Praise your employees: 5 ways to reward and recognize

Studies show that people are far more motivated by positive reinforcement than by the fear of failure, yet many workplace cultures are still buzzing with the daily energy of “just not screwing up.”

If you work in one of these offices, where employees are frequently distracted from the goals of the organization by anxiety about being called out for mistakes, what can you do? The good news is that no matter what level of leadership you currently hold, you can help to create a more positive workplace culture just by adding two words to your routine: Thank you. It seems simple, but praise and recognition are often overlooked by busy professionals focused on the bottom line.

If you want to draw people to you with positivity and motivate your team to strive for greatness, read below about the art of offering up positive recognition in the workplace.

Offer praise one on one

Research shows that employees today, especially millennials, crave one-on-one attention from their managers and superiors, and most feel they don’t get enough. Make sure that the interactions with your team aren’t strictly about corrective feedback -- make time for praise and recognition in a solo setting, too. Give people time to recap and review the success with you, highlighting what went well, and what they learned or would do differently next time. Give them a few minutes to talk about their wins, and congratulate accordingly.

Give praise publicly

Recapping in a one-on-one setting will set you up well when you speak publicly about your team’s accomplishments. Now you have all the details to sell their successes to your superiors, other teams and the organization as a whole. Give praise and recognition to others in multiple forums, making sure that others are seen as trailblazers, innovators and problem-solvers.

Publicly celebrate the achievements and invite the organization to mark their accomplishments. You have to advocate for yourself, too, at the right time, but don’t worry too much about highlighting your own role in most of these public situations. Noting the success of your team will show more positive leadership than taking the credit for yourself. Both those higher up and those high-performers you’d like to attract to your team will remember how you praised others.

Say "thank you"

On my local station, the news anchors, meteorologists and reporters thank each other when handing off from segment to segment. This is a lovely and simple expression of gratitude, and it goes a long way in enforcing a positive culture; don’t become a stereotypical boss who fails to use these critical words merely because the work is “someone’s job.”

The men and women we work with deserve appreciation for a job well done, and “thank you” should be delivered with intention, eye contact and sincerity on a regular basis.

Take a pause

It may seem the most obvious step when providing recognition for a job well done, but so many fail to properly take the time. When a task is finished, big or small, it’s important to take a moment to reflect on the work.

Early in my career, I worked for a man who was smart, motivated and funny. He had assembled a great team to realize his vision, but he had a horrible habit of barely acknowledging what you said when you reported to him that a job was done. Invariably, you would get one word -- “great” -- before he would use the same breath to ask you about the start of the next task. It was painfully deflating for his staff, and in the end, no one was motivated to do a job quickly or even do a job well.

It doesn’t necessarily need to be a big production, but it’s critical to take minute to pause and celebrate milestones that have been reached. Teams that have no time at all to enjoy their success will hardly be motivated to chase more. Take a breath before moving on.

Include praise for those outside your team

Don’t forget to note the contributions of those outside your team, or your organization. If a vendor was a key player in your success, say so; if another team was critical in helping you get the job done, be sure to note it. These are your opportunities to spread positivity and goodwill beyond your direct sphere of influence -- don’t miss out.

It might seem like a lot, but really praising others and saying "thank you" probably won’t take you much more energy in the day. Regularly putting a few minutes toward making sure others feel properly acknowledged for their efforts will go a long way to building the positive workplace you envision. Make a plan on how you’re going to work praise into your every day, and before long, raising the visibility of your high-achievers will be a regular habit.


Joel Garfinkle is an executive leadership coach who developed these five steps to help a newly promoted executive who had received a lot of feedback about her lack of employee praise. Garfinkle worked with her to make reward and recognition a sincere and consistent habit in her day-to-day life. He has written seven books, including "How to Be a Great Boss: 7 Qualities That All Great Bosses Have." More than 10,000 people subscribe to his Fulfillment@Work newsletter. If you sign up, you’ll receive the free e-book "41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!"

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What love can teach leaders about driving employee engagement

Is there a connection between falling into lasting love and learning to love your work?

That was the question I posed to Gary Lewandowski, a relationship scientist and psychology professor at Monmouth University who has spent his entire career studying what makes romantic relationships successful. After all, I thought, most of us put a lot of effort into our relationship with our jobs, maybe even as much effort as we expend in our romantic relationships. Certainly, we devote chunks of time to working -- over 85,000 hours during the course of a lifetime. Perhaps the only other thing we spend more time doing is sleeping.

The link between a lasting love relationship and falling in love with your work is rooted in a psychological concept called self-expansion, which is our fundamental motivation to improve and grow as a person, ultimately increasing our sense of our own identity. And, research shows, romantic relationships are a primary vehicle for self-expansion. The more we engage with a loved one and create experiences and opportunities for personal growth, the stronger the bonds become between us and a romantic partner.

Reality television shows that seek to expedite (and perhaps exploit) the romantic process provide good examples of the power of self-expanding activities. ABC’s show "The Bachelor," for example, pairs virtual strangers in idyllic settings, or sends them on dates that provide the couple with a challenge to experience and overcome together.

“This is all self-expansion,” Lewandowski explains. While we may fall in love based on chemistry, his research proves that we stay in love because we continue to introduce novelty, challenge and shared interests into our romantic relationships.

