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Part 1 of our 2 part series on Leadership in Toxic Workplaces

by Dr. Sara Baker


A leadership enthusiast and believer that every leader has the power to create a positive leadership experience.
Don't wait for someone else to be the positive force of leadership that brings good to the world, do it yourself!

Leaders Create Toxic Workplaces

A toxic culture does not appear randomly. It is produced when negativity and incivility run rampant in a company and permeate the entire organization.

In short, toxic workplaces with toxic cultures are created by toxic leaders.

Even if the workplace bully is a fellow employee, leadership is responsible for:

  • requiring the employee to correct his/her behavior (overcoming the toxin) or
  • they are responsible for removing them from the workplace (flushing the toxin out).

Leaders who tolerate toxic behaviors despite their power to stop or remove the harassing are just as responsible as the toxic person for creating the culture of toxicity.


Leaders who do not actively engage in toxic behaviors but allow employees to do so ARE part of the problem. 


Uncivil language and actions from workers or leaders should not be tolerated. #KindnessMatters and #StopBullying (among many others) aren't just hashtags, they are quickly becoming the expectation.

Leadership can either intensify the toxicity or leadership can stop it. Toxic leaders may permeate the organization at all levels of management, from front-line managers to middle level all the way up to the CEO.

Or the toxic leaders may be clustered at the top in the C-suite. Regardless, the effects of toxicity are felt all throughout the organization.

14 Toxic Workplace Hacks - A Checklist for Leaders

When you work in a toxic workplace, it can be easy to get sucked into the negative behaviors that the organization expects of its leaders.

Standing out from the crowd and acting in ways that are directly contradictory to the established toxic work culture can be incredibly difficult.

Answer the questions below for insight into potential toxic beliefs or behaviors you may be unintentionally exhibiting and for ideas on how to start shedding your toxic beliefs or actions that will negatively affect your team.

 

1. Do you use meeting times primarily to provide updates to your team?

Instead use meetings to communicate essential information that cannot be sent out via email AND to answer burning questions from team members and solve problems as needed.

 

2.  Do you believe that your team is inadequate and really doesn't have what it takes to be successful?

Determine what knowledge and skills your team members have that are beneficial for the organization and then communicate your belief in the value your employees bring to the team.

 

3.  Do you shut down ideas from your team?

Encourage your team members to share ideas with you and others. Create a positive, open environment where ideas are respected for their value and not for the position of the person who shares them.

 

4.  Do you believe that you have the best ideas (that's why you're the leader, after all)?

Solicit input from team members to inform your decision-making. Your team will provide insight and perspectives you may have never even considered because you deal with different aspects of your team's work than they do. The frontliners, the people who are hands-on in the weeds of the daily work of your organization will be able to inform solutions much more easily than a leader, who only has the 3,000 foot view of the work.

 

5.  Do you raise your voice in anger or frustration or do you allow others to communicate with raised voices?

Require that everyone adheres to professional communication norms. If you wouldn't want your grandmother to hear it, then it shouldn't be said in the workplace.

 

6.  Do you think that your team is comprised of slackers?

Find ways to recognize your team's hard work and dedication. Praise them for their hard work and help them find ways to continue to grow and improve.

 

7.  Do you use or allow others to use offensive language?

Require people to use language that is considered appropriate by society.

 

Wait, There's More - Toxic Leadership Checklist continued

8.  Do you tell or allow others to tell offensive jokes?

Do not tell and do not permit others to tell offensive jokes. To Anyone in a professional setting. Ever.

 

9.  Do you like to "give people a hard time"?

Do not "tease" or "give people a hard time" in any manner that could possibly be interpreted as hurtful. If you like to use humor, then make self-deprecating jokes to lighten the mood.  Everyone likes a boss who doesn't take him/herself too seriously.

 

10. Do you blame your team when something goes wrong?

Acknowledge ownership of things that go wrong to higher ups and then problem solve with your team for a solution. Don't blame your team. If they mess up, it's still on you, you're the leader.

 

11. Do you let your team know you are too busy to talk to them?

Create an open-door policy so that your team members feel comfortable coming to you with issues that arise.

Note: Open-door policy doesn't mean that anyone can interrupt you at any time. It means that you want your team to come to you with issues if you are the only one who can help. You will want to help your team grow their independence by thoughtfully searching for solutions elsewhere before they come to you with the issue.

 

12. Do you prefer that your team fear you?

A feared boss means that the creativity and problem-solving parts of the brain shut down when you are around. If you want to be successful, then you need your team to respect you, not fear you. Respect occurs when your team trusts you, they believe that you are ethical, and they believe you will try to make the best decisions.

 

13. Do you take the glory for yourself when things go well and blame your team when things don't go well?

When things go well, share the glory with your team and when things do not go well, take the blame for yourself. This doesn't mean that you grovel or beat yourself up when things do not go well. It means that you take the heat from higher-ups for not the problem and you assure them that you and your team will find a solution. Then you go back to your team and without blaming or venting, say, "Okay, we've got an issue and we need a solution. How can we solve this? Let's backtrack and figure out how we went astray and then let's figure out where we go from here."

 

14. Do you keep your concerns about the company's culture to yourself instead of speaking to higher ups or HR?

Share concerns and insights about possible issues with the company's culture with your higher-ups or with HR. Sometimes, upper leadership is unaware of problems in the middle and on the frontlines. Try to work with the company to find positive solutions to problems so that the employee experience improves, and the organization is more successful.

You Can Defeat Toxic Leadership

Chances are that you are not guilty of most of the more obvious signs of toxic leadership in our checklist. BUT, it's often the little habits that creep in that can shift our balance from a leader who is having a bad day to a leader who spreads toxicity.

Don't let the little behaviors, the ones that you barely notice, bring you down. Your positive choices as a leader are what will help you defeat toxicity and build a team with purpose.

Leadership is tough. It can be a lot of stress and a lot of responsibility.

But it's also incredibly rewarding when you create a high-performing team that is engaged, loves coming to work and makes your job MORE enjoyable rather than less.

You can have a team just like that. One that enjoys work and enjoys doing a good job.

You make the difference.

Seventy percent (70%) of the variance in the engagement of an employee is directly attributable to the direct supervisor according to Gallup.

That means that your ACTIONS make almost all the difference in whether an employee performs well or not.

Ditch the toxic mindset, ditch the toxic behaviors and reform your leadership. Focus on daily actions that push your team to excellence.

We can defeat toxicity in the workplace, together.

Join the Leadership Reformation and be part of a community that is leading positive change in the workplace!

Vision. Empowerment. Accountability. Development. Courage.

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by Dr. Sara Baker


A leadership enthusiast, website and elearning developer, and believer that everyone deserves a workplace that builds and supports its people.

Don't wait for someone else to be the positive force of leadership that brings good to the world, do it yourself!

Remote work is incredible yet, at the same time, it can be incredibly challenging. Throw in "leadership" and the responsibility of somehow keeping your team functional, focused, and engaged while you all work from different locations with limited communication and you have a beast of a different kind. But don't despair! If you are leading a remote team you can quickly become the master of the remote workplace by implementing a few remote leadership practices to get started off on solid footing and avoid the potential pitfalls of leading remote teams.

The positives of skipping traffic, having quiet time to concentrate (without random people stopping by to chat) and creating a better work-life balance make the promise of remote work alluring. However, without a solid leadership strategy, that promise can easily be destroyed.

These 7 quick ideas will keep your team engaged and moving forward during remote workdays.

Remote Tip #1:  A Consistent Check-In Call

Hold a weekly or daily 10-minute team check-in call. You might try starting out with a daily call and then make it twice a week or once a week as you see your team acclimating to remote work. Call it a standing meeting for fun and hold it via video call or a simple phone conference call. The agenda is easy:

    • What is everyone focused on today,

 

    • Any roadblocks that need to be removed and

 

    • Availability issues, i.e. working on a finance report that needs 2 hours of uninterrupted concentration, picking up a kid from school, etc.

 

 

Remote Tip #2: Become the Master of Email

Become the master of email by writing organized, succinct, clear emails. Writing good emails seems like a no-brainer, but when you email people who you also see on a regular basis, it is easy to become sloppy and rely on in-person conversations to clear up any confusion. When you are leading a remote team, chances are that you will increase the amount of email that is sent. By being strategic when you write emails, you can save people time, increase the clarity of expectations and people will be more likely to actually read, respond and implement actions from your emails.

