We all could use a deep breath.
Most teams and companies are still figuring out how to help support their people and engage with them remotely, in hybrid settings, and in-person gatherings. With all that businesspeople have been navigating: differing modes of communication, the expansion of remote workers, global health, issues of racism, social injustice and equity, political and economic uncertainty, they are also expected to maximize the experience, product or service that you are delivering to the marketplace. Deep breaths are needed.
The process of breathing for the human body is “the process of moving air into and out of the lungs to facilitate gas exchange with the internal environment, mostly to bring oxygen and flush out carbon dioxide.” The leaders role in teams and organizations is to breathe oxygen into their people with mindsets and actions that fuel energy, possibility, connection and progress while flushing out negativity, blame and toxins.
The best leaders and teams on the planet understand their role is to help breathe oxygen into their people that helps give energy, hope and life so that all are able to thrive in a complex environment. These leaders and cultures are intentionally inhaling and exhaling with their people. The air they breathe and the mindsets they bring to stimulate action is everything.
6 Mindsets To Breathe Oxygen Into Your People and Culture
- Clarity — Vision + Direction is air that all need to breathe. Is your Mission clear? Is your Vision clear? Are you Values for how your team is committed to travel clear? Is your Strategy for the next priorities clear? If not, your team may be gasping for air. Every time you breathe oxygen into to these mindsets and concepts as a team, the air is easier for all to breathe. The path forward becomes clearer. Your team may not have all the answers, but they’ll have energy and clear direction on how to take the next step.
- Inclusivity — Leaders in the world play an enormous role in widening the circle so that more diverse backgrounds, ideas, perspectives, and experiences have a seat at the table. Teams and organizations will lead the way forward in society by modeling how to have civil, respectful dialogue and educate people on the strengths of diversity, equity and inclusion. When our teams are inclusive and welcoming, it breathes life and energy into all. We’re stronger together.
- Agility — Possibility + Adaptability is the name of the game in a changing world. Leaders have to practice breathing oxygen that allows their mind to find new ways of doing things and the courage to adapt to opportunities that emerge. If leaders return to the “this is the way we’ve always done it” mindset then they will sit back and watch the oxygen leave the room (and their people).
- Grit — Resolve + Toughness is critical to help people navigate their way through obstacles, challenges, negativity, finger pointing, and division. Leaders help their people breathe oxygen that stays focused on the present moment and the actions that are needed in order to take the next step. Toughness isn’t about being physically stronger than others, it is about being able to be vulnerable with your people and still have the resolve to find solutions, together.
- Rest — Teams and organizations have an unhealthy association with the concept of rest. Americans last year left 768 million days of vacation on the table with their employers. That equates to nearly $66 billion of lost benefits. We’ve forgotten that the research actually shows that deliberate rest is essential to elite performance. When we allow our bodies, minds and hearts to deliberately rest, we breathe more efficiently and are better at everything else.
- Ownership — Accountability + Action are mindsets and oxygen that the best leaders and team cultures on the planet breathe. They connect the things they say they will do with positive accountability and action. Accountability isn’t a negative word, it’s a positive mantra that all take ownership of. In a world where people are quick to gossip, point fingers, and be critics about what isn’t working, the best leaders breathe oxygen into their people and shift conversations from blame to solutions-focused.
The best cultures proactively help their people breathe and navigate through obstacles, together. They intentionally choose to inhale positivity and the 6 mindsets above and exhale negativity, blame, gossip and division. The air they breathe dictates the quality of air for all. The ecosystem of their culture is grown, developed, cultivated and led with intentionality, one breath at a time.
The process for developing high-performing and engaged teams never stops and the best leaders, teams and organizations are committed to breathing oxygen in how they hire, onboard, do performance evaluations, develop emerging leaders, and recognize excellence. The best leaders invest in their teams and the air they breathe, together.
If you’re experiencing a lack of energy, passion or hope for the road ahead, it may be the air you’re breathing.
About the Author:
Jason V. Barger is the globally-celebrated author of Thermostat Cultures, ReMember and Step Back from the Baggage Claim as well as the host of The Thermostat podcast. His latest book Breathing Oxygen is set to be released in the Fall of 2021. As Founder of Step Back Leadership Consulting, he is a coveted keynote speaker, leadership coach and organizational consultant who is committed to engaging the minds and hearts of people and growing compelling cultures. Learn more at JasonVBarger.com
The COVID-19 crisis has affected people in every way imaginable, including the way they view their life. For some, the pandemic has made them stop taking good things and people in their life for granted; for others, the silver linings are harder to find.
Having and showing gratitude in the midst of a crisis can be difficult, but research shows that it improves one’s health and overall quality of life. And in business, leaders and employees will strengthen the company if they prioritize gratitude during difficult times, says Michele Bailey (www.michelebailey.com), ForbesBooks author of The Currency of Gratitude: Turning Small Gestures into Powerful Business Results.
“Times of true crisis may challenge our ability to experience and express gratitude, but such difficult times also demand that we work on enhancing our capacity for doing both,” says Bailey, who is also founder/CEO of The Blazing Group, a brand and culture agency.
“Gratitude is seated at the heart of any truly great company culture, and it results in employees who live and breathe your brand. Employees who practice gratitude across personal and professional relationships will not only drive their personal happiness, they will drive business growth. Gratitude is a currency in the sense that it accumulates as a result of being shared.”
