How Hiking Supports Strategic Thinking and Reflection

This post is written by guest Damian Taylor as a companion to interview with Ken Wylie, Outdoor Adventures, A School for Leadership and Discovery his interview, on the Voice America Radio Show, “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on July 24, 2018.

As leaders, many of us struggle to find time to refresh our bodies, minds and spirits. I have been a hiker now for decades. Some of my most interesting vacations involved what were for me epic hiking trips such as climbing Kilimanjaro and hiking the Incan Trail. My next target is hiking a portion of the Camino.

As a leader, someone who is generally over committed with tasks and who values taking time to reflect, I find that waking daily and periodic hikes really support my overall success. I have engaged in walking meetings for years and on occasion actually do more hiking that walking meetings. These are with people I want to have indepth interactions with, often of a strategic nature.

This article talks about the benefit of hiking to address anxiety and depression along with building resilience. I want to point out that a significant percentage of our workforce struggles with these issues and we know that being out in the natural world can help address some of the symptoms. Whether you are attending to anxiety or taking time for reflection and strategic thinking, or doing both, hiking is a great option!

Anxiety and depression are incredibly common ailments of 21st Century humans. But while there are a number of different treatments for these illnesses (and you should always discuss your symptoms with your doctor and seek the treatment he or she recommends), too many people overlook one of the best: hiking.

Hiking is often very effective for easing anxiety and depression, and it is a treatment option that is accessible to the vast majority of people. In fact, there are a number of reasons hiking is such an excellent way to feel better, which we’ll outline below.

Exercise Promotes Brain Health

Hiking is a fantastic form of exercise that provides a variety of benefits for your body. It’ll help you lose weight while simultaneously strengthening your muscles. And if you keep at it for long enough, it’ll likely help lower your blood pressure and reduce your chances of suffering from strokes, diabetes or heart disease.

But while these benefits are all clearly valuable, exercise also helps to promote a healthy brain too. If your hikes are strenuous enough to elevate your heart rate and cause you to sweat a bit, they’ll likely help increase the size of your hippocampus – the portion of the brain associated with verbal memory and learning.

Exercise also causes the body to release growth factors – chemicals that help encourage blood vessel development in the brain and support the production of healthy brain cells. And don’t worry, you needn’t hike for very long to start enjoying improved brain health; research shows that even a 20-minute hike can improve the way your brain processes information.

Hiking Is Easy to Do and Affordable

Unlike so many other treatments for anxiety and depression, hiking is available to just about everyone, regardless of your location or tax bracket.

Most Americans probably live within a short drive of at least one hiking trail, even if it is nothing more than a 1-mile loop around the local park. You may have to do a bit of digging to find longer, more challenging or more scenic trails, but you’ll still likely find multiple options within driving distance.

Additionally, hiking rarely costs much – if anything – at all. Some trails require you to pay for parking or for entry to the park, but even these typically offer “frequent use” passes, which will allow you to enjoy the park or trails for very little money. You may also have to purchase a water bottle and pair of hiking boots, but with a bit of effort, you can likely find these things at very affordable prices.

Hiking Helps You to Disconnect from Day-to-Day Life

Chances are, you are constantly barraged by stimuli from the moment you wake up until the moment your head hits the pillow. Your phone, TV and radio constantly buzz with messages, information and entertainment, and you probably don’t have much time to quietly reflect on your thoughts.

But to get away from all of this, all you need to do is strap on your hiking boots and hit the trail. In contrast to our neighborhoods, homes and offices, wilderness areas are generally quiet and peaceful. This helps you to shed some of the stress caused by daily life. Disconnecting from your day-to-day life in this way can be very restorative and help reduce your anxiety and depression.

Obviously, you should still bring your phone along with you for safety’s sake, but maybe you should turn off the ringer for a while – at least until you get back to your car.

Hiking Provides Perspective

Often, anxiety and depression cause people to lose sight of the big picture. Instead of enjoying life, people struggling with depression or anxiety become stuck focusing on the small challenges, failures and disappointments that happen on a daily basis. But hiking in natural settings can help you bust out of this rut and gain a bit of perspective.

If, for example, you find yourself overwhelmed by a big work project coming up, you may find that a hike through your local mountains will help you remember that the project is just a tiny part of your life, and that there is a big beautiful world out there waiting for you to enjoy it.

Hiking Helps You to Build Resilience and Self-Confidence

If you hike for long enough, you’ll surely experience a tough day on the trail. Your feet may blister, you may get lost, or you may find that the trail you chose was a bit too strenuous. But chances are, you’ll find some way to tough out the hike, and overcome these challenges.

This will help build resilience and boost your self-confidence in profound ways. In truth, any challenge you face and overcome will help in both of these respects, but doing so in the natural world often provides the most profound results.

Just be sure that you don’t take this concept too far. It’s always good to challenge yourself and set increasingly difficult goals as you progress, but you must keep safety in mind. Always keep a cell phone on you so you can contact help if you need it and let someone know when you’ll be returning.

You Only Compete Against Yourself: There’s No Pressure to Perform

Many people understand the health benefits that exercise provides, but they aren’t interested in engaging in an implicitly or explicitly competitive pursuit, such as joining the local softball league or gym. This is certainly understandable – especially when you are already feeling depressed or anxious.