The same concept can be applied to fueling employee engagement. Researchers have shown that jobs that introduce elements of self-expansion are viewed more positively by employees than jobs lacking them.

Lewandowski highlighted a study that was designed to explore this concept in which two groups of employees responsible for routine data entry tasks were given an unrelated challenge prior to beginning their work. One group was asked to carry a series of boxes from one side of the room to the other. Another group was asked to use chopsticks to carry a series of items from one side of the room to the other. While the task using chopsticks was more difficult to master, the group that did so reported more job satisfaction at the end of its data-entry shift than the group that was asked to lift boxes by hand.

“The more self-expanding a job is, the higher the commitment to it,” says Lewandowski. “Which is why leaving a job that adds to your sense of self is so devastating.”

There are three major insights from this research that can inform leaders who are seeking to build or deepen employee engagement:

  1. It may sound counter-intuitive, but working harder actually builds self-expansion. However, the type of work matters. Piling on assignments that do not offer your employees true growth opportunities has the opposite affect by sapping energy and enthusiasm.
  2. Finding ways to encourage employees to want to stretch themselves is important. Spend time exploring the kinds of assignments that each member of your team would enjoy experiencing. Aligning these assignments with the natural interests and passions of the employee may provide an even more powerful a vehicle for self-expansion.
  3. Create experiences that will allow your employees to learn more about their current job, but also consider the benefit of cross-training. When employees learn about the work of their colleagues by actually performing it, they grow personally, and so do positive team interactions.

Once we’ve mastered the art of creating a self-expanding work environment, I asked, what advice Lewandowski might give us about our personal relationships.

“Keep dating,” he said with twinkle in his eyes. “Keep dating.”


Alaina Love is chief operating officer and president of Purpose Linked Consulting and co-author of “The Purpose Linked Organization: How Passionate Leaders Inspire Winning Teams and Great Results” (McGraw-Hill). She is a recovering HR executive, a global speaker and leadership expert, and passionate about everything having to do with, well … passion. Her passion archetypes are Builder, Transformer and Healer. You can learn more about how to grow leaders, build passionate teams and leverage passion to create great customer outcomes here.

When she’s not working with her Fortune 500 client base, Love is busy writing her next book, “Passionality, The Art and Science of Finding Your Passion and Living Your Bliss,” which explores the alignment of personality, purpose and passion, and the science of how it contributes to our well being. Follow Love on TwitterFacebookYouTube or her blog.

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Time for a new approach to motivating millennials

A business magazine in Korea interviewed me for an article on the science of motivation. I didn’t realize the article was focused on millennials until I saw the headline -- the only part written in English.

No matter where I work in the world, the question of motivating millennials seems to pop up. Understandable, since this group of people ages 16 to 37 constitutes the largest segment of the world’s current and future labor force (35% in the U.S.). I can’t read the article in Korean, so I thought I’d capture the essence of what I really think about motivating millennials.

What are generational values?

You might have first encountered the idea of values differences as I did, through Morris Massey’s fabulously popular lecture "What You Are Is Where You Were When." Massey was a professor at the University of Colorado and a wonderful mentor for me in the early 1970s. His lecture (and subsequent video) changed the way I thought about values (and the course of my education and career).

In 1991, researchers William Strauss and Neil Howe published their fascinating study in "Generations: The History of America’s Future from 1584 to 2069." They tracked US values through generations using documents, media reports and historical records. They described how each 20 years or so ushers a new set of values -- a generational values personality.

They created the terms we are now so familiar with, from baby boomers to millennials. They also found that types of values repeat themselves in predictable patterns. A generation lasts approximately 20 years, and types of values begin repeating after the fourth generation, or every 80 years. So, millennials born between 1981-2002, roughly speaking, have similar types of values as people born between 1901 and 1924. The two generations have similar peer-value profiles.

The research on generational values is still young and, admittedly, interesting. Seeing values echoed sequentially in a fixed pattern over the ages might demonstrate how we can learn from history, provide insight into the future by studying how values repeat in cycles and help us better understand ourselves and others.

However, generational values only describe the formation of a huge population’s programmed values -- values that are unexplored and generated by what a particular age group experienced growing up. Parents, take note: The greatest influence on your children’s programmed values are their peers and what’s happening in their world.

Unfortunately, the most important aspects of understanding values are often lost in the hype and oversimplification of generational values. Generational values are helpful to understand the formation of your programmed values, but not the true nature of values. Generational values may be like a bright, shiny object distracting us from what we really need to understand about values -- and the role they play in people’s motivation

Why is it important to distinguish between generational and developed values?

In the 1990s, Drea Zigarmi and Michael O’Connor developed a values assessment and model, inspired by Massey and integrating the work of Strauss and Howe. Since then, Zigarmi and I have further developed the Values Point of View model to provide a common language and framework for understanding values. The Values Point of View model reinforces three key notions:

  1. Programmed values aren’t nearly as powerful as developed values. A developed value is thoughtfully chosen from alternatives, with an understanding of the consequences of the alternatives, and acted on over time, prized and publicly owned.
  2. Values are individually held and issue-based. A value is a choice you make regarding a specific issue. You can hold one type of value when it comes to women’s rights and another when it comes to gun control. The problem is that many people fail to explore their values and underlying beliefs, depending instead on unexplored programmed values that are general and generational.
  3. Values are at the heart of motivation. Programmed values are more likely to lead to suboptimal motivation; developed values are more likely to result in optimal motivation. When we take action that is aligned with our developed values, we experience vitality, sustainable positive energy and greater sense of well-being.