 

    • People remember the first and last thing they read, so put the most important action or idea that you want your team to keep in mind in both the first sentence and the last sentence.

 

    • Use highlighting with colors, bold and color to accent the most important words and phrases in each sentence. Notice how I highlighted the most important phrases in this article so you can actually skim the entire article and quickly get what matters most? Do that in every email you write.

 

    • Use indented numbering or bulleted lists to organize each email.

 

    • Be strategic by using short sentences as much as possible. Short sentences are easier to read and this will help you to eliminate nonessential information.

 

    • Utilize headings to organize your emails and chunk similar information together, such as "Action Items," "Why This Matters," and "Deadlines."

 

 

Remote Tip #3: Motivation Matters

Focus a concerted effort on motivating and engaging your remote team. Because you won't be holding off-the-cuff conversations as you walk around the office, you will need to make sure that you keep morale up. A significant contributor to the success of a distributed workforce is how well the leader engages and motivates the team.

    • Be intentional in adding small-talk and checking on your team to your regular interactions with the team. Whether it's a quick instant message, text or phone call to say, "Just checking on you. How is [project] going? Is there anything you need from me or any other team members?"

 

    • In every email, video meeting, or phone call remind your team of the vision/purpose behind what you are doing. Not by quoting the vision in your signature line, but by incorporating the meaning behind it into the content of your message, even if it's just a sentence or two.

 

    • Don't just tell people WHAT needs to be done, tell them WHY it needs to be done. The real WHY, not "because I said, that's why" and not "because it's a metric, that's why."

 

    • You can phrase it as a thank you, such as following up on an action item list with "Thank you for putting in the extra effort to wrap this project up on time so we can provide a first-in-class experience for our customers. Your dedication is why our customers rely on us to [insert how you make the customers' lives better]."

 

    • Make it easy for your team to remember why their work is meaningful. Be sincere and consistent in reminding them, in video meetings, via email or on phone calls that their work is making a difference, especially in a stressful time.

 


 

Learn More About How to Get a Positive Start with the Success of My Leadership Course

 


Remote Tip #4: "You've Got to Move It, Move It"

Stretch and walk for at least 5 mins every half hour (or if you're a Madagascar movie fan, dancing works as well.) One of the negatives of working remotely is that it is SOOO much easier to get in the zone when you are working in the comfort and quiet at home that the hours will slip away and you will realize you haven't moved in HOURS.

    • Remind your team to do the same. You don't want your team to feel chained to their computer.

 

    • We all need physical breaks and brain breaks, so make it an expectation.

 

    • You might even send a fun group text or instant message and remind everyone a few times a day to make sure they keep it top of mind.

 

 

 

Remote Tip #5:  Be Virtually Visible

Be available to your team and let them know you are still here to help, even though they don't see you walking around every day. Leading a remote team means that you will need to convert the form of your visibility from "line of sight" visibility into "virtual visibility."

    • IM, email, call or text your team for 1-to-1 quick check-ins to make sure everyone has the tools and support they need to be productive. This doesn't have to be daily, but it should be regular enough that your team feels like they a relationship with you and that they can ask you for help if needed.

 

    • If a team member IMs or texts you, respond with something like "How can I help?" so they know you are still actively supporting them even if they can't see your smiling face.

 

    • If you are on a call or in a meeting, let them know you'll be right with them once you wrap up.

 

    • It helps to share your calendar with your team, also, so they can avoid interrupting when they know you are tied up.

 

 

Remote Tip #6:  Update Communication Norms

Set expectations for your remote team to be available or responsive to IMs, texts, emails, phone calls, or whatever communication methods you are using. Treat your team like the adults that they are and ask for their input on what seems like a reasonable response time for each form of communication given your typical work tasks and team synergy.

Make sure everyone knows what is expected, whether it's 10 or 15 minutes, 1 hour, or immediately (unless away from their desk, of course). If you have different expectations for how quickly they should reply to instant messages or texts versus emails or phone calls, then specify that. Be clear in setting the norms for your team so that everyone can plan accordingly.

    • Be reasonable and consider that people have to go to the restroom, go to get a glass of water from the kitchen or take that 5-minute stretch and walking break you told them to take.

 

    • Ask your team to let you know if they will be unavailable or non-responsive for larger chunks of time so that you or other team members can plan accordingly and not sit idle because you are stuck waiting for some key input from a vanished colleague.

 

 

 

Remote Tip #7:  Please Cancel the Meetings

Cancel any superfluous meetings that are not necessary. If you've always dreamed of finding an excuse to cancel meetings, this is your chance. Part of transitioning to leading a remote team is ensuring communication is efficient and no time is wasted, especially in virtual meetings. If you think you don't have any superfluous meetings, you are wrong. Ask your team. Seriously, cancel them.

    • Boredom in a pointless meeting that should have been an email is worse when you are in your home office and attending by video or conference call. If you think they are all listening, they aren't.

 

    • Only require people to attend meetings who are essential to the meeting. If they aren't needed to provide input to the discussion, then they aren't listening.

 

    • The laughter or shared smiles that made these meetings endurable in person do not carry over into the virtual meeting space. If you can find a way to inject humor, go for it. Livening up virtual meetings is a plus.

 

    • Do everyone a favor and only hold synchronous, live meetings with team members when it is absolutely necessary for shared planning or problem-solving.

 

    • Keep lines of communication open and everyone on the same page using your 10 minute daily check-in meetings and scrap any other meetings that don't yield results.

 

Transitioning to leading a remote team requires a bit of a shift in perspective and mindset, but it can be a smooth transition that produces a more engaged, more productive and less-stressed team if you do it right. Make sure your team doesn't become out of sight, out of mind and become derailed by lack of communication or accountability.

Give your team the right tools to make the remote work experience the best workplace ever. Even in the face of stressful times and unanticipated changes, you can help your team make the most of working remotely.

If you have a solid plan and you make sure everyone knows what to expect and how to maintain their team synergy and lines of communication, then you'll have a team who loves the positives of their remote workplace and never falls prey to the negatives.

What strategies have worked for you in leading remote teams? Share your ideas on social media and help others become better leaders!

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by Dr. Sara Baker


A leadership enthusiast, website and elearning developer, and believer that everyone deserves a workplace that builds and supports its people.

Don't wait for someone else to be the positive force of leadership that brings good to the world, do it yourself!

"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea."

- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry,  French writer and pioneering aviator

You want to be the best leader you can be. How can you improve your leadership and have the greatest positive impact on your team?

You will be surprised how much positive effect you can actually have. The first step to becoming a great leader is to realize HOW MUCH influence you have on motivating your team and then learning how to leverage that influence to help your team love coming to work and doing the best job they possibly can.

Let's start with the problem: Do you know anyone who dreads work? Of course, you do. As the leader, YOU may even dread coming to work, especially if your team is unengaged and doesn't care how well they do their jobs.

What if we could find a way to rewrite the story of someone who shows up and counts the hours until they get to go home, eager for the hours in the day when they get to enjoy their real life.

What if a leader's ability to influence was so strong that she could transform how her team felt about work?

 

The good news is that leaders do have the ability to motivate and influence their team a tremendous amount.

Your job as the leader isn't to just tell people what tasks they need to do. Your job is so much more and to be the best leader that you can be, you need to understand what people want from their leaders and how you can influence them.

Help them to get out of the rut, forever waiting for small snippets of time away from work to be able to enjoy what they are doing. Help them find a way to enjoy what they are doing at work and feel like it is purposeful and worthwhile.

It is possible for leaders help make employees work lives so REWARDING that they don't feel like they need to escape from work!

What?! I know, it's shocking, but It's true. Promise, I'm not making this up.

New Insights Into Your Leadership Potential

Proof:  Let's begin by looking at Gallup's research on the ability of the manager to influence (positively or negatively) the performance of their team through engagement. (And yes, I quote Gallup often, because they #fabulousleadershipresources - no offense, Harvard Business Publishing, I love you, too).

Gallup determined (through extensive worldwide research) that managers account for up to 70% of the variance in an employee's engagement level. AND they found employee engagement is strongly linked to performance. See where this is going?

