“You’re amazing!” How to win this rare praise

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 Cheryl Bachelder.

Gallup has been reporting for nearly 20 years that employees rarely hear the words “thank you” from their supervisors. Similarly, I can assure you, CEOs rarely hear the words “you’re amazing …” from the people they work for either. If you are a leader, you know this already -- appreciation is in short supply.

But I’m a realist and a former public-company CEO. If I were you, I wouldn’t hold my breath for the “you’re amazing” email from your board or your supervisor. But I do want to encourage you wherever you serve as a leader. There is a way to be appreciated and valued in your role. It’s simple, but powerful. Here’s what you do: Serve the people in your company well.

Here are three ways you do just that. And your team will thank you for it.

Choose a bold strategy to win

Your team wants to win big. It’s just more fun than small, slow improvements. But too often, the turbulent times breed fear of bold strategies. Leaders at every level choose the “less risky” path – so we don’t have to convince our bosses to make the big investments. It’s easier to do the closer-in, incremental improvements, that everyone is more comfortable with.

Your team hates this idea of the “safe” strategy. They know the truth. Without the brave strategy to win, they lose. Slow success doesn’t yield “the land of opportunity” for the people. So why not give them the big, bold plan to win, risk and all?

Here’s just one example of a bold strategy to win from the restaurant sector. Former CEO Patrick Doyle led Domino’s Pizza through a bold strategic move -- shifting from a pure delivery advantage to a technology advantage and the results have been amazing. Domino's is now the “Google” of pizza companies and years ahead of their competition. Restaurant owners and employees will proudly tell you how good it feels to be part of this win.

Invest in people capability

Your team wants you to invest in their potential. They think that will have an incredible return. Iimagine bringing out the best performance of every human in the enterprise. How cool an idea is that? And have you read all the best-selling books, boss? It actually does have an amazing ROI.

You understand ROI, right? If you needed to build a new factory to keep up with the cost structure of the competition, you would promptly develop the business case with proven ROI. Why not make the case for an investment in your people?

Best-in-class people capability in the restaurant industry? Chick-Fil-A. They make the investment. And you can see it in the results. Best ROI in the industry.

Have courage of your convictions

Your team wants to know what you truly believe, whether it's in work and this world. What are the unchanging truths that you rely on in leadership? What are your convictions about the game-changing actions required to get results? They would love it if you’d be really transparent about these views. It’s easier to follow leaders we truly know and understand.

My observation is that it is tough to maintain the courage of your convictions in leadership. It’s a battle to stand up and defend your convictions to all the different stakeholders you face. It can feel like an unwinnable battle, perhaps even a waste of time. But don’t listen to those voices in your head; listen to your team.

My friend Bob always says, “The people are looking for your weakness -- and praying for your strength.” There are always people on the sidelines criticizing your leadership. But your team, they are praying that you are the superstar they’ve been waiting for to drive success.

Let’s answer those prayers and lead with the courage of our convictions. Your team will be the ones who tell you “you’re amazing!” when you show them the path to superior results.

Serve them well.


Cheryl Bachelder is the CEO who led the turnaround of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen from 2007-17. She is the author of the best-selling book "Dare to Serve: How to drive superior results by serving others." She blogs at Serving Performs.

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for SmartBrief’s free e-mails on leadership and career development, among SmartBrief's more than 200 industry-focused newsletters.

How much impact can you have?

Generating impact through better management is integral to organizational success.

Here are three questions to evaluate your impact.

  1. How are you making things better for people? Put simply, if you cannot manage, you cannot lead. Effective managers set clear goals and help people achieve them. They stand ready to support and to evaluate for results.
  2. How are you making things better for the organization? Alignment with strategic intentions is essential to managerial effectiveness. When a department is not in alignment, it gets crosswise with the larger organization.
  3. How can you continue to expand your impact? This question gets to the heart of what you can do to improve your ability to manage yourself. Are you keeping abreast professionally?

As a manager, you have influence over others. How you employ that influence creates impact.

Your leadership depends upon your ability to manage well, including bringing out the best in people on your team.

What you do matters to people as well as to the organizations they serve.

John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership educator and executive coach. In 2018, Trust Across America honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award in Trust. Also in 2018, Inc.com named Baldoni a Top 100 Leadership Speaker. Global Gurus ranked him No. 22 on its list of top 30 global experts, a list he has been on since 2007. In 2014, Inc.com named Baldoni to its list of top 50 leadership experts. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including his newest, “MOXIE: The Secret to Bold and Gutsy Leadership.”

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for SmartBrief’s free e-mail on leadership and communication, among SmartBrief's more than 200 industry-focused newsletters.


The problem with intrinsic motivation

What are you intrinsically motivated to do? Isn’t it wonderful? You don’t need a good reason or reward to do what you are doing when you’re intrinsically motivated. You are in a state of flow where time flies and you have no idea where it went. “In the zone,” you generate positive energy and creativity. Abundant research proves the glory of intrinsic motivation.