Whether a boomer, Gen X’er, nillennial, or Gen Z’er, if you don’t understand the ends and means of the values you hold, you are most likely operating on programmed values without realizing it. Emphasizing generational values is not only personally limiting, but it also creates organizational problems.

A different approach to “motivating millennials"

Because millennials make up such a large portion of our workforce, organizations are bending over backward to motivate them -- namely, by giving millennials what organization think they want. But, these “wants” are based on unexplored programmed values. No wonder it’s hard to create value-based communities aligned in moving forward together.

Instead of trying to “motivate” millennials based on their programmed values, try a different approach: Help individuals develop conscious and meaningful values. Teach individuals that values are choices and issue-based.

Consider Mahatma Gandhi. As a child, Gandhi and his peers experienced British subjugation. Raised as a vegetarian, Gandhi eventually gave into peer pressure and societal norms while studying law in London and began eating meat.

Gandhi returned to India in 1915 and began his famous nonviolent revolution. As he “fought” for Indian independence, he chose to become a vegetarian, which reflected not only his culture’s values but also what he’d learned about animal rights while studying in London.

Gandhi’s story is a perfect example of moving from a programmed value (eating vegetarian) to exploring his beliefs and values (eating meat) and choosing a developed value (evolving from animal rights to human rights).

The values story is rich and complex. I encourage you to eschew claims of quick and easy ways to motivate millennials. Instead, I encourage you to do the essential work of appreciating every generation’s programmed values, but focus on teaching individuals how to move beyond their generation’s programmed values. We can only work together in a values-based community when individuals -- regardless of their generation -- develop values based on fully explored beliefs that serve the people they work with those they are in business to serve.


Susan Fowler implores leaders to stop trying to motivate people. In her latest bestselling book, she explains "Why Motivating People Doesn't Work ... And What Does: The New Science of Leading, Engaging, and Energizing. She is the author of bylined articles, peer-reviewed research and six books, including the bestselling "Self Leadership" and the "One Minute Manager" with Ken Blanchard. Tens of thousands of people worldwide have learned from her ideas through training programs, such as the Situational Self Leadership and Optimal Motivation product lines. For more information, visit

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Want employees’ soft skills to shine? Do these 4 things

Leaders are often reminded “what’s inspected gets done.” While this adage is typically applied to measurable task-related behaviors such as productions goals, it’s also relevant for human elements of the workplace like interpersonal skills.

As artificial intelligence makes further inroads into your daily work as a leader, you need to pay attention to soft-skill development because these uniquely human skills are what will differentiate your team members from the bots.

It’s time to elevate soft skills to a topic worthy of frequent leadership inspection. If we are to successfully co-exist with increasingly sophisticated technology, we need to amp up our humanity.

As this Fast Company article suggests, one way to do this is to reward soft skills in the workplace. And by “reward,” I don’t mean “pay.” I mean, put emphasis on the value of conducting business in a respectful, human way.

Here are four ways to develop your team’s soft skills on the job and with minimal financial investment.

Set the stage

As the team leader, it’s your job to ensure team members have ample opportunity to practice both both job-related and human skill sets. This starts by you giving them context for the importance of developing their whole selves. Help your team members understand that developing their people skills is part of their path to internal career mobility. Explain that employers are looking for both technical and human skills, and that your role as a leader is to pay attention to how they’re progressing on both fronts.

Put soft skills front and center

Celebrate “wins” that highlight people skills. At meetings and team huddles, give equal praise for how something was done as well as what was achieved. “Let’s take a moment to recognize Isabella. She expedited the Acme Company customer order, which helped us keep our 100% on-time metric; she was tenacious and customer-focused without throwing the shipping department under the bus, which would have been easy to do, given the circumstances.”

See the opportunity in challenge

Setbacks provide excellent opportunities to flex soft-skill muscles. Whether it’s a project that crashed and burned or a brewing team conflict, leaders who coach employees through the speed bumps of organizational life are helping team members build a portfolio of critical soft skills: conflict resolution, negotiation, adaptability and creativity. When the whining and complaining ensues (and believe me, it will), stay resolute. Say, “Yes, this is a pain. And we will work together to get to the other side of it.”

Get clear about what good people skills look like

It’s fine to keep it low-key and casually do the fist bump and “Nice job!” thing with team members. But every so often, you need to go deeper and give detailed feedback. Highlight specific things your employees said or did that demonstrate their strength in soft skills. For example, say, “Jody, I know that you’ve been frustrated with the new purchasing software. I admire how you kept your cool at the status meeting and stayed focused on finding a solution, rather than getting into the weeds about the bugs in the system.”

Paying attention to stuff -- whether it’s the latest app upgrade or a team member’s need to learn tact -- ensures it gets done. The modern workplace demands that your employees have top-notch soft skills. Help your team members shine by developing their human skills in equal measure with their technical skills.