According to Gallup, higher employee engagement is strongly tied to higher performance outcomes such as:

  • higher customer ratings,
  • increased profitability,
  • increased productivity,
  • lower turnover,
  • fewer safety incidents,
  • less internal theft,
  • lower absenteeism,
  • fewer patient safety incidents and
  • increased quality of products.

Simply put, leaders can positively affect the employee's engagement level which then leads to improved performance.

In other words, engaged employees typically are more productive and show increased work quality when compared to workers who are unengaged.

Which Leader Are You - 0%? 70%? Or Somewhere In-Between?

Let's look at an illustration to help put the numbers in perspective.

In the diagram below, you can see how a single employee performs with different managers.

Let's assume an employee can perform up to 100% of his/her potential.

The chart shows a single employee who performs at a baseline of 30% without any managerial influence. So this means that whether the manager is there or not, the employee is giving that 30% that is solely based on his/her internal motivation and work ethic.

See how the employee's total performance is affected by different managers, with the weakest leader on the left and the stronger leader on the right?

Manager #1 on the left is a weak manager who only:

    • Motivates the employee to give an extra 20% effort above what the employee would give WITHOUT the manager.
    • This leaves the employee with 50% untapped POTENTIAL.

Manager #2 in the middle is a little better and is able to:

    • Motivate the employee to give an extra 40% above what the employee would give WITHOUT the manager.
    • This leaves the employee with 30% untapped POTENTIAL.

Manager #3 on the right is a much stronger manager who is able to:

    • Motivate the employee to give an extra 60% above what the employee would give WITHOUT the manager.
    • This leaves the employee with 0% untapped POTENTIAL, meaning that this manager has maximized the employee's potential as much as possible.

What all of this tells us is that the team leader can have a profoundly positive effect on how engaged employees are at work.

Now That You Know, What Type of Leader Will You Choose to Be?

Your leadership and the type of work environment that is provided can make ALL the difference (or at least 70% of the difference) in an employee being a no-good, horrible, hate-this-job employee or being an awesome, love-this-job employee.

Look at the amount of BLUE on the graph below. That's the amount you can positively OR negatively affect. Never again can any leader say she cannot influence employees to be better.

Most importantly, YOU can make a POSITIVE DIFFERENCE in how well your team performs and how much they love their jobs.


It's all about engagement. Is your team engaged? Are you maximizing your ability to influence 70% of an employee's motivation and performance?


Additionally, research tells us that only 1 in 5 employees feel like they are managed in a motivating way.

That means 4 out of 5 employees do NOT feel like they are managed in a motivating way.

So, the odds are that 4 out of 5 of the people reading this might need a little support in engaging their teams, which leads to motivation, which then leads to high performance and has the wonderful side effect of helping employees love their jobs.

Where to Start with Engaging Your Team

The top reasons for poor engagement reported by employees are:

    1. lack of purpose and meaningfulness in their work and
    2. a boss that doesn't care about the employee's individual development.

Starting place #1: Purposeful Work

You can get started improving the engagement of your team by:

    • Helping your team understand how their daily work aligns to a larger purpose.
    • Help them to see that what they do is important and contributes to the greater good.

People want to be part of something bigger than themselves that makes the world a better place. Help your team see how their work is doing just that.

Starting place #2: Developing Your Team

Equally important is helping each of your team members to develop. You can do this by:

    • Spending time focusing on the strengths of your team as individuals.
    • Help them to see strengths in themselves they may not have realized.
    • Provide the future vision for how developing those strengths could help them grow in their career.
    • Provide opportunities for your team to take on stretch assignments that are in their area of interest and strength but which are challenging enough to push them to grow.
    • Be careful that stretch assignments don't overwhelm by creating a safe team environment where people feel free to take calculated risks and know that they will be supported by you if things don't work out perfectly.
    • Coach your team members, have honest two-way conversations focused on growth and development and give meaningful feedback that is designed to help them be their best.

Sometimes people don't even realize what they are capable of doing until someone points it out. Be sincere and caring. Build your team up, trust them, support them through tough times and make that 70% count for something great.

Your work as the leader matters. Make it matter 70%.

 

 

 

Check out our other blog posts for more insights into making the most of your leadership journey.

 

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by Dr. Sara Baker


A leadership enthusiast, website and elearning developer, and believer that everyone deserves a workplace that builds and supports its people.

Don't wait for someone else to be the positive force of leadership that brings good to the world, do it yourself!

Toxic workplaces develop when people in an organization interact with one another in uncivil ways. The only way to stop the spread of toxicity is to change the behavior of the toxic employees who do not behave appropriately or remove the toxic employees from the organization.

A toxin is a poison. The term "toxic" is frequently used to describe workplaces, employees and leaders who show a definitive disregard for socially accepted norms of interaction.

Like any poison, if individuals within an organization are permitted to behave in a "toxic" manner, then that inappropriate behavior spreads and becomes the new norm for the organization.

But, why would toxic behavior spread? Aren't some people simply toxic, and some are not?

Yes, in some cases that is true.

Some people, no matter what you do, will behave in a manner that offends others. But there are also people who behave well only because it is expected. When they relax and see that others around them are "letting loose" and behaving rudely or offensively then they, too, will adopt those behaviors.

Think about how you behave when you are hanging out with your friends and venting about some frustration at work.

Don't you say things that you would never say at work? You don't say those things at work probably because it would be hurtful to others, maybe embarrassing to say (if you aren't naturally outspoken), AND, perhaps most importantly, you know it would be unacceptable and you would likely get in trouble for saying it at work.

One of the results of this Civility Compact, or expectation of decent behavior, is that we vent when we are away from work and we behave courteously when we are at work.

Toxicity leaks through the organization when that venting and lashing out at others is permitted at work. Or, even worse, when it is encouraged by leaders at work. An organization breaches the Civility Compact when it allows people to be rude, attacking or discriminatory.

How then can we keep this Civility Compact in place so that people behave appropriately at work?

Depending on your role in the organization, you should take different approaches.

For today, let's talk about how leaders can deal with difficult and toxic employees who make our meetings and team interactions uncomfortable or unbearable because they verbally attack other team members during discussions.

Coaching Toxic Employees Toxic Workplaces Communication Leadership Development

We know that If toxicity is not stopped then it spreads like poison throughout the organization.

Does that mean we need to fire every team member who routinely verbally offends others?

Not necessarily, and usually not without some type of intervention to help the employee develop productive ways to communicate. The exception would be if the language amounts to verbal abuse or hate speech.

If you are in the middle of a team meeting and someone begins insulting or belittling another team member, as the leader you must take immediate action.

Coaching Toxic Employees Toxic Workplaces Communication Leadership Development

Your job is to support and protect your team, including protecting them from one another if needed. Here are a few simple steps you will need to take to address the toxic behavior.

1. Interrupt the team member who is spewing toxic language. Don't respond angrily, but sternness is appropriate and a simple, "that's enough, let's move on."

2. If the employee does not calm down and continues to engage with you or the other team member in an inappropriate manner, then you can dismiss the employee from the meeting, "I understand you are upset, it's best if you go back to your office right now and we'll discuss later."

3. After the meeting, pull the individual aside and discuss what was said. Be explicit, describe why the comment was unacceptable and that it doesn't meet the communication norms for your team. Remember to model the calm, respectful language that you want your team to use, but also keep in mind that you need to be direct.

Provide examples of other ways they might voice their differing opinions, such as, "I understand why you think 'y' is a good solution, but I'm thinking that if we took a slightly different approach and did 'x', then we would see results faster because [insert reason]."

4. Explain plainly, but with compassion, that although they may not have meant for their statements to be offensive, they were. "I expect that all team members will be respectful to one another."

5. It is also helpful to remind the individual that everyone is trying to accomplish the SAME team goals. AND that we sometimes get locked up in our view of a project, but we need to remember that the majority of what we do involves multiple team members, each with the same goals BUT with slightly different priorities and methods to reach the goal.

6. You might also say, "When it seems like someone is not considering your viewpoint, it is likely that they are simply focused on trying to do their part of the project and aren't thinking about your part. It usually is NOT an intentional slight. Instead of showing frustration or lashing out, we can use the opportunity to build understanding and show support for each other."