But hiking is a fantastic exercise, that lacks the competitive aspects that many of these other types of exercise feature. You are only competing against yourself and – to a lesser extent – Mother Nature. You get to celebrate those times you hike a bit further or complete a loop a bit faster; and yet your tough days, when you don’t perform quite as well, will remain your secret.

Additionally, it doesn’t matter if you go out and hike 1 mile a week or 50 miles a week – the only person you have to impress while you’re hiking is yourself.

Hiking Relieves Stress

Stress is often a contributing factor to anxiety and depression, so anything you can do to help relieve stress should help you feel a bit better. Hiking definitely fits this bill, as it not only provides great exercise (which helps to relieve stress too), but it takes place in gorgeous natural settings.

Scientists have even found that spending time in nature – even simply looking at nature – helps relieve stress and recharge your mind, body and soul. In fact, looking at a natural setting helps reduce pain and accelerate the healing process. And if you hike with a friend or loved one, you’ll often find this helps alleviate your stress even more thoroughly.

As you can see, hiking provides myriad benefits to those battling with anxiety or depression. So, find your closest trail and start trekking. Don’t forget to discuss your anxiety and depression with your doctor (and make sure you are healthy enough to begin hiking if you aren’t normally active), but you’ll likely find that regular hikes are exactly what the doctor ordered.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

What is a Culture of Innovation and Continuous Learning?

Nimble CultureThis blog is a companion to the interview with Guru Vasudeva on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on April 18, 2017 Nationwide’s Journey to Create a Culture of Innovation and Continuous learning.

Carla’s company had just decided that being agile would create a strategic advantage for them as a company shifting from manufacturing technology to a company that wanted to compete in the data and analytics space. One of the key challenges they needed to address was to shift from a culture of manufacturing for the telecom industry toward a high-tech culture of agility. The first task was to define the cultural principles and agreements about behavior. This blog offers some of the key principles they used to inform their transformation.

To successfully implement an agile or innovative business model, the organizational culture and behavioral agreements need to support agility. This culture model is a product of a combination of Agile software development principles combined with other innovative culture models. Each company will refine culture to align with their specific organization. Culture can make the difference between successful implementation and failure, especially when the organization is making a major change. This is particularly true when organizations move from a more traditional culture to one associated with agility and innovation. This culture model looks at five key elements that we consider foundational to create an environment and agreements that support agility and innovation in a rapidly changing environment.

  1. Customer first. Organizations that are willing to listen to customer recommendations and have a process to evaluate those recommendations have the highest probability of retaining customers and staying ahead of the competition. We create an environment in which we encourage our customers to offer recommendations and we evaluate them systematically to see how we can use them to become more effective.
  2. Collaborative. Organizations that work cross-functionally can create prototypes much more quickly than environments that work sequentially. This means every group and person must consistently have an opportunity to contribute their expertise. It also means we create an environment in which people feel safe to express their perspective.
  3. Rigorous experimentation. We value the creative process. We encourage people to develop hypotheses about how to make changes and test their ideas. We continually learn from controlled and well-crafted experiments. We reward innovation and learning.
  4. Nimble decision making. We recognize that we don’t have perfect information and a decision today can be refined as we learn from our experiments later. In an environment of continual evolution, we will never have full information and often we won’t even have sufficient information to make a long-term decision, but we often have enough information to decide about our next step. We need to know our long-term direction, and reward making decisions and keeping an open mind to revising course when we gain additional information.
  5. Resilient. We value adaptability, flexibility, and curiosity as they are the fuel for our process. Ongoing change requires we build a foundation of well-being that supports ongoing creativity and change. Resilient people respond to situations with an attitude of curiosity and the ability to act with flexibility and adaptability.

We recommend these elements as general guiding principles and corresponding agreements about how we work together as colleagues. When organizations have explicit agreements such as these, they can drive behavior and ensure that organizational processes are aligned. This alignment is as important as having principles and agreements. An example of alignment is retrospective meetings (also called lessons learned meetings) where employees are expected to explore what worked and what did not. These meetings only work if employees are rewarded for sharing what they’ve learned and not punished for making mistakes.

If you are trying to create a culture of agility and innovation, these are some of the elements we recommend you explore.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

About the author Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

 

Building Wellbeing Builds Effective Leaders

This blog, written by part of a series of blogs as companions to the interview with three renowned experts from The Ohio State University.  Rustin M. Moore, DVM, PhD, DACVS, the dean and Ruth Stanton Chair of Veterinary Medicine in the Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM).  Second is Bernadette Mazurek Melnyk, PhD, RN, CPNP/PMHNP, FAANP, FNAP, FAAN, VP for Health Promotion, University Chief Wellness Officer, Professor and Dean of the College of Nursing at The Ohio State University, and Professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at OSU’s College of Medicine. She’s an internationally recognized expert in evidence-based practice, intervention research, child & adolescent mental health, and health & wellness, and is a frequent keynote speaker at national/international conferences on these topics. Third, Jen Brandt, MSW, LISW-S, PhD, Director of CVM Counseling and Consultation is leading the effort to provide veterinary professionals with the communication, interpersonal and teamwork skills essential to quality veterinary care, veterinary career success, and life satisfaction on VoiceAmerica “Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations” on April 4, 2017 focusing on exploring the impact of mental health concerns in the general workplace and or veterinarians and vet students. It is designed to remove the stigma about getting help and equip colleagues and bosses have some idea for addressing it. The participants discuss general data on prevalence of mental health issues within the general population, veterinary data on prevalence of mental health issues within profession and veterinary students and factors to these issues in society in general and finally recommendations to identify issues and address them.