Jennifer V. Miller is a freelance writer and leadership development consultant. She helps business professionals lead themselves and others towards greater career success. Read more about leadership and AI on her blog The People Equation from the post, "7 Reasons Leaders Should Focus on Developing Employee Soft Skills."

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9 ways you are demotivating and disempowering your team

If your organization is like many of the companies in the modern corporate world, there has been a lot of focus on how to get the most out of your team -- the best performance, the most productivity, the biggest numbers. Some of the techniques you use, however, might only have a temporary effect -- you’d get the job done in the short term, but at the expense of your team’s motivation.

If you want to learn how to avoid these critical mistakes and build a strong and empowered team, read on for nine ways you may be demotivating your team.

Constant criticism

Every management seminar and executive coaching book will remind you of the importance of frequent and timely feedback for your employees. They’re not wrong -- continuous feedback is critical, but it’s important to remember that feedback is not always criticism. If you’re always jumping to “corrective action” instead of working with your team to find solutions, your nitpicking will only demoralize.

Public correction

When correction is warranted, the worst time to do it is in front of the whole team. Public embarrassment is a powerful demotivator and the only thing it will inspire is a crippling fear of failure, not a desire to improve and excel. Instead, make sure your correction is delivered away from other ears and in a forward-thinking manner. Discuss what you’d like to see in a similar situation next time rather than dwelling on the current mistake. If possible, engage the employee in deconstructing the problem or incident so that you can collaborate on future solutions. Giving them a hand in their own performance plan is much more invigorating.

Lack of attention

Collaborative action takes more your time in the short term, which leads us to another demotivator -- employees wither from lack of attention. If you don’t have time to mentor your staff and share your knowledge, validate their thought processes and let them think out loud with you, then something is going awry in your management style. Studies suggest that, more than anything -- and this is especially true of millennials -- the people who work for you want your time, preferably in one-on-one or small group situations. It may seem like the way to help your staff is to just solve their problems or do their tasks, but the best gift really is attention. Make time to mentor your people.

Ignoring the individual

Any company or organization can be seen as a complicated machine operating in service of larger goals, but the analogy falls apart if you start to treat people as simple cogs in that engine. No one is irreplaceable in a firm, but be sure you’re giving each of your staff the individual time and attention as a person separate from the overall machine. No one wants to feel like just a number.

Shirking employee development

Part of that individual attention should be spent identifying opportunities for employee development. Helping your team grow the skills they need to move to the next level is a critical part of your job as their manager. If you’re strictly focused on maximizing the organization’s big-picture goals, you’re doing your team a disservice and delivering serious demotivation.

Doing their work

It might seem like helping to jump in and do a task for your team. Some managers “just do it” instead of delivering the feedback on what they’d prefer -- it seems faster and less confrontational. The reality is, however, that this behavior is seriously demotivating. Most employees (and certainly all the good ones), actually want a chance to do their job and to do it well. Instead of jumping in, invest your time in explaining and coaching on how you want things done rather than doing it for them.

    If you’re already sharing and coaching on your approach, resist the urge to cling too hard to “your way” of doing things. If you’re unwilling to hear about different ideas, you’re not making room for innovation, personal growth or potential improvement. You may have to learn to let go a little and allow room for possible mistakes in order to foster and motivate your team to achieve new levels.


    If you’re already sharing and coaching on your approach, resist the urge to cling too hard to “your way” of doing things. If you’re unwilling to hear about different ideas, you’re not making room for innovation, personal growth or potential improvement. You may have to learn to let go a little and allow room for possible mistakes in order to foster and motivate your team to achieve new levels.

    Delving into the weeds

    Most of us have worked our way up through the various levels of management in a company – at one point in our careers, it was our job to dig into the details of every issue or problem and it can feel right to return there.  It might seem like you’re helping your team by jumping into the weeds with them, but the opposite is often true – it’s profoundly disempowering. Let your team manage the details, status to you and gain your input on the larger situation. Trust them to do their jobs and empower them to make the decisions at their level.

    Fixating on the big picture

    It can be demotivating if your manager is fixated on the top-line corporate goals, at the expense of any attention to day-to-day job. Don’t make the mistake of letting your team believe you only care about the end result; everyone needs to feel empowered to do their job and to believe their job matters. Make sure your team knows you care about them, their daily achievements and their overall goals. It’s not just about the top (or bottom) line results.

    Which of these habits do you see in yourself? Examine your behaviors and decide what you can change immediately, and what you can work on over time.

    Motivated and empowered employees are critical to achieving overall success, so create a plan today. You will be rewarded with an engaged team that is ready to take on even the most challenging tasks with skill and confidence.


    Joel Garfinkle is an executive leadership coach who recently worked with an executive who was struggling to motivate her team. Joel walked her through the nine ways she might be demotivating her staff, and helped her design a plan to empower the team through strategic changes to her habits. Joel has written seven books, including "How to Be a Great Boss: 7 Qualities That All Great Bosses Have." More than 10,000 people subscribe to his Fulfillment@Work newsletter. If you sign up, you’ll receive the free e-book "41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!"

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    The CEO’s leadership role in optimizing emotional well-being in employees

    Executive leadership requires multifaceted capacity. Corporate leaders are responsible for every aspect of their organization, including strategic vision, finance and accounting, marketing and sales, operations, law, ethics and more. The smart ones know to surround themselves with experts who can complement their own knowledge so that the organization is strong on every front.