7. Give more examples if needed. For instance, a team member could choose to constructively respond to what feels like criticism or disregard by saying something like:

"I appreciate how hard you are working on this project and I understand that your part of the project is your priority. However, I think we should consider that we need to complete step X first and do some quick testing with our customers before we move on to our next steps in production. That will save everyone from having to complete post-production corrections or changes."

Coaching Toxic Employees Toxic Workplaces Communication Leadership Development

The lesson in this is simply that we can't assume that people know how to respond in stressful situations where competing priorities are at play. Yes, we want everyone to be able to professionally communicate and collaborate and solve problems with their team members, but the reason we have leaders is because many times people do need help with navigating the complex relationships and communications that are common in the workplace.

Leaders should coach and mentor their teams through these situations and give everyone the opportunity to step up and be a positive, contributing supporter of the Civility Compact in the workplace.

Of course, there is the chance that your toxic employee does not want to communicate professionally and that they won't take your advice. If that happens then you need to take appropriate action to remove the toxic employee from your workplace.

But this is rarely the case.

Most people want to do a good job and most people don't like conflict. The negative attacks are often defense mechanisms that people use to protect themselves from a perceived threat. The threat could be possibly being blamed for the project if it fails or even feeling like they are being left out of the decision-making process.

Coaching Toxic Employees Toxic Workplaces Communication Leadership Development

When people only know one way to communicate then that is the way they will communicate.

At least until you teach them another way.

So do it then, teach them another way.

And remember:  Not every employee that exhibits a toxic behavior is actually a toxic employee. Sometimes they are just people doing the best they can and until someone helps them find a better way they will be stuck, continuing to exhibit that toxic behavior.

Be a leader. Coach your team and help them find the words and the ways to positively communicate.

Let's help each other defeat toxicity.

 

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Work-Life Balance Wellness Leadership Image
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by Dr. Sara Baker


A leadership enthusiast, website and elearning developer, and believer that everyone deserves a workplace that builds and supports its people.

Don't wait for someone else to be the positive force of leadership that brings good to the world, do it yourself!

Work-life balance and mental wellness is a topic that many leaders neglect, both in our own lives and in the lives of our team members.

Now is the perfect time to create a balance between your work and home responsibilities while building in periods of reflection and rejuvenation.

Work-Life Balance Wellness Leadership Image

Research studies show that overworking, anything over 10 hours per day and 50 hours per week, results in more workplace injuries, decreased productivity, as well as an increase in relationship problems, physical health issues and mental health issues.

As the leader, you have the opportunity to help yourself AND your team establish a balance between work and personal lives.

Shockingly, putting boundaries into place and finding ways to refresh and de-stress actually leaves everyone with more to give and benefits both your workplace and you individually.

When determining the best approach to balancing work and life, surprisingly the act of overworking itself is not the primary culprit. It's actually your body's reaction to the stress in your work environment.

The Problems of No Work-Life Balance:  Effects of Stress on Our Bodies

The negative effects appear because increased and sustained stress levels in our bodies cause us to generate high levels of cortisol, also known as the "stress hormone." Increased production of cortisol leads to health issues such as anxiety, depression, heart disease, digestive problems, headaches, weight gain and memory and concentration impairment according to a Mayo Clinic report.

Our bodies release cortisol in response to a perceived threat, or stress. The cortisol limits some of our bodily functions and uses that extra energy to prime other parts of our bodies for "fight or flight" in order to defeat or escape the stress. Once the stress passes, our bodies return to normal functioning and everything is okay.

Except when we are exposed to chronic stress.

Work-Life Balance Wellness Leadership Stress Leadership Development

If we subject our minds and bodies to persistent stress, then physiologically we stay in a fight or flight mode. This consistent fight or flight status is what leads us to develop mental, physical and social problems.

Stress and long hours also lead to problems sleeping. Once our sleep cycles become disrupted, we begin to experience fatigue.

Fatigue is that unshakeable exhaustion in which our emotional, cognitive and physical responses are delayed or modified because our synapses are not all "firing" in our brains as they should.

Fatigue leads to poor decision-making, slow response times, and an increase in mistakes.

To battle stress and fatigue, you need to focus on creating a healthy, peaceful balance that works for you.

Should You Balance Work and Life or Integrate Them?

People take different approaches to work-life balance, depending on their personal priorities, their job types, and even their preferred activities for revitalizing.

You may have heard some leaders talk about their belief that there is no such thing as creating a "balance" between your work and your life. They recommend that you integrate your work into the rest of your life, accepting that work is part of your life.

These "no-balancers" believe the only way to be at peace and successful, and reduce the negative effects of stress is to welcome work into your personal life. The idea is that by incorporating your passion for your work into your life and not feeling as though you have to shut it down or stop your mind from thinking about it, that it reduces stress. Then you can reach a place of equilibrium and peace.

This path may work for you. I used to think this approach worked for me.

Living and Loving Work:  The Secret to Work-Life Balance?

I let my passion for my work consume me. My work, the meaningfulness of what I do, has propelled me to love my work throughout my career. It only seemed natural that my mind ran constantly working to solve work challenges. I told myself that this was good, it was just how my fast-paced, never stopping brain functions.

But what I didn't realize was that by allowing my brain to always focus on creating new solutions to the never-ending challenges at work, I was cheating myself out of peace and content. And my family had become a side thought, second to work. I gave so much of myself to work and my team, that I didn't have much leftover.

I don't recommend this approach unless you work in a job that is 100% your life's calling AND you feel refreshed and stress-free on a regular basis because of your job. If this describes you, then kudos - but why are you reading an article about work-life balance? 🙂

Work-Life Balance Wellness Leadership Development

Setting Boundaries

Here's the thing:  how to handle work-life balance really depends upon the individual. People whose identity depends upon their work performance or people who take immense pleasure from completing work tasks and achieving may want to find ways to be at peace with work-related thoughts that occur around the clock.

Others who experience stress with the interruptions in their personal time should have firm boundaries in place for how to monitor and deal with the intrusions.

Accepting your distractability for work-related thoughts and tasks throughout your life may be a good approach for you. But before you assume this is a good approach for your team members, you need to determine how they feel about work-related interactions during their personal time. It is probably safest to assume that others find the constant influx of work related thoughts, emails or calls intrusive and stress-inducing.

Work is important, yes, but so are our personal lives and our mental well-being. Every mind, even those that run nonstop, needs some type of outlet and downtime.

For those of us who feel stressed and recognize that we need to set controls in place to help us balance work with personal health, relationships and down-time, let's talk about some ideas for how we can create balance.

1. First, you need to recognize your efficiency limits and act accordingly.

 

If you know that you have nothing worthwhile to contribute after 10 hours, then limit your workday to 10 hours. Limit your workweek to 50 hours. Anything over that and you are negatively impacting your productivity for the week. That means that, statistically, after 50 hours, you should stop because you are creating poor quality work. Keep working beyond that and you may spend the next workday trying to correct the mistakes you made. (I wish I could say this never happened to me, but, yes.)

2. You can set strict limits to completely separate your work hours from your non-work hours.

 

This idea can be supported by setting norms with your teammates that no emails are sent out after maybe 6 PM on weekdays and no emails are sent at all from Friday at 6 PM until Monday at 7 AM. Make adjustments to the times and days based on your work schedule, the idea, however, is that you establish and communicate work-life balance norms to your team.

 

You must follow the norms and you must hold your team responsible for following them, also. Most emails have delayed sending schedulers, so if you must write emails during non-work hours, then, at least, don't send them to your team's inboxes.

 

With this approach you can relax your mind and not worry about checking email constantly. You can also prevent distracting emails from showing up on your phone and interrupting important relaxation time, fun time or any time spent with family.

3. Set a schedule for checking emails during non-work hours and stick to it.

 

Tell your boss and your team members that you want to be sure that you don't accidentally miss any important emails during non-work hours, so you will be consistently checking messages at a specific time on evenings and/or weekends.

 

Let them know what your designated time is so that they can be sure to send any emergency emails prior to your designated times.

 

If you have team members who are working during your non-work scheduled hours, then you can consider providing your cell phone number so they can text you or call ONLY in an emergency. It is essential that you clarify and define exactly what constitutes an emergency. Don't be afraid to kindly respond with "this isn't an emergency" if they stray outside of your guidelines. It isn't rude to set limits and it isn't rude to help people understand boundaries.