What is wellbeing?

According to Dodge et al., wellbeing is when “individuals have the psychological, social and physical resources they need to meet a particular psychological, social and/or physical challenge.” 1 Wellbeing includes “…the presence of positive emotions…the absence of negative emotions…satisfaction with life, fulfillment and positive functioning.” 2

Why is wellbeing important?

With all of our best intentions, it can be difficult to slow down and tune in to what we need to walk the tightrope between resources and challenges. Our drive to succeed can come at a cost to ourselves and others. We may yearn for simplicity and yet struggle to find it. We rationally understand the importance of balance, yet many of us may be hard pressed at times to achieve it or maintain it. It’s a worthwhile endeavor, however, as wellbeing is associated with numerous individual, family, and community related benefits including decreased risk for injury, illness, or disease; enhanced immune functioning; and increased longevity. Individuals with high levels of wellbeing are more productive and more able to contribute to their communities. 2

A Wellbeing Framework

Wellbeing stems from an interactive relationship between various dimensions of wellness. There is no single perfect plan for wellbeing. Rather, there is an entire spectrum of useful strategies and the optimal plan for one person will likely change over time. What “works” on a given day is dependent on a number of variables including environment, individual preferences, personal accountability, available resources, strengths, interests, and life phase.

The essential skills of being a whole, healthy veterinary professional include intentional integration of the following dimensions: 3

Occupational Wellness

The professionally well person engages in work to gain personal satisfaction and enrichment, consistent with values, goals, and lifestyle.

Intellectual Wellness

The intellectually well person values lifelong learning and seeks to foster critical thinking, develop moral reasoning, expand worldviews, and engage in education for the pursuit of knowledge.

Spiritual Wellness

The spiritually well person seeks harmony and balance by openly exploring the depth of human purpose, meaning, and connection through dialogue and self-reflection.

Social Wellness

The socially well person has a network of support based on interdependence, mutual trust, respect and has developed a sensitivity and awareness towards the feelings of others.

Emotional Wellness

The emotionally well person can identify, express, and manage the entire range of feelings and would consider seeking assistance to address areas of concern.

Physical Wellness

The physically well person gets an adequate amount of sleep, eats a balanced and nutritious diet, engages in exercise for 150 minutes per week, attends regular medical check-ups, limits use of intoxicating substances, and practices safe and healthy sexual relations.

Financial Wellness

The financially well person is fully aware of personal financial states and budgets, saves, and manages finances in order to achieve realistic goals.

Creative Wellness

The creatively well person values and actively participates in a diverse range of arts and cultural experiences as a means to understand and appreciate the surrounding world.

Environmental Wellness

The environmentally well person recognizes the responsibility to preserve, protect, and improve the environment and appreciates the interconnectedness of nature and the individual.

Putting Wellness Into Practice

Exercise One: Raise awareness. Find a quiet location to write about the following:

  • For each dimension of wellness, which do you currently have the resources to adequately meet the challenges?
  • For which dimensions are additional resources needed to adequately meet the challenges?
  • Rank each dimension in the order you value them, with 1 being the highest value to you, and 9 being the least value to you.
  • Reflecting on your rankings, which dimensions receive most of your time, energy, and attention? Which dimensions receive the least? Is there a gap between the dimensions you value the most and the ones that receive most of your time? If so, what are your thoughts about that?
  • If there is a mismatch between the dimensions you value most and the dimensions that receive more of your time and energy, what’s one small step you can take today to bring your values and behaviors into closer alignment?

Exercise Two: Three-Good-Things Writing Exercise

Dr. Martin Seligman is a leading authority in the fields of Positive Psychology, resilience, learned helplessness, depression, optimism and pessimism. He reports that within 6 months of engaging in this simple habit, you’ll statistically have less depression, less anxiety, and higher life satisfaction. 4

Write down three good things that you experience each day. (You can use the 9 dimensions of wellness as a foundation for the topics you write about). The three things can be small in importance (“I took time to sit down and chew my food. I didn’t multitask during lunch.”) or big (“I decided to hire a business coach!!!”). Next to each positive event, write about one of the following: “What does this mean to you?” “How can you have more of this good thing in the future?” 5

Big changes are the result of many small changes applied consistently over time. So, start small. Monitor what you value the most and where you spend most of your time and energy. When values and behaviors are out of alignment, get curious. Keep a notebook with you and jot down 3 good things each day until it becomes a habit.

About the Author

Jen Brandt, MSW, LISW-S, PhD, Director of CVM Counseling and Consultation is leading the effort to provide veterinary professionals with the communication, interpersonal and teamwork skills essential to quality veterinary care, veterinary career success, and life satisfaction. Her professional coaching, consultation and interpersonal skills training offer applied learning opportunities to increase self-awareness, improve wellness and resilience, resolve conflict, and enhance veterinary team communication.

She is a nationally and internationally acclaimed guest lecturer at veterinary colleges and conferences and has served as a master trainer and facilitator for the Institute for Healthcare Communication since 2003. She began working with The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1997 and currently serves as the Director of CVM Counseling and Consultation Services.