    The most successful CEOs, however, are the ones who understand the importance of building a healthy organizational culture. These are the leaders who see—and value—the connection between employee satisfaction and customer service performance. The best way to ensure your organization’s success is to build a culture around optimizing your employee’s emotional well-being

    This is something I learned firsthand as a CEO, when I led a major medical center from the lowest reaches of patient satisfaction to the among the highest. It is something I have been teaching to others for more than 15 years as a leadership coach for other corporate executives.

    Organizations that create a culture of employee well-being and engagement have stronger financial performance, less employee turnover, few worker compensations claims, lower healthcare premiums and happier employees and higher levels of productivity.

    Ensuring your employees’ emotional well-being is not as complex as, say, tax law. But it does require sustained attentiveness to the people around you. Here are five steps that you can take to contribute to your employees’ emotional well-being:

    1. Listen to your employees. Find a way to ensure that all employees, at every level in the organization, have an opportunity to communicate to the CEO or to a high-level surrogate how they feel about working in the organization, what they like and what they wish could be improved.
    2. Communicate your plan of action. Based on the results of “listening,” communicate the specifics of your plan of action to address the comments received on employee satisfaction. Provide specific goals and timetables for improvement.
    3. Train the team. Invest in training your staff or “train the trainer,” and make sure that all employees, including managers, supervisors, etc., receive specific training on how to optimize emotional well-being in the workplace.
    4. Align the goals. Make sure that your employees’ individual goals are in alignment with your organization’s goals.
    5. Reward and recognize. Far too often, we focus on reprimanding employees for poor performance and not enough on rewarding those who excel. Create small and large ways to reward employees. It can be as simple as free tickets to the local movie theater or as extravagant as vacations or dinner packages. The most important thing is to celebrate success and reward those who are showing everyone else the way.

    I have met other executives who argued against investing time and energy in a healthy workplace culture. Their philosophy is that a person should be happy to have a job and should simply follow the rules set by the employer. You will likely meet professionals of a similar mindset, if you haven’t already.

    I stand firm, however, in my belief in the value of promoting employees’ well-being. I have seen, time and again, that the CEOs who bring out the best in others, who listen to what their employees have to say, and who make sure that their employees’ voices, concerns and actions matter will position their organizations for long-term success.


    Dennis C. Miller is a nationally recognized strategic leadership coach, executive search consultant, author and keynote speaker. He is the managing director of The Nonprofit Search Group with more than 35 years of experience working with nonprofit board leadership and chief executives across the country. Miller is also an expert in board governance, leadership development, philanthropy and succession planning. In addition, he is a sought-after motivational speaker, retreat facilitator and leadership performance coach. Email Miller.

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    Want radical innovation? Make sure your team feels safe and connected

    Lead Change is a leadership media destination with a unique editorial focus on driving change within organizations, teams, and individuals. Lead Change, a division of Weaving Influence, publishes twice monthly with SmartBrief. Today's post is by Sunnie Giles.


    “What does psychological safety and connection have to do with radical innovation? I just want results!”

    All organizations want results from their employees, but few are willing to pay the price for them.

    “The price I am paying is their salary,” one might protest. Ah, but pay is not enough.

    A 2010 study by Princeton researchers found that people with a household income of $75,000 or more don’t report more emotional well-being with increased income, no matter how much the increase.

    Simply put, people don’t tolerate working for a jerk boss unless they’re struggling to pay the bills and have few other options. But much of today’s workforce are knowledge workers whose primary contribution to creating value is problem-solving, and information creation and distribution, such as software engineers, designers, marketers, sales reps, nurses and accountants.

    And surprise: They have minds of their own. Gone are the days of command-and-control leadership, which was effective in the industrial economy when the primary management goal was standardization and efficiency of production. At that time, a brilliant leader could hold the vision of where to go and galvanize the troops to by maximizing efficiency in functional silos, playing the zero-sum game of competitive advantage. The maximum potential of the people with minds of their own cannot be fully utilized if they are commanded and controlled.

    Now, the times have changed, the business environment has changed and so must organizations and their leaders. The world has become too complex, with too many variables too interdependent on each other, for any leader to see through to the end of the game. What made leaders successful in the past, namely individual skills such as vision, technical expertise, intellectual brilliance and charisma can actually be counterproductive for radical innovation.

    Today, the skills necessary for innovation -- which is the only way organizations can survive in this world of high volatility, complexity, uncertainty and ambiguity (VUCA) -- seem almost anti-instinctual. They include:

    • letting others self-organize;
    • using intuition and insight backed up by analysis to make decisions;
    • profusely iterating and launching good-enough solutions in small batches; and
    • tapping into collective intelligence of the average employee.

    The leaders who are fit to deliver radical innovation in this new age are what I call “quantum leaders.”

    They create a psychologically safe environment and create connection among the team members, which includes letting others self-organize and pushing down decisions to the front lines.

    If a leader needs to feel needed, these changes can be very disconcerting. But keeping yourself central is exactly the opposite of what is necessary to stimulate radical innovation. Personal leadership cannot be an afterthought. It must be a consciously developed skillset: the foundation on which all the other qualities necessary for radical innovation can be built.