 

Only offer to be available during non-work hours to the extent that you are comfortable doing so.

Work-Life Balance Wellness Leadership Stress Email

4. Turn off the push notifications on your phone for your email.

 

If you must check email during non-work time then you should batch check it at specific times generally not more than once per evening or once per day on the weekends.

 

This will allow your mind to relax and you won't be constantly interrupted during non-work time. You will still be able to respond to important emails in a timely manner. This approach will require some self-control. Put your phone down, outside of immediate reach and resist the temptation to check it constantly.

5. Create an end of the workday de-stressing routine.

 

Start your routine by creating an end of the day to-do list for important outstanding items and critical follow-ups. Writing down what needs to be done will allow you to release it from the forefront of your mind.

 

Also include a venting protocol if needed.

 

This may be as simple as speaking with a fellow colleague to discuss stressful issues that are weighing on your mind.

 

Or it may entail talking to yourself out loud on your drive home.

 

It doesn't matter how you do it, what matters is that you get the information that is stressing you out off of the top of your mind before you begin your personal time.

 

After you have vented, calm your mind by listening to music, a podcast, an audiobook or silence, if you prefer. If work worries enter your mind, picture yourself pushing them away and out of your mind and concentrate on calm.

 

Taking deep breaths during this time is also helpful. Your goal is by the time you walk in your door at home you have closed the day on your work and have prepared your mind for your non-work life.

Work-Life Balance Wellness Leadership Stress Music

6. Write down random, persistent thoughts that steal your sleep or plague you during downtime.

 

If you have trouble sleeping, or even just have trouble relaxing, because your brain is busy creating plans, reviewing action items or problem solving while you are trying to sleep, then you might try keeping a notepad for late night to-do list items. If your mind won't let go of a persistent issue because it's afraid you'll forget, then open your eyes, lean over to your bedside table and write down whatever the issue/plan/problem/idea is.

 

This helps relax your mind, knowing you won't forget the important tasks and it won't fall off your radar. If intrusive thoughts of other pending tasks assail you after you have made your list, then add them to the list. If thoughts about the same tasks rise up again, simply remind yourself you've written it down, you'll take care of it tomorrow, there's nothing to worry about.

 

I picture myself pushing a big rock (with the name of the issue written on it) off the side of a cliff, where I have other rocks that I will take care of tomorrow. I can always climb down and read the rocks when it's time. But, for now, no. Off the cliff.

Making Work-Life Balance and Mental Wellness a Priority

Your mental health is critical to a fulfilling and rewarding life. It is also critical to achieving high-performance at your job. The better care you take of yourself, the better you will be able to function in your work capacity to meet and exceed expectations.

Work-Life Balance Mental Wellness Leadership Development

Talk to your team about work-life balance and help reduce stress in their lives, as well as your own. If you won't do it for yourself (which I hope you will, you are valuable and deserve to de-stress), then do it for your team. You have the ability to minimize the effects of stress on your team. Set positive work-life balance norms and share ideas on how to deal with stress. We all face it, we might as well work together to overcome it.

You might not be responsible for what your team members do on their own time, but you can help to give them the opportunity to experience it without interference from work.

 

Take care of yourself. Take care of your team.

 

Be a leader.

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14 Leadership Hacks for Toxic Workplaces: The Checklist

A leadership enthusiast and believer that every leader has the power to create a positive leadership experience. Don’t wait for someone else to be the positive force of leadership that brings good to the world, do it yourself! Leaders Create Toxic Workplaces A toxic culture does not appear randomly. It is produced when negativity and…

7 Practical Tips for Leading a Remote Team

A leadership enthusiast, website and elearning developer, and believer that everyone deserves a workplace that builds and supports its people. Remote work is incredible yet, at the same time, it can be incredibly challenging. Throw in “leadership” and the responsibility of somehow keeping your team functional, focused, and engaged while you all work from different…

2 Surprising Ways to Be a Better Leader

A leadership enthusiast, website and elearning developer, and believer that everyone deserves a workplace that builds and supports its people. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antoine de…

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Part 1 of our 2 part series on Leadership in Toxic Workplaces

by Dr. Sara Baker


A leadership enthusiast and believer that every leader has the power to create a positive leadership experience.
Don't wait for someone else to be the positive force of leadership that brings good to the world, do it yourself!

 

Toxic cultures take over a workplace when the interactions between employees and supervisors become so negative they no longer meet socially acceptable norms for civility.

Workers in toxic workplaces show less engagement with work and are demotivated to perform well.

They may intentionally perform poorly, avoiding completing work tasks in a timely manner or they may simply not apply much effort to anything. Employees will waste time instead of working IF they even bother to show up.

As a result, the negativity in a toxic workplace can destroy the organization. Not just in metaphorical constructs, but also by tanking the bottom line.

If you are a leader, you must choose a side. Either you fight the toxicity, or you choose to go along with it. 

Leader, manager, supervisor, whatever your title is - you are either part of the solution or part of the problem.

Is Your Workplace Toxic? 

A toxic workplace is characterized by fear, poor communication, and high turnover.  Employees feel devalued, unappreciated, bullied, maybe even harassed. Leaders and managers neither respect nor appreciate the employees. Attempting to shame people, insulting team members, and blaming when things do not go as planned are just a few examples of toxic behaviors.

We all have had coworkers or bosses that we may not necessarily have been crazy about, but where is the line between personality conflicts and toxicity?

18 Signs of a Toxic Workplace Checklist

How many of the signs of a toxic work culture from the list below describe your workplace or the leaders in your organization?

1.  You are afraid to voice your opinions to higher-ups.

2.  Your boss micromanages you or others.

3.  Your boss watches you complete work tasks or asks detailed questions about your process just so he can jump on any opportunity to criticize you.

4.  You don't go to HR to report issues because you are concerned you will be retaliated against.

5.  In team meetings with your boss information only flows one-way, from the boss to you and the rest of the team.

6.  Sarcasm and snide remarks occur more frequently than positive or supportive statements.

7.  People get promoted because they are related to or friends with leadership or C-suite executives.

8.  Leadership encourages or tolerates offensive statements directed at employees.

9.  New or different ideas are frowned upon and shut down.

10. You and others are kept in the dark about changes in strategy or direction.

11. When you ask questions you are patronizingly told not to worry about it, it doesn't affect you, even if it really does.

12. Temper tantrums, verbal or physical aggressiveness are accepted, excused or tolerated by leadership.

13. Leaders or managers make derogatory, belittling statements to others.

14. Leaders blame their team members when things go wrong, insistent that failures are someone else's fault.

15. HR's support processes, such as improvement plans and coaching, mostly function as an avenue to fire people instead of trying to develop people.

16. The HR department serves as a shield protecting management from worker complaints instead of trying to find meaningful solutions to help improve the employee experience.

17. Negative feedback on job performance is the only type of feedback that is given. Evaluations are used to instill fear in employees instead of used to develop and grow them.

18. A worthy, outward-facing mission or vision statement is used to mask the greed or selfishness that motivates managers and leaders.

If you saw your workplace described in the list above, then it's toxic where you work

What do you do, then, if you work somewhere that's toxic? Should you just tough it out? Try to change it?

How Do You Heal a Toxic Workplace?

When something is toxic, it is because a toxin or poison has been introduced into the system.

The system, if healthy, will likely overcome the toxicity, stopping the effects of the poison and in time repairing itself.

Imagine you eat something that causes you a mild case of food poisoning. You may have to stay home from work for a day, while your body attempts to:

    • fight to overcome the negative effects of the toxin and
    • flush the toxin out of your body.

Toxic Workplace Leadership Hacks Poison

Once your body fights off the poison, you will likely be okay and ready to go again within a short time.

Workplaces are like that, too.

Someone in the organization will have to fight off the poison. It won't clear up on its own.

If the workplace is healthy and a new leader, or even an employee, is hired who exhibits toxic behaviors, then the organization should be able to:

    • correct the behavior and overcome the poison or
    • flush the toxin out.

The healthy workplace will not tolerate a poison staying in the system. The behavior will seem so out of the norm, that everyone will notice, and leadership will likely not allow it to continue for long.