  1. Dodge R, Daly A, Huyton J, Sanders L. (2012). The challenge of defining wellbeing. International Journal of Wellbeing. 2012;2(3): 222-235.
  2. Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQOL). Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/hrqol/wellbeing.htm.Published May 27, 2016. Accessed January 2017.
  3. 9 dimensions of Wellness. Student Wellness Center. Office of Student Life. The Ohio State University. https://swc.osu.edu/about-us/9-dimensions-of-wellness. Published 2017. Adapted with permission January 2017.
  4. Seligman M. Resilience training for educators. Authentic happiness. University of Pennsylvania. https://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu/es/learn/educatorresilience. Published 2017. Accessed January 2017.
  5. The PERMA Model: Your scientific theory of happiness. Positive Psychology Program. https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/perma-model/#seligman-perma-model. Published June 19, 2015. Accessed January 2017.

Maximizing Team Interactions: Moving Beyond the Lowest Common Denominator’s Reign

Building Thriving TeamsThis blog is drawn from a paper published by Jim Ritchie-Dunham & Maureen Metcalf, Co-hosting: Creating Optimal Experience for Team Interactions, Integral Leadership Review, November 2016. Jim and Maureen also recorded a Voice America Interview airing on February 14, 2017.

Christopher, the CEO, walked into a planning session with the intent of getting his full team on the same page for how to move key initiatives forward for the upcoming year. His leaders were all in alignment on the core purpose of the organization and how to accomplish it. During the discussion, everyone gave unbiased input intended to move the organization forward irrespective of personal interest. Christopher was highly skilled at understanding the point of view of all participants and synthesizing the various points of view of his trusted leaders to create solutions everyone could support.

Does this scenario describe your normal business meetings? How is it different?

We would like to explore the idea that groups can leverage the skills of individuals across five key perspectives and create an environment in which each participant operates at his greatest level of contribution. We call this the alchemy of co-hosting, whereby the co-host, in conjunction with the participants, invokes a very different mindset and process for the team to function.

The Challenge

“Less than one-third of U.S. employees have been engaged in their jobs and workplaces [since 2000]. According to Gallup Daily tracking, 32% of employees in the U.S. are engaged — meaning they are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace. Worldwide, only 13% of employees working for an organization are engaged.” – Gallup

Much of our work is done within teams comprised of many highly effective and highly compensated people. We have found that these teams often function at the level of the least common denominator. Many people, especially leaders, move from meeting to meeting all day, every day. They often do this with little awareness of the specific role they play in the meeting and the value they bring. This is the culture of many organizations. When asking a cohort of vibrancy community members what they experienced in these teams, they suggested that while the participants were generally strong employees with good skills, they were often disengaged and some actively disrupted the work or found ways to interfere with the meeting goals. In some cases, the participants did this as passive aggressive response, and in some worse cases, did it just for personal entertainment. So, what is the antidote to this high level of disengagement considering five key factors other than the highest rank present? How do we capture the highest level of input from each person to create a higher level “field” of operation than any individual would have access to by working alone?

The Approach

We look at five different perspectives or measures of intelligence, then explore how the art of co-hosting can leverage all five intelligences of the participants to create an environment that calls forth the greatest possible capacity in the group.

The five perspectives are:

  • Leadership maturity – describes how adults mature throughout their lifespan, attending to ever increasing levels of complexity in their thinking, emotions, and behaviors
  • State development – describes where people focus their attention ranging from what is immediately in front of them to what is abstract and spiritual
  • Years of experience
  • Skill to identify the perspectives in the room
  • Co-hosting skill – the ability to identify the perspectives in the room and create an environment and approach that leverages the maturity, state, and skills of the participants

It is interesting to note that each of these perspectives is important for an organization to create holistic solutions to the many complex challenges they face. For that reason, it is important to recognize each of these perspectives and be able to identify, recruit, and create environments that genuinely leverage the gifts of each.

By integrating the five perspectives individually, an effective co-host can create the “container” or space to leverage each to the participants’ greatest potential rather than the traditional lowest common denominator.

Summary

During this era of increased complexity and accelerated need for change, it is imperative that we identify methods and processes to help us navigate the challenges we face. Optimally, these methods and processes would create the greatest impact for all involved—creating an optimal experience for the individuals and a holistic solution for the organizations or groups involved.

We believe that the solution integrates a solid process that integrates five key perspectives and a presence of being within the co-host to create the desired outcome. Both elements are critical.

We have an opportunity to enhance the experience and the impact we have in trying to solve problems. By building the capacity to co-host and using this process, we increase the probability of solving our most complex problems and enjoying the process. Knowing that this is possible helps us regain hope that we as a society can resolve the mounting list of intractable problems we hear of every day on the news.

Authors

Jim Ritchie-Dunham is president of the Institute for Strategic Clarity, a global research nonprofit, president of Vibrancy Ins., LLC, a global consultancy and publisher, president of the private operating foundation the Academy for Self-Discovery Leadership, an adjunct faculty member in Harvard’s program in sustainability leadership, and Adjunct Professor of Business Economics in the ITAM Business School in Mexico City.

Jim authored Ecosynomics: The Science of Abundance (2014), co-authored Managing from Clarity: Identifying, Aligning and Leveraging Strategic Resources (2001), has written many articles on systemic strategy for academic and practitioner journals, and blogs regularly at jlrd.me.

As a student of human agreements, Jim Ritchie-Dunham brings over 25 years of research and insights gleaned from working with groups of all make-ups.  Jim named Ecosynomics, the emerging social science of the agreements that guide human interactions. Ecosynomics provides a framework rooted in economics and the sciences of human agreements that begins with an initial assumption of abundance, not scarcity, and a wider view of the human being.

