you are paying attention. It is virtually impossible to fake listening when you employ both verbal and nonverbal listening behaviors.

The three most important company culture metrics to track

In the day-to-day bustle of running a business, it’s easy to forget about company culture. You may even think that compared to tracking the bottom line, assessing customer satisfaction with services or products, and opening new markets, culture is pretty low on the totem pole.
If it is, you need to raise it higher. That’s because culture will ultimately define employees’ job satisfaction and productivity. How are you going to accomplish your goals without satisfied, even happy, employees who believe in the company mission, like working there and want to be successful?
First, let’s define what company culture is. You may think it’s working at that cool office downtown with a ping pong table in the basement and complimentary craft beer in an adjacent fridge. Let’s not confuse culture with perks. Culture is much deeper, and if a prospective employee doesn’t buy into it, you shouldn’t be hiring her. Culture is how you get things done, the level of openness to new ideas, the levity or seriousness of co-worker relations, the will and drive to commit to a mission. It’s a bit like that elusive thing we call “chemistry.”
Only it’s really not as elusive as you think. And it’s time to start tracking it.
1. Make sure there is real communication happening.
Do your employees feel heard? Is company leadership open to new ideas? Is it acceptable for the downline to make suggestions to the top? And conversely, is the company leadership open and honest with employees, keeping everyone in the loop? If you’re operating a business on a “need to know” basis, chances are communication is weak, and you need to reframe your approach so everyone has a place at the table and feels their contributions and ideas are of value.

10 Communication Secrets of Great Leaders

No one ever became a great leader without first becoming a great communicator.
Great leaders connect with people on an emotional level every time they speak. Their words inspire others to achieve more than they ever thought possible.
Great communicators are intentional about it, and there are 10 secrets they rely on to deliver a powerful message. Put these secrets to work in your communication and watch your influence soar.

1. They Know Their Audience

Great communicators don’t worry about sounding important, showing off their expertise, or boosting their own egos. Instead, they think about what people need to hear, and how they can deliver this message so that people will be able to hear it. This doesn’t mean that leaders tell people what they want to hear. Quite the opposite—they tell people what’s important for them to know, even if it’s bad news.

2. They Are Experts In Body Language

Great communicators are constantly tracking people’s reactions to their message. They are quick to pick up on cues like facial expressions and body language because they know this is the only feedback many people will give them. Great communicators use this expertise to tailor their message on the fly and adjust their communication style as needed.

3. They Are Honest

The best leaders know that for communication to be effective it has to be real. They can’t have people parsing every word trying to separate fact from spin. When great communicators can’t share certain information, they come right out and say it because makeshift, half-truth answers breed distrust and anxiety. In good times and bad, honesty builds trust.

4. They Are Authentic

Great communicators don’t try to be someone they’re not just because they’ve stepped behind a podium. There’s a reason Mark Zuckerberg presented Facebook to investors in a hoodie and jeans. Great leaders know that when they stay true to who they are, people gravitate to their message. They also know the opposite happens when leaders put on an act.

5. They Speak With Authority

Great communicators don’t try to cover their backs by being ambiguous, wishy-washy, or unassertive. Instead, they stick their necks out and speak very directly about how things are and how they need to be.

The Power of Mindful Leadership

From the moment you wake up, you're bombarded with distractions. Emails clog your inbox, requests pile up, and notifications flicker in the background. Within moments your attention is scattered. Given the realities of today's 24/7 world, how do great leaders slow down and focus in order to make thoughtful decisions?
Mindfulness is the practice of self-observation without judgment with a focus on our minds and inner voices. Mindful practices include daily meditation, prayer, journaling, or jogging alone. In a fast paced world, mindfulness enables you to clear your mind of clutter, focus on what is important, and be creative. Leaders like Arianna Huffington and Steve Jobs are well known for their mindfulness practices.
As our lives have become filled with technology, the distractions we face increase exponentially. With it, our ability to focus has diminished, but our need to think clearly in order to make complex decisions has not. More than ever, leaders need to train themselves to be fully present.
Becoming a mindful leader isn't easy. There are no five easy steps to do so. A few years ago when I asked the Dalai Lama how we can develop a new generation of compassionate, mindful leaders, he replied simply, "Develop a daily habit of introspection."
Today many more companies are promoting mindful practices to improve the health and decision-making of their leaders. Google, under the tutelage of Chade-Meng Tan, trains 2,000 engineers in meditation each year. When I visited Google this spring, it was evident that mindfulness is one of the key reasons behind Google's innovative and harmonious culture. Leading financial services firms like Blackrock and Goldman Sachs offer mindfulness courses for their employees. At General Mills Janice Marturano was so successful in mindfulness training that she founded the Institute for Mindful Leadership.
My Mindful Practice: Meditation 
In 1975 my wife Penny and I went to a weekend program on Transcendental Meditation. At the time I was working nonstop, coming home exhausted, and having late dinners. I even got denied for life insurance because of high blood pressure. After the training, I started meditating twice daily--not as a spiritual practice, but for health reasons. Forty years later, I still practice regularly.
Meditation is the best thing I have ever done to calm myself and separate from the 24/7, connected world. By centering into myself, I can focus my attention on the important things, develop an inner sense of well-being, and gain clarity in making decisions. My most creative ideas come from meditating, and meditation has built resilience to deal with difficult times. No doubt it has helped me become a better leader.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