Sounds great, but chances are you face one or more of these three problems:

  1. Intrinsic motivation is rare. Especially at work. How often during your day do you say, "I’d do this even if I wasn’t getting paid?"
  2. If you are not intrinsically motivated, your default option is usually extrinsic motivation. That leaves you foraging for carrots (money, rewards, praising, power, status, prizes) proven to have just the opposite effect as intrinsic motivation. You may experience a burst of energy, but it’s not the kind of energy that promotes creativity or well-being. And, it dissipates quickly, leaving you starving for more carrots just to keep going.
  3. You don’t know what you are intrinsically motivated by.

To nurture your intrinsic motivation, consider these ideas.

Begin by looking backwards

Most of us discovered intrinsically motivating activities early in life. Remember what you loved doing as a kid, if you had a choice, on a Saturday morning or summer day.

For example, I spent hot summer days sitting on the grass, writing childish poetry in my Big Chief tablet. I spent hours making little workbooks and preparing taped recordings to teach my younger siblings to read and write (even though they never asked me to). Teachers consistently gave me “Unsatisfactory” comments on grade school report cards, citing “Susie talks too much during quiet time.” I obviously loved to talk.

Today, I write books, create leadership workshops and speak for a living. I can’t tell you why I love to write, teach or speak, but I do, regardless of there being a promise of money or reward.

What have you always loved to do for the simple enjoyment of it, even if the reason you love doing it is a mystery to you? Can you identify at least one activity that you loved as a child that you still make time to do as an adult? To help stimulate awareness of your intrinsic motivation, try these techniques.

Be bored

When was the last time you had time on your hands, wondering what to do because nothing was planned or expected of you? Edward Deci, the father of intrinsic motivation, has long lamented that we over-program our lives, robbing ourselves of the discretionary time to be bored. Deci knows that the truth about motivation is that no one wants to be bored, so we find ways to entertain ourselves. And that’s when we discover our intrinsic motivation: what we enjoy doing simply because of our inherent interest in doing it.

Next time you have an unplanned moment, leave it that way. Keep an empty space on your calendar without an expectation of how you are going to fill it. Even if it’s 30 minutes. Then notice the activities you gravitate toward. 

If you have time in your life, notice what do you want to do with it. If you can indulge it, great. Bake that cake, build that bookshelf, paint, sing, dance, or read.

But, even if you don’t have the time or aren’t able to indulge in the moment, recognize your yearning and take note of it. Your discretionary time can reveal the things you are intrinsically motivated to do. If you’re on an airplane, on vacation with a block of unplanned time, or with a rare free afternoon on a weekend, notice if you have an intense longing. Your down time can remind you of what you love doing.

Think intrinsically at work

When you have identified activities, find ways of integrating them into your work. How can you link what you enjoy with everyday tasks? If you enjoy writing, practice your skill when returning emails. If you love to read, make the time to explore journals related to your work. If you’re hooked on detective novels, consider a work-related problem as your next case. If you love baking, organize a bake sale for charity at work.

Do a friend, team member and your kids a favor

Help them discover their intrinsic motivation. I remember fearing that if my boss caught me reading at work, I’d be branded as lazy. Don’t be that boss -- or parent. Don’t perpetuate the myth that you need to drive productivity through pressure and constant motion. Instead, encourage your friends, team members and kids to take mindful moments. Talk to them about their work, school and personal interests. Helping someone discover their intrinsic motivation is a lifelong gift.

Finally, remember that intrinsic motivation is just one of three ways to be optimally motivated. If intrinsic motivation eludes you in the moment, don’t default to extrinsic motivation. Motivation research proves that doing what you love is a joy, but aligning what you do with important values and a sense of purpose will still generate the positive energy you need to be creative and productive -- and could prove even more meaningful.

You can learn more about the science of motivation from the Self-Determination Theory website and here.

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 SusanFowler.com

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for SmartBrief’s free e-mail on leadership and managment, among SmartBrief's more than 200 industry-focused newsletters.


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!"

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for SmartBrief’s free e-mails on leadership and career growth, among SmartBrief's more than 200 industry-focused newsletters.

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.

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for SmartBrief’s free e-mail on leadership and communication, among SmartBrief's more than 200 industry-focused newsletters.

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 SusanFowler.com

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for SmartBrief’s free e-mail on leadership and managment, among SmartBrief's more than 200 industry-focused newsletters.

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."

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for SmartBrief’s free e-mails on career growth and leadership, among SmartBrief's more than 200 industry-focused newsletters.

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!"

    If you enjoyed this article, sign up for SmartBrief’s free e-mail on leadership, among SmartBrief's more than 200 industry-focused newsletters.

    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.

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

    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.  

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