Maureen Metcalf, CEO and Founder of Metcalf & Associates, is a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, and coach, whose 30 years of business experience provides high-impact, practical solutions that support her clients’ leadership development and organizational transformations. Maureen is recognized as an innovative, principled thought leader who combines intellectual rigor and discipline with an ability to translate theory into practice. Her operational skills are coupled with a strategic ability to analyze, develop, and implement successful strategies for profitability, growth, and sustainability.

Maureen has published several papers and articles and speaks regularly on innovative leadership, resilience, and organizational transformation. She is the author of the award-winning Innovative Leadership Workbook Series and the co-author of The Innovative Leadership Fieldbook, winner of an International Book Award for Best Business Reference Book. She is also a regular contributor to Forbes.com.

 

Avoid Toxic Behavior and Build Self-Worth to Retain Employees

Akken Cloud Avoid Toxic Behavior

This guest post was provided by Akken Cloud.  In the past, it was common for people to stay at a company for years, even decades. Loyal employees were rewarded with stability and good benefits. But in recent years, even the promise of stability is not enough to keep top talent. In fact, employees may find that changing from job to job can be lucrative, often resulting in a 10 to 20 percent salary increase.

While that’s great for the employee, it’s very difficult and costly for employers. Factor in the time it takes to recruit and train a new hire, loss of work production, and higher salary demands, and turnover becomes a very costly experience for a company. In fact, the Center for American Progress found that turnover costs a company one-fifth of that employee’s salary. Now more than ever, retaining great employees is crucial for a company’s bottom line.

While some companies work to combat high turnover by creating a system to quickly assimilate new employees, it’s not a sound business model. Not only does this model devalue the advantages of a seasoned employee, but it also neglects the influence of turnover on company culture as a whole.

A company culture that encourages each team member to grow can result in tenured employees who add value. Tenured employees are more productive and thus more valuable to a company. But the productivity doesn’t end at one person—it affects the whole team. The longer people work together, the more likely they are to better communicate, which can also result in better productivity. In fact, a survey conducted by Harris Interactive found that 34 percent of respondents noted that “communication bottlenecks impact their productivity” negatively.

But once someone leaves a company, questions emerge from the remaining employees. Why did they leave? Are there better opportunities out there? Could I find one too? One employee’s departure can lead to two, and then maybe three, costing the company even more money.

There are many effective measures employers can take to reduce turnover. One of the easiest ways to reduce turnover is to ensure your workplace instills respect and self-worth among its employees.

Why Respect and Self-Worth Matter

building-self-worth-001

It’s simple, really: People want to feel valued and believe their work has meaning. In a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), 50 percent of employees who reported not feeling valued at work were looking for a new job, while only 21 percent of those who reported feeling valued said they were doing the same. In addition, 93 percent of the employees that felt valued reported they were motivated to do their best work possible. Self-worth and respect not only improve retention, but showing employees you value them can improve work productivity and engagement. Multiple studies show engaged and happy employees perform better, miss less work, and are better assets to a company overall.

By becoming aware of some of the pitfalls many employers make and adjusting a few simple practices within the workplace, employers can create a better work culture that results in happier employees. Happier employees equals reduced turnover and ultimately saves money.

Behavior and Habits That Are Toxic and Disrespectful

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Behavior and attitudes, both good and bad, can affect the people around us. Research suggests happiness can rub off on others while negative behavior can cost businesses billions. Negativity is extremely harmful and can poison the workplace. As an employer or manager, it’s important to take a look at your own practices and avoid these behavioral pitfalls:

Tardiness

Showing up late to a meeting, even if it is informal, shows a disregard for other people’s time. Yes, you may be really important within the company. But if you have a meeting time, stick to it. Of course there are unavoidable situations that mean you need to reschedule. In these circumstances, make sure to let the person or people know as soon as there is a roadblock in your schedule, and apologize appropriately. Don’t make a habit of being even a few minutes late to every meeting. The message you send to other people in the meeting is: My time is more important than your time. That is no way to make people feel valued and respected.

Disrespect

Common courtesy can go a long way. There are varying forms of disrespect. For example, showing disregard for an employee’s ideas or talking over him or her is incredibly disrespectful. If you are unsure how employees perceive you, the tried and true method of “treat others as you would like to be treated” is the best way to keep yourself in check.  In addition, make sure employees know they can speak up about workplace disrespect either to you or an HR person, reinforcing the point that their voice matters.

Allowing others to be disrespectful

Equally bad, if not more hurtful, is when a manager sees one peer disrespect another peer and does not appropriately correct the action. This sends the message that you don’t care about the way your co-workers treat each other. Additionally, your silence can be interpreted as agreement with the disrespecting person.

Broken promises

Employees look to their managers for support. If you give your word that you’ll do X or accomplish Y, then you better do it. Otherwise your employee will lose faith in your ability to follow through on your promises, and eventually they may lose respect for you in general. If you can’t produce what you promised, then let your employee know right away and explain why you cannot deliver. This candor shows honesty and leadership, and provides the employee with an example of how you expect him or her to act in the workplace.

Defensiveness

A healthy relationship is one where there is honest and open communication. If you’re defensive every time someone questions one of your ideas or actions, people will think communication is not welcome. This leads to employees who eventually shutdown and remain silent even when they have important and innovative ideas. A company then receives decreased value from its employees.