If the workplace is NOT healthy and does not have a strong, positive culture then it will be overcome by the poison and the toxicity will spread throughout the system, creating a toxic workplace.

As the toxic behaviors spread and it becomes the norm in the workplace, the poison will grow stronger and the organization will likely die as a result.

Toxic workplaces may die a slow, painful death as the toxicity runs rampant unchecked. Or they may quickly fall apart, as good employees leave, and work quality diminishes.

If toxic behavior in the workplace is left unchecked, it will spread and kill the organization.

 

The only antidote is strong, positive leadership.

Read more about how to defeat Toxic Leadership.

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5 Power-Packed Action Steps Leadership Plan

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Get your copy of the Toxic Leadership Hacks Infographic with the Top Five Toxicity Signs and How to Heal Them!

Feel free to share the Infographic on social media to help other leaders identify the signs of toxicity and make strides toward creating people-centered workplaces. We are all in this together, let's help each other out!

Low employee engagement rears its head in many ugly ways:  lost profits, high turnover, poor customer service, and faulty products. Expectations of leaders and managers in the workplace are changing as workers begin to ask for higher levels of fulfillment from their jobs. A paycheck is no longer enough, employees want to love their jobs.

How do you lead your team so that they are engaged at work and so that they do, in fact, love their job? Follow these 5 powerful action steps to increase employee engagement on your team and start seeing positive results.

It's going to take a leadership reformation in how we currently function as leaders and managers in order to enact positive change in the workplace. Be part of the movement that is making a difference in how we approach our roles as leaders. Join us as we walk through practical solutions to real-world leadership and management struggles.

Understanding the Problem:  Why are Employees Disengaged?

Employee engagement has a new meaning and a new two-part definition according to a new Gallup study.

    • The workforce of today believes that the first part of employee  engagement requires having a boss who is SUPPORTIVE and works to DEVELOP individual employees.

But that's not all.

    • The second part of that new definition involves having a clear understanding of what the PURPOSE is in the employee's daily work.

In other words, workers want to know how the daily job tasks in which they engage lead to helping improve the greater good.


If you've been a leader or manager for very long, then you have likely watched as the leadership trends tilted ever so subtly in this direction, culminating in this moment.

Researchers Search to Define Leadership:  Employee Engagement Wasn't Even on the Radar

Our perspective on leadership and management has shifted over the last 100 years as we have evolved as a society.

Molded by the repressive beliefs of our society during the last century, attempts to explain the "how" of successful leadership began with the theory of the "great man" being the ultimate leader. This "theory" explained that only a man imbued with innate characteristics and born in just the right heroic time could be a great leader.

Then realizing the too-small scope of that theory and the fact that great leaders appeared to develop over time in some people, we moved on to thinking that perhaps it came down to a perfect leadership style.

Researchers analyzed strong leaders who produced results and tried to come up with a common list of styles. And then we looked for attributes. Then we decided maybe it was a matter of leadership skills. Surely, we thought, if we keep looking, we will unlock the secrets to great leadership.

After some time, we decided that for every different type of situation a leader should adopt different characteristics and respond differently to each need. We thought if we used a chart or a graph that explained our possible responses, we would find the perfect response and then we would be a great leader.

Is Leadership Defined by Leadership Skills?

Then we believed that specific leadership skills held the keys to leading every team to greatness.

image of employee engagement leadership tips leadership developmentResearchers tried to pin down the complete list, the detailed skill set that would make all leaders successful at last. Instead, they compiled massive lists of characteristics and skills that great leaders exhibited. These overwhelming lists proved to not be very helpful to organizations and schools that were trying to develop new leaders.

Closer to the Real Issue of Employee Engagement:  Maybe It's Vision, Emotional Intelligence, or Authenticity?

Later came the promise of transformational leadership, which describes a leader who instinctively inspires followers to give their all in pursuit of a higher vision. Unfortunately, it relies too heavily on the leader's personality as the motivator driving team members to perform.

We can't possibly accept a situation where we can only hire people for leadership or management roles if they exhibit specific personality traits. Especially with what we know about the importance of a leader who engages employees. We need action items for leaders that take them from the point of bossing their teams around to leading their teams to engagement and fulfillment.

Emotional intelligence brings us closer to an answer.  At least, it acknowledges that leadership is about complex interactions between people and that there really isn't a graph or chart that will make it all easy to understand. Emotional intelligence basically comes down to being aware of your emotions and the emotions of those around you and then using that information to act in a manner that achieves your desired outcome, in a non-manipulative manner, of course.

In recent years, authentic leadership has caught traction with its focus on being your real self, being self-aware of your values, being positive, honest and using emotional insights to know what to say and how to say it. This approach suggests that a leader must always act in alignment with one's true self. It goes farther to suggest that the professional self, personal self, and private self should all be the same if one is truly being genuine.

Why Leadership Theories Don't Deliver on Results: the Missing Piece of Employee Engagement

With all of our analysis and all of our theories, there remains no single way to lead.

The reality of leadership is that we will not be able to identify a single theory of leading that will fit all people, all teams, all needs. Besides, finding out that innate personality gifts or triggering personal experiences from our lives is what makes us great leaders is not helpful if we cannot somehow transfer those gifts and defining experiences to anyone who wants to be a strong leader.

So, what do we do?

image of employee engagement leadership tips leadership development

As the workforce begins to advocate for itself in search of better workplace environments, we are forced to consider at this time, RIGHT NOW, workers don't feel engaged.  We have a definitive employee engagement problem.

And to the workers right now, that means, in general, and en masse, bosses are not developing their teams and are not leading their teams in understanding how their work is meaningful and impactful to society as a whole.

The question of the hour, then, is not "what leadership theory do we think fits this scenario," but is instead a much simpler question:


 

"What behaviors do our leaders and managers need to engage in right now to make this better?"

 


The educational researcher in me wants to conduct studies (I have, in fact, begun drafting the questionnaire) and that is a worthwhile pursuit.

But it doesn't provide actionable, easy to implement plans for addressing the workplace crisis today.

While the researchers work on explaining behaviors and trying to identify the causal factor of those behaviors, what can managers and leaders start doing TODAY so we can begin seeing POSITIVE results?

What Will Work? Practical Leadership Development Focused on Taking Action to Engage

In 17 years of leadership in for-profits, not-for-profits, the public sector, and the private sector, I have studied, reflected, practiced, failed, won and grown as I searched for this answer.

We need to know:  Whether it's Day 1 or Day 627, what can a manager or leader DO to set positive change in motion and MAKE THINGS BETTER?

image of employee engagement leadership tips leadership development

The good news is that there is an answer:  an actionable five-step plan that can transform ANY situation and start improving your employee engagement immediately.

Regardless of whether upper management supports your positive change or not, whether your team is eager for improvement or not, and whether you have many financial resources at your disposal or not.

This five-step plan is one that I wish I could tell my younger, 26-year-old self starting out as a first-time manager. It would have saved me a lot of heartaches, for sure.

Take Action - Five Steps to Ignite Positive Change Today and Engage Your Team

As you read through the five steps, notice how positive, consistent language use undergirds everything.

Step 1:  Know the vision and purpose

To lead you need to know where you are going. First and foremost figure out where you are now, figure out the vision for where you want to be and then get everyone on your team aligned with that understanding.

Say out aloud to your colleagues, your boss, and your team members, "We are here and we want to go there."

Make it compelling and use words that make emotional connections. Help others to see that how you get from here to there is important and it is filled with daily tasks, decisions and projects.

A compelling, emotionally connecting vision for the future is necessary.

If you want to lead, this is step one.

Vision and purpose matter.

Step 2:  Empower people

Leadership is about listening to people, finding out what they need to be their best and then helping them get what they need. It's about removing red tape and senseless processes so that they can spend their time getting important work done. Leadership also means sharing the workload showing that you trust the performance and capabilities of your team enough to give them important projects or tasks.

It's about giving people a say in what their job tasks are, if they are talented in some area that doesn't fit exactly within their job description then let them do something in that area anyway. Give them leeway to inform your processes and job assignments.

Sure, everything must get done, but moving things around so that everyone has tasks or projects that they enjoy a little more goes a long way toward supporting individual growth. People enjoy things they are good at.

The more they do things they are good at, the better they get at those things. See? It's easy.