    Leadership style can no longer be left to the preference of each individual manager, because quality of leadership has a tangible bottom-line impact on the viability of the organization. To survive in this fast-changing VUCA era, everything in a company must nurture innovation -- including, most importantly, quantum leadership skills.

    By creating an environment of safety and connecting and tapping into the diverse pool of thoughts, you can start building toward radical innovation.


    Sunnie Giles is president of Quantum Leadership Group. She catalyzes leaders to produce radical innovation and redefine the game as individuals and organizations. Her upcoming book on radical innovation is "The New Science of Radical Innovation: The Six Competencies Leaders Need to Win in a Complex World" (April 2018). She is an advisor at the Stanford Business School Institute of Innovation in Developing Economies. Her recent research on global leadership for innovation has been published by Harvard Business Review.  

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    3 approaches to revitalize your meeting culture

    Conducting a meeting, perhaps for good reason, gives managers an uneasy feeling. That's because we've all been in our share of directionless meetings, which are more a product of bad culture than of any person’s inefficiency.

    If this sounds like a meeting you’ve been in lately (or ever), that malaise you’ve felt usually falls into one of three meeting culture fail buckets:

    1. Poor energy: You are clear on your goals, but when people perform well, you don't balance celebrating the achievement with raising the bar. If you don't find ways to invigorate or celebrate your team's achievements, members will burn themselves out and seek greener pastures. Before long, outsiders will look in and wonder why you can't recruit the best.

    2. Poor follow-through: Your team may have good ideas but have no way to track them. When this happens, you get the sneaking suspicion that nothing is getting done, which over time can result in your slipping behind competitors and letting down customers. This happens in meetings that don't have clear, repeatable processes for measuring performance.

    3. Poor decision-making: Success can be achieved only if we are willing to tackle the hard problems facing our organizations. When your meetings focus only on metrics or pipelines rather than tackling strategic challenges, you might fail to address problems until it is too late.

    If you've been stuck in any of these meeting culture ruts, it is not too late to fix it. To break out of the bad cycle, create a meeting environment that is focused, positive, and results-obsessed.

    Give your meeting culture a makeover

    Transforming any culture starts with identifying the lapses. Use a balance of the following three meeting structures to build your own unique culture that brings the best out of your employees at each gathering.

    1. The Navy Seal test. As with a team of elite warriors, the focus of this approach is driving results and measuring progress. Start by customizing a small set of important goals for the team, then continually push the team toward the desired shared result.

    Share in advance the metrics you're using and create total transparency so team members can hold one another accountable. With this maneuver, you set expectations right off the bat and get everybody tackling the same course.

    2. The suspense thriller: The monotonous tone that some meetings take lulls attendees into a disengaged state. The suspense thriller — as the name suggests — should heighten urgency and engage people in making a strategic decision that requires preparation and engagement.

    Just as you are thoughtful about your metrics and goals, jot down a schedule of important topics you want to cover, then instruct a team member to come prepared to drive the discussion. Attendees will feel encouraged to sit up and contribute rather than sit back and just "be there."

    3. The pep rally: Think of a high school pep rally with a workplace twist. Inspiring leaders use rally-style meetings to share customer news that gets everyone pumped up. Then, they round the meetings out by identifying areas of improvement for the team.

    Here, it's important to pinpoint exactly where your team excels and highlight a few genuine reasons to celebrate. Prepare two or three accomplishments that deserve praise from each employee or department, then reward them for their efforts. Calling out success stories will give attendees something to look forward to and will inspire everyone to strive toward similar achievements.

    Don't dread leading your next meeting. Instead, take a cue from meeting cultures that work and have your team balance these meeting styles so that they come away feeling energized.


    Omar Tawakol is the CEO of Voicera (formerly Workfit), a company that helps businesses harness the power of voice. He is also the founder and former CEO of BlueKai, and he previously served as senior vice president and general manager of the Oracle Data Cloud.

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    What does servant leadership in action look like?

    Ken BlanchardTo me, servant leadership is the only way to guarantee great relationships and great results. Why? When you treat your people well—catch them doing things right, praise them when they are doing well, and redirect them when they get off track; when you empower them to bring their brains to work and make decisions—they will treat your customers well. Your customers will come back, tell their friends about your company, and become part of your sales force. Your company’s bottom line will improve and that will please the shareholders or owners.

    I’m such a huge believer in servant leadership that I’ve brought together dozens of people—CEOs, authors, thought leaders, and servant leadership practitioners—to help me write a book about it. "Servant Leadership in Action" is a collection of essays by today’s top servant leadership experts that explains not only what servant leadership is and what it does for today’s organizations, but also how you can implement this proven leadership practice in your organization.

    Want to learn more about servant leadership right now? Here are three common questions about this age-old leadership approach, answered by three of the book’s contributors.

    Can servant leadership really work in a competitive industry?

    Answered by Colleen Barrett, president emeritus of Southwest Airlines and winner of the Tony Jannus Award in 2007 and the Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy in 2016.

    Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images

    Over the years, all of the leaders at Southwest Airlines have tried to model servant leadership. Herb Kelleher, our founder, led the way clearly -- although I don’t think he knew what the expression "servant leadership" meant until we told him. For over four decades, Herb and I have said that our purpose in life as senior leaders with Southwest Airlines is to serve our people. To us, that means treating people as family.

    We want each of our people to realize they have the potential to be a leader. They can make a positive difference in anybody’s work and life, regardless of whether they are in a management position. So we try to hire leaders, no matter what role we want them to fill. Our entire philosophy of leadership is quite simple: treat your people right and good things will happen.

    Not only do we serve and care about our people, but we empower them to use common sense and good judgment. Yes, we have written rules and procedures, and you can go look at them, but we say to our folks every day, “The rules are guidelines. We can’t sit in Dallas, Texas, and write a rule for every single scenario you’re going to run into. You’re out there. You’re dealing with the public. You can tell in any given situation when a rule should be bent or broken. You can tell because it’s simply the right thing to do in the situation you are facing."

    We have had pilots pay for hotel rooms because our customers were getting off at different cities than they intended for the night, and the pilots could see the people needed help. They don’t call and ask, “Is it OK? Will I get reimbursed?” They do these things because that’s the kind of people they are.

    Servant leadership and empowering your people is not soft management. It is management that not only gets great results but generates great human satisfaction for both employees and customers.

    What is the connection between trust and servant leadership?

    Answered by Stephen M. R. Covey, co-founder of CoveyLink and the FranklinCovey Global Speed of Trust Practice, author of "The Speed of Trust" and co-author of "Smart Trust"

    Stephen M.R. Covey

    Covey (Credit:
    Nan Palmero/Flickr)

    The practices of servant leadership and trust are inextricably linked. I find it difficult to talk about serving without talking about trust—and vice versa.

    First, the defining outcome for the servant leader is trust. If you lead as a servant, you’ll know it—you will be surrounded by high-trust relationships and a high-trust team, and your company will reap the dividends of a high-trust organization.

    Trust and servant leadership are both built on intent. The clear intent of a servant leader is to serve others. The deliberate behavior of the servant leader is authentic, trust-building behavior—the place where conviction becomes real, where intent becomes a potent force for value-creating change, and where the leader can make intentional moves for the purpose of establishing a servant leadership culture.

    The strong bias of the servant leader is to extend trust to others—to start with trust. The positional leader seeks to control, but the servant leader seeks to unleash talent and creativity by extending trust because the servant leader fundamentally believes deeply in others and in their potential.

    And, the purpose of the servant leader is contribution—to make a difference; to give back. The positional leader serves the bottom line, or the self. The servant leader serves something greater, which inspires trust not only in the leader but potentially in all of society, as well.

    Trust and servant leadership are simple disciplines, but they are not easy. In fact, they are hard. Both trust and servant leadership require the full engagement of the leader as well as the courage to set aside self-serving pursuits in the service of other people and higher outcomes.

    How can a tough leader still be a servant leader?

    Answered by Tamika Catchings, retired WNBA player, 2011 WNBA MVP and 10-time All Star, four-time Olympic gold medalist, and former University of Tennessee Lady Volunteer under coach Pat Summitt.

    Tamika Catchings

    Catchings (Credit: 14_AllState Goodworks - 10/Flickr)

    When I think of servant leadership, I think of Pat Summitt, my basketball coach at the University of Tennessee from 1997 to 2001. Pat was more than our coach. She was our friend, our mentor, our mother, our inspiration—and a true servant leader. Pat passed away on June 28, 2016, but she will be a part of me forever. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t feel her impact on my life.

    I was in eighth grade when I first laid eyes on Pat Summitt. I was home from school, sitting on the couch channel-surfing, and suddenly it happened. Those icy blue eyes were staring at me from the screen. She was stomping up and down the sidelines, yelling to her team, staring them down and demanding respect. My first thought was, "Whoa! That lady is intense!" But my next thought was, "Wow, if I ever get good enough, I want to play for her." One minute, she would be shooting that steely glare, and the next minute, she would be smiling and grabbing one of the players in a bear hug.

    Every day at UT, Pat drilled into us her team-first philosophy: it’s not about you—it’s about the team. It’s just like life; you need your people around you to be successful and to help you get through it. Pat was an extremely humble person who never gravitated toward the spotlight. She would always turn it around and shine it on her players. Despite her legendary glare, stomping, and shouting, Pat’s ultimate goal and purpose was to help each of us be better—not just better players, but better people. That’s the kind of person and the kind of leader she was—a servant first.

    The world is in desperate need of a different leadership role model. We have seen the negative impact of self-serving leaders in every sector of society around the world. I hope you will not only implement servant leadership in your organization but also spread the word to everyone who will listen. I believe that someday everyone, everywhere will be influenced by a servant leader—or become one,.God bless.


    Ken Blanchard is one of the most influential leadership experts in the world and co-author of more than 65 books, including the groundbreaking best-seller "The One Minute Manager." His books have combined sales of more than 21 million copies in 42 languages. In addition to being a renowned speaker and consultant, Blanchard is co-founder and chief spiritual officer of The Ken Blanchard Cos., an international training and consulting firm started by Ken and his wife, Margie, in 1979. His new book, "Servant Leadership in Action," is a collection of essays from 44 of today’s top servant leadership authorities and practitioners. Learn more.