Gossip

Gossiping about team members to other employees is a recipe for disaster made only worse if you’re a manager. Telling an employee sensitive information about their peers suggests not only that you disrespect that person, but that you cannot be trusted.

Lack of interest in team members

Showing a lack of concern or interest for your employees’ lives, especially their work lives, says you don’t care about them as individuals and probably don’t care about their personal growth or happiness at work either.

Blame

Nothing can lose the respect of your team faster than blaming others for your own mistakes. It makes people fearful and wonder when they’ll be thrown under the bus. It’s best to own up to your mistakes and quickly work to resolve whatever issues are present. This will help fix the issue, and help earn the respect of your team.

Behavior and Habits That Build Self-Worth

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Creating a work culture that builds employees’ self-worth means a happier workforce. And a happier workforce means higher quality work, a drive to exceed expectations and goals, as well as more long-term employees. In addition, a positive atmosphere may attract other similarly minded, high-performing employees. Employers and managers should help build their team’s self-worth with the following steps:

Praise good work

Nothing feels better than validation for a job well done. This is not to say you should praise every little thing an employee or team member does. (If you give out praise constantly, then it loses its significance.) However, when someone has completed a project or task exceptionally well, praise them. Acknowledging someone’s hard work costs nothing, yet it boosts an employee’s self-confidence and increases his or her willingness to continue working hard.

Celebrate and reward success

Praising good work is a great place to start, but it’s also a good idea to celebrate success and reward hard work. Whether it’s a celebratory happy hour for completing a project ahead of schedule or give a bonus to someone who had an outstanding sales quarter, celebrations can improve the entire team’s morale and motivate all workers to keep up the hard work. A word of caution: Celebrations and rewards should match the work that’s being recognized. A last minute and poorly planned gathering to acknowledge the end of a project will feel less meaningful. Additionally, financial bonuses should correlate with the amount of money the employee either saved or earned for the company—maybe a $50 gift card won’t cut it if someone just closed a $1 million deal.

Acknowledge strengths and weaknesses

Calling attention to an employee’s weak point in a constructive manner can help foster growth and show you care. The trick is to be helpful in this criticism and demonstrate you’re willing to assist toward making a positive change. In addition, when discussing weaknesses, it’s a good idea to praise an employee’s strengths. By addressing weaknesses and acknowledging strengths, you help an employee feel like you appreciate and value them enough to work on self-growth.

Help employees grow professionally

Employees want growth opportunities. One of the main factors that leads to losing talent is the lack of growth and advancement opportunities. For this reason, it’s crucial to help employees succeed in professional goals, even if it means losing them to another department at the same company. If your company is small and doesn’t have much upward mobility, provide other ways to help employees grow, such as teaching new job skills and providing more challenging projects.

Create open discussions

Employees want to be a part of the team and company. They want to feel that their opinions matter and can directly influence their work. By creating open discussions that allow team members to be included in decision making, you create an environment where employees know their opinion matters.

Trust employees and stop micromanaging

Micromanaging can be the death of employee happiness. Micromanaging every task conveys you don’t trust employees to do their jobs.  And, no one wants to be micromanaged.  Instead, focus that energy on providing adequate training. Then allow the employee to do that job, perhaps away from the office at times (if possible). Allowing people to work from home from time to time shows you trust them to get the job done. In addition, studies suggest flexible work arrangements are also related to employee happiness and job satisfaction, further increasing higher morale and self-worth.

Engage

Engaging with your team members can go a long way in growing an employee’s self-worth. By engaging with people on a personal level at work, employers show they legitimately care. A simple “hello” in the morning or check-in after lunch takes little time out of the day, but the overall effect it has on morale is astounding.For managers, this reduces the potential hesitation for an employee to ask for help.

Listen

Just like engagement, listening to an employee can positively affect self-worth and company culture. Meet with team members and allow them the opportunity to tell you what is going well, what went horribly wrong, and what landed somewhere in between. A lot can be learned in these check-ins, but you have to listen. Ask a few questions to get things going, but allow the employee to direct the conversation. They will feel valued knowing their manager took time to listen to what they had to say. These quick meetings can also bring your attention to anything that may be amiss and needs correcting.

By avoiding negative behaviors that show disrespect and instead engaging with employees in a meaningful way that improves their self-worth, employers will create a more positive company culture, reduce turnover, and ultimately save money.

About Terra Clarke Olsen

Terra Clarke Olsen is a writer and content manager with a background in sales. She is a member of GeekGirlCon’s Board of Directors, also serving as treasurer. Terra has a BA from UCLA and a MA from University of Toronto. She resides in Seattle, WA with her husband, son, and two cats. Find her on Twitter: @Terrasum

Performance Management AND Coaching Drive Success

Employee EngagementBill goes into his boss’s office to receive feedback on his annual appraisal. He learns that he is meeting expectations, and, subsequently, he is excited to shift his focus to further developing his plan. He is disappointed to learn that performance management only involves determining what he will deliver next year and not at how he can grow in order to expand his capacity to perform better. He feels as though he is falling behind his peers who focus on both performance and development.

I teach a class on managing employee performance and coaching employees that proposes we shift from emphasis on managing performance to emphasis on coaching employees. The Gallup Q12 Meta Analysis in 2013 showed that organizations with engaged employees are 22% more profitable. Employees are more engaged when they feel as though the organization cares about them and their individual development.