Step 3:  Provide accountability

Hold people accountable, not by scare tactics and not by hovering over their shoulders watching everything they do. Instead, be transparent about the current status (where we are) and where we need to be.

The vision casts the poetic version of the greater good, but your accountability parameters, your metrics should all relate to that greater good and should show a data pathway from where we are to where we want to be.

When you talk to your team about targets, goals, timelines and detailed plans relate it to why the targets matter and how they help achieve that grander vision or purpose. Update everyone on progress towards goals and put the effort into explaining why the progress is or is not on target.

Meet individually with team members who are not meeting goals and figure out what resources or support they need to be able to meet goals.

Usually people don't meet goals because they don't understand the expectations, or they need training in providing a missing skill that is essential to the completing the task.

Presume your struggling team members need help, before you jump to imagining that they are intentionally messing things up.

Also, provide accountability clarity to your team as it relates to you as their leader. If there are metrics that matter to you and relate to the greater purpose, then share those metrics with them and let them know how you are progressing toward the targets.

It may seem scary, at first, but it will build trust with your team and you will be surprised by their efforts to support you in meeting your goals, when you also are supporting them in meeting their goals.

Step 4:  Be Courageous

Being courageous does NOT mean that you are not afraid. Showing courage means that even though you understand the risk, you move forward with difficult decisions and tasks anyway.

In times of difficulty, provide reassurance to your team, communicating the realities of the situation while also focusing on the plan to get past the difficulty.

I prefer to call challenges "opportunities." This insistence has lightened many a difficult meeting with my team members as we laughed at the string of seemingly constant "opportunities" and problem-solved how to address yet another "opportunity." I always smile as I say it, and it does catch on.

image of employee engagement leadership tips leadership development

A positive mind-set in the face of difficulties is contagious. Believe that together you and your team can overcome obstacles and come out as victors. Smile and be at ease. Show your team with your words and your body language that you believe you can get through this successfully. Otherwise, why are you leading?

Hope and encouragement are powerful forces in the face of problems. Your team needs to find that hope by watching what you say and do in the face of challenges.

Step 5:  Develop Others

Spend time speaking with your team on an individual basis, ask them what their short term and long-term goals are (and not in a stuffy "what's your 5-year plan" way). Find out where they'd like to be and make suggestions about where you see they could be.

Oftentimes, we miss out on possible career paths where we would be exceptional because it's something we never considered. Be the leader that tells that your team what you think they are good at and how that ties into other opportunities in your organization. Once you know their interests and strengths, make training part of your regular discussions.

Developing others includes delegating important projects to team members where they can grow and expand their skill set.

Yes, you could probably do it better, but that's not the point. Let your team know that you think they are capable of handling important tasks and let them know how you think the skills they gain through a stretch assignment will help their continued growth.

There may very well be times that you can't delegate time sensitive tasks because the amount of training or support that you would need to provide means you wouldn't meet the timelines. In that case, go ahead and do the work.

But, opportunities will present themselves where you have the time and ability to delegate to your team so that they can help you with these important projects. If you are specific in delegating key projects specifically in areas of a team member's strengths, then you also are helping to develop that individual by supporting growth and reinforcing of neural pathways in areas of strengths.

Why does this five-step plan matter? What's wrong with just going along, continuing doing what you've always done?

Well, maybe nothing. Let's look at it a little more in-depth.


Your performance as the leader is based solely on the performance of your team.


Read that sentence again and let it sink in.

You could be a phenomenal individual producer. You could individually produce what three normal people produce. But…

If. Your. Team. Sucks. So. Do. You.

I know that sounds harsh but leading successfully is about how you as the leader can make your team be great.

When your team is happy, engaged, doing great things, growing in ways they never imagined, and outperforming where they would be without you, only THEN are you a great leader.

This reality is at the heart of leadership.

You can do it. You can be a great leader.

To be great:

    • You MUST develop others to help them grow and become better.
    • You MUST help your team find purpose in their work.
    • You MUST show courage and make difficult decisions.
    • You MUST embrace empowerment balanced with accountability, all while consistently intertwining results with purpose.

You can be a leader who starts transforming the workforce and you can get started today.

Shift the focus off of you and start reforming your everyday actions to lead your team to success.


 

Vision. Empowerment. Accountability. Development. Courage.

 


 

 

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Fear of failure in leadership is one of the greatest impediments to making decisions.

Fear of failure can cause you to postpone or even worse, delegate, important decisions. In today's quickly moving world, sluggishness in decision making can cause a business to miss or lose incredible opportunities.

Time waits for no man or business.

How do you stop Fear of Failure from winning?

Ask Your Team for Input

1st step - make sure you have all the information. Involve your team and ask for input. The idea behind gathering input is not that you will somehow make a decision that everyone is happy with, because you won't. That decision doesn't exist.

And it doesn't mean you turn decisions over to committees to really mess things up. Instead "asking for input" means that you ask for perspectives.

You ask questions like:

    • "What are your thoughts?"

 

    • "Is there anything I'm missing?"

 

    • "What have I not considered?"

 

Team members may only know a small part of the issue you are facing or may only have access to pieces of data that may not necessarily represent the full picture.

But the simple action of asking them for their ideas, not only provides you with necessary feedback, it also helps your team to feel valued and authentically communicates your respect for them as an essential part of the team.

 

Your team may not completely agree with your final decision, but they will appreciate that they had a chance to inform the decision-making process.

 

Your responsibility is to take the input and in combination with other data you have available and MAKE A DECISION.

That's your job, right? Because you're the leader.

It is ultimately your decision, your responsibility, your rear on the line if the decision doesn't go well. And, of course, that's the reason for the fear.

But you have to be courageous!

Be Bold, Make the Decision

2nd Step -  If you have analyzed the data and received expert input from critical stakeholders, then you are ready to make the decision.

If that decision ends up not leading to success, it really doesn't mean that YOU failed. It simply means that you need to go a different direction.

We all feel at times that we have "failed" because a decision that we made did not come out the way we had hoped. That "failure" of a decision does not negate every good decision that we have ever made. That "failure" is simply part of life and, more importantly, part of the learning process.

If we never take risks, then we never grow. As leaders, we cannot lead quiet, mouse-like existences.

Our teams and our organizations are depending upon us to make decisions that help the organization be successful.

We absolutely cannot allow the fear of failed outcome to prevent us from taking risks.

If your decision leads to a "failed" outcome, then you will need to own the decision. But that isn't nearly as scary as it sounds.

It happens to all of us.

This is the part of leadership where tenacity of spirit is critical.

If it leads to outcomes you don't like, then simply reassess where you are.

Determine where you want to be and decide if you should be pivoting in a different direction or just adjusting course.

As the leader who made the ultimate decision, it is essential that YOU claim ownership of the decision and that you do NOT blame your team or anyone else.

Blame is counter-productive and will only make you look weak to others, including senior leaders and your team.

Instead, own the decision. "Wow, I really thought that would provide us with the outcome we had hoped for, but we need to figure out a different way. Team, what are your thoughts on how we can correct course? I think some of our key issues are…"  And, then lead your team in creative problem solving and move forward.

Team is key in times like this. The best part of a failed decision is the information that it will provide that will better inform your next step.

Leaders cannot delay in making critical decisions out of fear. You must be bold. You must be courageous.

Make the decision and overcome your fear of failure.

Join the Leadership Reformation for more information on making the most out of your leadership.

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Bad bosses plague our workplaces. By the looks of the articles, posts and books being published, it isn't getting any better. If anything, it's getting worse.

Maybe we should do something to change that.

After all, there is no sense in complaining if we aren't willing to find a solution to make it better. Right?

 

What's the problem?

Most people are not engaged at work. According to Gallup's latest research published in "It's the Manager," 85% of the world's workforce reports that they are not engaged workers (Clifton & Harter, 2019).

That's a problem because:

    • we spend a lot of time at work,

 

    • businesses expand a lot of money paying salaries,

 

    • and companies with disengaged workers are not as successful as those with engaged workers.

 

So, what do people report that they need in order to be engaged in their work?

Not surprisingly, Gallup says:

 

    • Workers want to know why their work is purposeful and how it affects the greater good.

 

    • People want support from their bosses to help them develop and grow individually.

 

 

But Why? What's Causing It?