7 Habits of Highly Respected Leaders

Your technical skills might get you a promotion, but it's your people skills that will earn you the respect of your employees.
A title, position, and corner office may earn them extra pay and benefits, but respect is something that does not automatically come with a leadership position. This has to be earned and is one of the most difficult entities for a leader to acquire. Respected leaders are not always liked by everyone and not always popular. A leader may be well liked as a person, yet be weak and afraid to make difficult decisions, shows favoritism to those who stroke his/her ego, and be quite ineffective.
On the other hand, there are leaders who intimidate their subordinates and use fear as a way of getting things done. Neither of these leaders will earn the respect of their employees. If we take a closer look at leaders who have walked the difficult path that have earned them respect, we will see the following traits.


Leaders should not ask others to do something that they have not done in the past nor would they be willing to do now. They lead by example and their efforts will set a standard for the rest of the organization. If they are unwilling to put in the extra time and effort into a project they expect of their staff, they will be seen as hypocrites and lose the respect of those under them. Leaders who are highly respected will put in at least as much time and effort as those they serve. Often they will lead by being the hardest working person on their team.


Respected leaders have a healthy dose of emotional intelligence and are aware of how they come across and how their work and actions impact others. They use their self-awareness in giving feedback by looking for sincere opportunities to praise the work of others. They monitor their emotions and never speak or act when highly emotional, waiting until they have regained control and have had time to think over the situation.


When they have to give negative feedback, they look for opportunities to turn this conversation into a learning and growth opportunity for the employee, rather than a form of punishment. They would rather be wrong about someone they thought had potential than miss an opportunity to bring out the best in one of their staff. Their motto is to believe in and trust those they are in charge of, until they are proven wrong.

7 Things Leaders Do to Help People Change

Ever tried to change anyone’s behavior at work? It can be extremely frustrating. So often the effort produces an opposite result: rupturing the relationship, diminishing job performance, or causing the person to dig in their heels. Still, some approaches clearly work better than others.
We reviewed a dataset of 2,852 direct reports of 559 leaders. The direct reports rated their managers on 49 behaviors and also assessed the leaders on their effectiveness at leading change – specifically, the managers’ ability to influence others to move in the direction the organization wanted to go. We then analyzed those who had the highest and lowest ratings on their ability to lead change, and compared that with the other behaviors we’d measured.
We found that some behaviors were less helpful in changing others. We found two that had little to no impact, thereby providing useful guidance on what not to do:
  • Being niceSorry, but nice guys finish last in the change game. It might be easier if all it took to bring about change was to have a warm, positive relationship with others. But that isn’t the case.
  • Giving others incessant requests, suggestions, and advice. This is commonly called nagging. For most recipients this is highly annoying and only serves to irritate them rather than change them. (This is the approach many tend to adopt first, despite its lack of success.)
We then analyzed the behaviors that did correlate with an exceptional ability to drive change. We found eight that really help other people to change. Here they are, in order from most to least important:
1. Inspiring others. There are two common approaches that most of us default to when trying to motivate others to change. Broadly, we could label them “Push” and “Pull.” Some people intuitively push others, forcefully telling them they need to change, providing frequent reminders and sometimes following these steps with a warning about consequences if they don’t change. This is the classic “hand in your back” approach to motivating change. (We noted earlier that classic “Push” doesn’t work well.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Making Teens More Mindful

It seems like mindfulness is part of the zeitgeist these days. Everyone from school children to athletes to corporate CEO’s are learning to practice mindfulness and reaping its rewards—decreased stress, increased focus and productivity, and improved interpersonal relationships, to name a few. And, as the scientific evidence supporting the benefits of mindfulness continues to mount, it’s bound to become even more ubiquitous in the coming decades.
But while mindfulness programs and books have proliferated in recent years, there is still a need to reach those who stand to benefit most from mindfulness practices: teenagers. By almost any definition, adolescents suffer more than other groups from the kinds of problems that mindfulness is purported to help alleviate: emotionality, stress, lack of focus, and interpersonal conflicts.
That’s why I was happy to see a newly published mindfulness book aimed at teens: Dzung Vo’s The Mindful Teen: Powerful Skills to Help You Handle Stress One Moment at a Time. Vo, a pediatrician who runs workshops for teens called Mindful Awareness and Resilience Skills for Adolescents, has written a book that is simple, straightforward, and bound to appeal to teenagers.
Vo has found that many adults assume teens don’t have the interest or the attention span to practice mindfulness. But, through years of leading his workshops, Vo has learned that many teens, despite expectations, are willing to try mindfulness and often see amazing results.
“The teens I have worked with have proven to me that they really ‘get it,’ even more than many adults,” he writes.