Performance management involves setting employee and organizational goals into alignment and providing feedback about performance within those goals. When supervisors connect employee skills with employee goals, employees become more engaged, and the organization benefits. Furthermore, performance management includes identifying the top performers to succeed important roles and identifying the lower performers to receive assistance. The person giving feedback requires proficient skills in evaluating and motivating employees. A strong relationship between manager and employee is necessary when providing effective feedback – this relationship should be one where the employee feels safe receiving constructive criticism and believes that, by making the requested changes, he or she will be rewarded in the future.

To meet stated objectives effectively, improving performance is needed. After employees are able to meet their objectives, it is important to then focus on meeting new goals to continue building employee capacity. At this point, coaching becomes fundamental to the process.

Coaching helps employees achieve their developmental goals beyond their mere ability to perform the job. A coach helps foster an employee’s developmental goals which are typically in sync with organizational goals. Development is vital in order to advance to the next level within an organization. It is also necessary when building skills like executive presence or resilience. The coach can be an employee’s manager or someone in a different reporting line or work group. It is important that the coach and coachee have a strong relationship of trust and respect.

The distinction between performance management and coaching may appear to be one of semantics, but it is nevertheless important. It is important for leaders and managers to have BOTH skills and to know when each skill is best used. When employees are performing poorly, the manager must determine the cause, which is often either a result of a training deficiency or a motivation/engagement gap. Once a manager identifies the cause of the underperformance in an employee he or she can create an improvement plan to help the employee meet the stated goals.

We prepare managers and leaders to

  1. Teach the basics of employee engagement – learn the basics of what engages and disengages people.
  2. Teach performance management basics – understand how the organization’s performance management system is designed. Performance management can have legal and financial implications, so it is important to understand the impact of the actions surrounding this system.
  3. Teach/practice giving and receiving feedback – PRACTICE (capitalized to emphasize skills are developed through ongoing practice) giving and receiving feedback with difficult employees.
  4. Teach coaching basics – practice coaching conversations. Coaching conversations have different objectives, content, and tones. Managers who are good at performance feedback still need to build coaching skills.
  5. Teach/practice coaching – PRACTICE coaching employees who are focused on growth.

For many organizations, employees are the biggest driver of success and, consequently, failure. To outperform competition, investing in employee engagement and development is crucial. If focus on performance management and coaching is mediocre or an afterthought, the ability to deliver positive end results will likely suffer.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

photo credit: www.flickr.com get everwise

Five Key Elements In Performance Management Design Part 2

Performance MeasurementBlog post written by Rob Harman, II CPA, MBA, PHR, SHRM-CP

This is part two focusing on of five things to think about when designing a Performance Management System and Process. Part one covered use. This part will cover design, measurement, output, and competencies.

2.  Design (see blog series part 1 for the first item).

There are many factors to be considered when designing a performance management system. Below are factors that are important as you consider designing a system for your organization.

    • Simple to use. If your system is cumbersome, people are not going to want to use it, or will just do the minimum it takes to achieve the “goal” of giving feedback. Complicated systems only produce good results when everyone involved is dedicated to spend the time to provide the input. The evaluator and evaluatee need to have the ability to choose from a range of selections based on each item being measured (i.e. a rating scale of 1 to 6 for each question). The system should also have an open text box after every question in the event the individual would like to input comments or examples to support the rating.
    • Accessible anywhere anytime. As many in today’s workforce work from remote locations outside the office, the system needs to be web based and accessible outside the office. Consider if you want to use cloud based software for your performance management system. Many systems offer other capabilities and modules than just performance management and could be a part of your HRIS and total financial system software package.
    • Ongoing feedback. The system should be designed to provide ongoing performance feedback throughout the year based on projects, time intervals, or at the employee or managers request. Therefore the system is always open and on. This will be a culture shift for many organizations as many only give feedback when it is needed or at set intervals in time. Giving real time feedback is not only a powerful motivational tactic for good and high performers, it will help an employee or manager who may be having some challenges. It is important to provide that feedback as soon as possible so it can be addressed without sacrificing additional work productivity losses and damage to internal and external clients.
    • Reporting. The system should have robust data gathering and reporting capabilities for the evaluator, evaluate, and of course HR, to help monitor and track completion and other statistics for a particular group and the organization.
    • Easy to interpret results. The system should have a dashboard where the manager and employee are able to view performance feedback and goals that are compiled and aggregated throughout the year. The dashboard should be able to track the number of “to do” tasks, what stage of completion they are in, and the date of the stage. Consider the interface of the design to feature simple graphics, colors, and analysis for a quick glace of reporting and statistics.

3. Measurement.

Ask yourself, what specifically do you want to measure, and who should be measuring it? Consider the following when deciding what to measure around performance.

  • Performance on a project or in a cross functional group
  • Customer impact
  • Individual contributions
  • Pro-bono or other volunteer work
  • Attitude and ability to work and team with others
  • Ability and drive
  • Upward feedback

As mentioned employees should be able to ask for feedback in the system at any time on any measurable item and the system will trigger the evaluator responsible for providing the feedback. Employees need to be set up with responsibility evaluator(s) for each type of measurement and they should have the ability to do self-evaluations in the system.