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    8 ways to become a more approachable leader

    The most effective leaders draw people to them. You know from your own career that while tough, stoic leaders may be revered or even feared, they don’t have that gravitas to build a truly great team of high performers.

    If you want to ensure that your reputation for openness precedes you, read on for tips to improve your approachability.

    Greet everyone

    Just saying “good morning” builds your reputation in small increments every day. When you greet everyone warmly day in and day out, you convey that people matter to you. You let the office know that yesterday’s tensions are in the past and you’re ready to meet them all today for fresh new discussions.

    Don’t be choosy with who you acknowledge -- greet those you don’t work with directly, including the clerical and maintenance staff, if you really want to say, “people matter.”


    • Learn people’s names, and use them
    • Make eye contact


    • Ask faux rhetorical questions, like “hey, how are you?” when you don’t have time for a real answer

    Show you care

    People are drawn to those who share a genuine care and concern for others. Set aside time in your week to check in with your team. Ask how about their tasks, about barriers they’ve encountered, about troubling factors and distractions from outside work.

    Demonstrating that you care -- even when everything is going right -- makes it easier for people to come to you when they really need your help.


    • Give your full, undivided attention
    • Ask follow-up questions
    • Reflect and recap what you’ve heard


    • Take on every issue or problem as your own; instead, encourage suggestions on ways to move forward
    • Ask only when you know there’s a problem

    Offer help

    Asking “how can I help?” is a powerful tool in the effective leader’s toolkit. This simple phrase conveys so much -- it signals that you’re listening and are willing to aid in the solution. It encourages strategic problem-solving and offers up intervention only where requested, empowering others instead of taking over.


    • Allow people to fully answer before offering your own suggestions
    • Be clear on next steps
    • Follow up with actions you’ve agreed to


    • Simply take on tasks; instead, clear barriers and empower others.

    Ask for help

    Similarly, asking for help is something that great leaders do, and do regularly. The less experienced might incorrectly think that taking the lead means never requiring assistance. Most people genuinely do want to help -- it’s human nature. Asking for help provides opportunity for others to shine in addition to making sure you get the best solution and the right person doing the job. 


    • Be specific about the problem you’re trying to solve and/or the kind of help you need


    • Always ask the same people; share opportunity with your entire team.

    Have a sense of humor

    There are times that require absolute seriousness, and those that require levity. The best leaders know when to crack a smile, when to add in a joke and when to just laugh along with everyone else. There’s no science to it, so think about the leaders you’ve admired in the past and their approach to humor in the workplace.


    • Be willing to laugh at the situation
    • Use a little humor to break tension


    • Use cutting humor at anyone’s expense
    • Be too self-deprecating; it can be uncomfortable and make others jump to your defense

    Be optimistic

    One key leadership quality that is showing up more often on companies’ “most desirable” list is optimism. It can be tempting to express frustration and cynicism in the face of challenge, but great leaders can acknowledge that there are troubles, while expressing confidence in the team to make the most of it and get things done.

    Believe in a better future, and then help make it happen. People are drawn to others with a positive outlook.


    • Stay positive whenever possible
    • Acknowledge issues, but commit to helping find solutions


    • Be disingenuous. When situations aren’t ideal, it’s still possible to believe in the ability to overcome or recover and to plan better for the future.

    Make time to chat

    It may seem most effective to be all business, all the time, but good leadership includes making time to connect with others on a personal level. Get to know people, discuss nonwork matters and ask about them and the things they care about.

    This doesn’t have to take up a large portion of your day and can often be done in the small moments near the coffee machine or the walk to and from a meeting.


    • Follow up from previous conversations – ask about kids, trips, activities. Show you’re invested in what they say


    • Forget those who don’t seek you out or cross your path regularly. Make sure to ask after the team members who are more quiet or out-of-the-way

    Loosen up

    There’s always going to be some separation between leaders and those who work with them. While your role may be more formal, try not to bring that rigidity into your demeanor -- people are more likely to approach those who seem more familiar and on their level. When you can, ditch the tie or the formal attire in addition to the formal attitude.


    • Be casual, but not shabby


    • Fixate on hierarchy; think of your role as leader as facilitator, not dictator.

    People are most likely to resonate with a leader who feels at their level but with the power to make their jobs easier and more successful. Teams want someone who will help figure out how to do things better and then help make that happen, not someone to assign work and finish tasks for them.

    If you want to be approachable, think of the ways you can encourage others to come to you when they need you most. Oftentimes, that will be by making time for them even when they don’t.


    Joel Garfinkle conducts executive coaching and is the author of "Getting Ahead." Garfinkle recently worked with an executive who was faced with building relationships with an entirely new staff, whose prior boss was a closed-door, remote vice president. By working with Garfinkle to make herself approachable, she was able to draw the team to her and build a high-functioning team. More than 10,000 people subscribe to his FulfillmentATWork newsletter. If you sign up, you’ll receive the free e-book “41 Proven Strategies to Get Promoted Now!” His website has over 300 free articles on leadership, workplace issues and career advancement.

    If you enjoyed this article, join SmartBrief’s e-mail list for our daily newsletter on being a better, smarter leader. We also have more than 200 industry-focused newsletters, all free to sign up.