For over two decades, I experienced first-hand the extreme differences in teams that had strong, positive leaders versus teams that had poor leaders.

I watched employees with passion and drive frustrated by bosses who were afraid of change, afraid of being outshined by their team, afraid of losing respect.

Sadly, I felt the demoralizing effect that weak leaders had on the success and production of their teams.

I witnessed the fatigue and dissatisfaction of intrinsically motivated people who every day had to fight against a boss who refused to innovate, refused to find ways to stay competitive with the times, and refused to find solutions to problems that the customers were facing. A boss who told employees to deal with customer complaints but refused to let them find better solutions.

Someone who put out fires of motivation instead of kindling them.

You might think the problem is with a workforce that is always dragging, who isn't loyal and who doesn't really take any initiative to do their jobs.

But that really is not the problem.

Now brace yourself...

It is not the workers.

It's a lack of leadership.

But it doesn't have to be this way.

Leadership Deficits

Part of the problem lies with people being promoted into supervisor or manager positions without adequate preparation or mentorship. The issue is not with a lack of desire to lead well, but with the lack of preparation. Many managers could be strong leaders, but they have not yet been provided with the foundation in leadership that is needed to be able to effectively lead.

Those with formal management degrees may be missing essential content on the practical application of leading teams. Management preparation programs often deal with the operational side of leading: finance, compliance, processes, etc., but may completely skip the soft skills required to be a successful leader.

Even those who go through programs designated as "leadership" preparation programs may not be ready for real-world leadership because the programs lack authentic opportunities to experience the challenges of leadership and practice the leadership strategies that have been learned.

If you are one of these ill-prepared managers, please don't take offense. I was one, too.

A Story of a Struggling Leader

The first two years of my first leadership position was an exercise in frustration and misery, both for me and for those I tried to lead. My passion burned too hot and I tried by mandate to achieve what I knew was best for us. I implemented programs that I had researched and that I knew were best for achieving our organizational goals. I even attempted to use change management models, but the top-down model I utilized only made things worse.

My heart was right, but my method was wrong. As you may have guessed, I learned more about REAL change management the hard way in that first position than in all the years during my formal studies.

The kicker is that I was in the middle of my Doctoral studies in administration and had just finished up my Master's in administration.

You would think that I would have been prepared for leading. But I wasn't. My formal program focused on management far more than it did on leadership.

Management, or Something Else?

Management is important, but management is not enough.

It's important because it controls the chaos that can exist in organizations. The processes and the quality controls are necessary for many functions and helpful in allowing essential business functions to occur quietly and systematically in the background.

But when it comes to the real business of the business, leadership is needed.

Because the real business of any business is its people.

The workers and the customers are your business. Your business wouldn't exist without them.

So, it doesn't really make sense that we focus efforts on managing processes and tasks and focus very little effort on making sure that the people, the workers and the customers, have what they need.

And what they need are leaders.

Gallup's latest book "It's the Manager" reiterates its most important all-time research-based finding that "70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager." (Clifton & Harter, 2019, p.12)

They did NOT determine that 100% of the variance in team engagement depends on the individuals.

Let that sink in.

Instinctively you want to argue.

I know, me too.

But there's this:  a team with a great leader means high employee engagement.

The same team with a lousy leader means low employee engagement.

The workers are the same group of people. The difference is the leader.

If you don't believe me, think of the highest performing team you know of and think also of the lowest-performing team- now, switch the leaders. How do you think both teams will perform?

How long would it take before the effect of the leader began to show?

Even more than that, Gallup identifies that being highly engaged at work for modern workers means having a job with purpose and meaning and a manager that helps to further the worker's personal development.

So, what does this mean for us?

First, it means it's not a worker problem. It's a leadership problem.

Business success depends on the managers. And the manager needs to know how to lead people.

The question then becomes "How does one lead for worker engagement?"

In the midst of my first (painful) leadership experience, I began the search for the answer. For twenty years, I internalized the information from research studies, leadership books and blogs, my experiences coaching and growing other leaders and my real-life leadership lessons learned.

 

The clearest path to improving the leadership in our workplaces is as simple as focusing on the key actions in which successful leaders engage and reforming, or changing, our leadership practice to include these key actions.

 

The good news is that strong leadership is not reserved only for those who are naturally charismatic or those who are intense extroverts. Despite the failed leadership ideas of the 20th century (such as the "Great Man" theory), there are no magic personality traits that determine that someone absolutely will be a successful leader.

The only requirement to become a successful leader that provides what today's workforce needs is a fierce determination to adapt your leadership practice and incorporate actions into your daily experience to meet the needs of your team.

Our workplaces need many, many, many leaders who are willing to grow and develop and to refocus their energy into providing leadership that provides a purpose, grows others, and values people.

We need to change the way we lead. I SAY WE START A REFORMATION.

What do you think? Comment below with your thoughts on what we need to do to improve employee engagement.

It's time for a change.

Let's reform our leadership practices and create the future of leadership.

 

Reference:  Clifton, J. & Harter, J. (2019). It's the Manager. New York: Gallup Press.

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Words have meaning. Of course they do. Every word that falls from our lips is full of meaning that reverberates through the air, bouncing off ears, hearts and egos in sometimes unimagined ways. The power of a leader's language can make or break a team.

Whether they are chosen words or reactionary words, the words, full of meaning, fall into the air in the middle of a team meeting, in a discussion with an employee, or in a rant with a boss.

Those words have power and they will motivate a team to high performance, or they will tear down a team. You are the leader, so it's all up to you.

It's your choice.

Positive Language to Support Your Team

Today, will you choose to say words in anger, spoken with harshness and meant to inflict wounds in your team members? Through gritted teeth will you ask "WHAT are you talking about?"

Or will you choose words meant to support and solve? With a heart seeking to serve will you ask, "Help me understand, I am not sure I see where you are coming from."

We are only human. Yes, even as leaders, we are still only human.

We will all face times when unwanted words slip out, in frustration, surprise or anger andthose words will linger in the air. They will do damage to the trust we have built with our teams. They will hurt feelings, bruise egos, make our team less likely to ask for help or to share problems.

But knowing that it will happen sometimes, when we are most tired, or weak from stress, does not excuse us from always seeking to choose positive words.  You choose to use the power of language to help or to hurt. It's really that simple.

As the leader, all conversations, especially difficult conversations, should be approached with positive supportive words. You can be honest and deliver feedback to team members that corrects behavior and gets the team back on course.

Within the business world or the educational world, there is nothing that cannot be said in a positive way, to build people up, instead of tearing them down.

As the leader, it's your choice. You decide how you push your team to reach your goals. You can choose darkness, or you can choose light.

Image of the Power of a Leader's Language Light

 

What Should I Say? Making Your Language Count

Maybe you heard about the boss who said to his teammates after missing the team's weekly sales quota, "You suck! I don't know how I got stuck with a bunch of deadweights like you!"

Or maybe you didn't hear about him… Because he was fired. One can hope.

While that may be an extreme example there are plenty of common statements made by supervisors that serve as a detriment to the team's motivation and progress.

Negativity does no good. Let's try a few easy examples that use the power of a leader's language to achieve positive outcomes.

Instead of:

    • "my subordinates" or "my employees" when talking about your team, try "my team members" or "my team" to build rapport with your team and show that you respect them. "My team is analyzing the results so we can determine the next steps."
    • "I" when talking about the work that your team has achieved, try "we" - it will build trust with your team and respect from higher ups. "We finished the project early."
    • "What are we going to do?!?" or any language that shows panic or fear, try "We can solve this, let's put our heads together and come up with our next action steps."
    • "You obviously don't know what you are doing!", try "Let's talk through where you are in the project and see if there is anything you need to be able to finish this up on time. I know there are several new topics you have had to learn that are outside your normal area of expertise and I want to make sure you have everything you need."

A study from the University of Arizona found that on average people speak about 16,000 words per day.

That is a lot of choices to make in a day.

You set the tone for your team. You lift them up to be more positive, so they keep moving with speed toward your goals. Or, you slow them down and hang words of negativity around their necks.

Your choice. Make it a good one.

Choose the powerful leadership language of positivity.

Join the movement, become a leadership reformer today!

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I help leaders who have a passion for success learn new ways to engage their teams.

LET'S GET STARTED.

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