Another item to consider is what type of rating scale do you want to use? Traditionally, companies used scales of 1-7, or something similar. Many companies are considering either doing away with the numeric rating, or making it a smaller part of the process. A numerical rating triggers a psychological response and people tend to focus only on the number and what the implications of that number may mean, and thus are not engaged fully in the conversation. An alternative could be to borrow from the color spectrum and use red as high performance, green as expected performance, and indigo as needs improvement.   Some organizations are giving feedback without ratings with some early success. For other companies, foregoing measures would be counterproductive given the cultures they have built around measurement. This is where the ability to give and receive feedback is imperative to success! One of the challenges with measures is how the feedback is delivered more than the fact that performance is measured.

An example of the ratings shown on the dashboard could look something like this.

Performance Management

Some companies are beginning to use values-based ratings1. This is done by looking at how the employee fits in with the company values and aligns with company objectives. Other approaches are to design a system where the output is not only feedback on performance, but focuses more on giving advice and coaching and not just a final “rating”. You will want to look for a software vendor that has designed newer products that will be able to accommodate these non-traditional ways of measurement and delivering feedback and coaching.

 4. Output.

Now that you have designed a system, how you will use it? What decisions will you need to make as a result of the process? Do you need to implement training? Are there performance issues with a particular group, or a particular manager? Is there a morale problem at the organization? A well thought out and designed performance management system will help your company answer all of these questions and more.

5. Competencies.

Finally, competencies are an area where many organizations design complicated frameworks by level, group, subsidiary, or other measures, in an effort to define every possible measurement of performance at every level. While that is admirable, even a well-designed system will be unsuccessful if the competencies being measured are too complicated or the forms are too lengthy. There is value at developing expectations of performance at all levels of the organization from staff to executives. The competencies should be progressive, meaning each level has mastered the competencies of the preceding level. Competencies need to be designed with examples of what high performance (red), expected performance (green), and needs improvement (indigo) mean at each level and for different categories such as client services, team work, attitude, etc. The competencies need to be designed to achieve organizational and individual goals. Competencies will be a topic in another blog series, so stay tuned!

In a future post we will also talk about how to plan employee development and discuss how it links to evaluation. Some organizations couple performance evaluation and development planning while others separate them. We will talk more about performance management next week.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us

1 Predictions for 2015: Redesigning the Organization for a Rapidly Changing World, Bersin by Deloitte / Josh Bersin, January 2015

Photo credit: www.flickr.com William A. Clark

Five Key Elements in Performance Management Design – Part 1

Blog post written by Rob HarmanPath to success cc traumaandissociation, II CPA, MBA, PHR, SHRM-CP.  You have just received an email from your Human Resources Department advising you it is time to begin the annual performance review process. Do you react by thinking, great, I have an opportunity to showcase the great work I’ve done and provide meaningful feedback to others? Or do you suddenly feel the 12 week job assignment overseas is looking like a real opportunity? I think most of us will agree the performance management process is something that can be improved upon at most organizations. It is often a once or twice a year task that is required by the company in order to assess performance, determine promotions, discipline, or terminate employees who are not performing at a level that is expected.

While having the greatest intentions, many organizations come up with sophisticated competencies that are often very long, cumbersome, and complicated at best. The performance management process then becomes a necessary evil. Since most of us are being asked to do more with less, performance management becomes a low priority because the business of doing business always comes first. Often then, the performance management process becomes an annual exercise of trying to remember what you did for the year, what your team did, how well it was done, and what you can say about it in enough words to satisfy the owners of the process, while getting it done quickly enough to move on to your other tasks.

The sad part is that performance management is very much about running the business and meeting client needs, both internal and external. What is needed in today’s workplace is an efficient, effective, easy to use, continual performance management system that is transparent. Everyone needs to be trained on how to give effective feedback, and how to receive it. This should be an ongoing refrain! EVERYONE needs to be trained to give and receive feedback! Repeat – EVERYONE needs to use the training they received to give and receive feedback. Think of how many people you know who are ineffective at giving and receiving feedback and either are too busy to get better or think they are already good enough. The changes we recommend ONLY work if leaders and managers are GOOD at giving and receiving feedback!

With those criteria met, the performance management process will become a much easier task, one that is continual throughout the year, will deliver feedback, and will help set goals to help employees and the business.

In the following sections are five things to consider when building a successful performance management process and system. Use, design, measurement, output and competencies. We will cover use this week and the following four next week.

1. Use.

How will you use the system and what is your goal for the system? What organization and talent objectives are you trying to meet? Common uses are compensation decisions, promotion decisions, training, and what I’ll call leveling. Leveling can mean holding someone in their current position for a period of time, providing them with additional training, or finding other opportunities for them in the organization if their current position isn’t the right fit. Ultimately, it can mean counseling someone out of the organization.

As a side note, when making compensation decisions based on performance, many organizations are considering unlinking the direct connection between compensation decisions and the overall rating. Compensation decisions can still be made by performance, but other factors such as job position, job skills, market conditions, and contributions to the organization can be the main drivers1. This allows for more direct and honest feedback, and ultimately improving employee engagement and performance by honest coaching.

In part two, I will talk about what your intended use of the system should be, what to measure and how, as numeric ratings are falling out of style. We will also touch on competencies and how those are built into the system.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills.

If you are interested in receiving our ongoing blog series or other articles by email, please sign up in the box on the right labeled Get Email Updates From Us.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com traumaanddissociation