Bailey offers ways to incorporate gratitude into your life and business during a crisis and the benefits of doing so.
- Lose the scarcity mindset. Bailey says a crisis often encourages people to fall back on scarcity thinking – what they don’t have – as pressures prompt some to react with fear and anxiety. What’s needed instead, she says, is an appreciation for each other that leads to people finding ways to help each other. “I cannot stress enough that a crisis is not the time to retreat to a scarcity mindset,” she says. “Instead, it’s precisely the time to think of others, deepen our relationships and recognize the importance of support networks. It’s time to show renewed commitment to customers and communities as well as sensitivities to the challenges they are facing.”
- Think of all you can do, and for whom. Learning to show gratitude on a wider scale starts with these questions, Bailey says: Who has gone above and beyond to help me professionally, and why? How will I show my gratitude to these people? How can I give back to others? How can I make a difference in the lives of those around me and in the lives of others in need? Who have I taken for granted?” ”I believe in my heart that gratefulness is a social disposition or an attitude,” Bailey says, “and as such, it requires that we express it – and exchange it – with others. This is how we connect with one another in a way that lasts.”
- Embrace the strength of your team. Bailey says the resilience that’s honed by steady leaders and unified teams becomes stronger in times of trouble. People feeling isolated and vulnerable need to be thankful for good teammates, approach them for support and reciprocate. “When times are tough,” Bailey says “we can embrace and feel gratitude for what we still have, and we can use that strength of team – of ‘we’re all in this together’ – to fuel our individual and collective forward motion. Identify the people who give you a sense of value and purpose and examine what you value most about your relationships. In times of struggle, it’s our relationships that pull us through.”
“The world may change in surprising and challenging ways,” Bailey says, “but that only makes gratitude more important than ever.”
About the Author, Michele Bailey
Michele Bailey (www.michelebailey.com) is the ForbesBooks author of The Currency Of Gratitude: Turning Small Gestures Into Powerful Business Results and founder/CEO of The Blazing Group, a brand and culture agency born of her strategy-first approach to business and desire to enhance employee wellness in pursuit of business goals. She is also the founder of My Big Idea™, a mentoring program designed to propel individuals toward their personal and professional goals. Bailey has been recognized for contributions to women and entrepreneurship with honors such as the Bank of Montreal Expansion & Growth in Small Business Award and the Women’s Business Enterprise Leader Award in 2020. Bailey is a popular speaker and is also the author of a previous book, It’s NOT All About You, It’s About the Company You Keep.
Bad leaders have something over the good ones. Bad leaders have much better job security. Why? Simple. They run off anybody who is a threat to them before any damage can be done. Bad leadership is an art form. It’s not easy to make yourself into the kind of leader who nobody wants to follow anywhere. And because this underrated art form and the job security that goes with it are seemingly in great demand… here are Five Rules for Lousy Leadership!
WHAT’S RIGHT IS WHAT I SAY IS RIGHT!
A very simple way to let everybody know, right out of the gate, that there is only one person at the top, and that person is you. Your genius, your organization skills, your foresight and intelligence will take you on to new heights, despite your team’s ineptitude. From the start you simply tell them, “It’s all been carved in stone. I speak. You agree.” It’s amazing how effective a weapon this can be in your Lousy Leadership arsenal. You ever see those shows about Buckingham Palace, and how the help all stops and bow their heads whenever a royal walks by? Well, that’s how your people will be whenever you walk down the hall. Or, better yet, whenever you burst into a room and yell out, “Who’s working hard today?” Just the sort of thing to make their little hairs on the back of their insecure little necks stand on end.
KEEP THAT GREAT PLAN YOU MADE ALL TO YOURSELF
Somewhere deep in your desk drawer, although you’ve likely forgotten where, there is a copy of the master plan you drew up for the company. Well, the master plan the vice-presidents drew up under threat of loss of parking spaces if they ever deny you wrote it. It’s probably really a pretty good plan. Take the company forward, get everyone on the same page. But it involves a true terror for a Lousy Leader. To implement the plan, one department must know what another department is doing. And you can’t have that. So when you are asked about the plan you say, “Yeah, we have a plan. What great business doesn’t? But if I want you to know what’s going on in another department, I’ll tell you what’s going on in another department.” Quick about face and back to your private dining room.
IT’S NOT A LIE IF YOU BELIEVE IT
Your people know you to be a person of impeccable honor. (Right!) They must trust you because, to a large degree, you never have any interaction with them, so they must believe you are doing the top job just brilliantly. On those rare and unfortunate occasions when you find yourself forced to mingle, at a staff meeting, at the all too rare awards handouts or, god forbid, on Pizza Friday, there is a simple way to let everybody know that everything is alright. When called on to speak, just take the mic, fake that sincere look and say, “People – one thing is always true. You know I would never lie to my family!” Look out over their faces, bask in the warmth of their admiration for you. Quick about face and back to your office, door closed as always.
IT’S VERY SIMPLE REALLY
So many unknowing people think that leadership is a terribly difficult task to master. To get to that seven-figure salary level must take years of climbing the ladder, finding a mentor, and so on. However, you know the truth is that even though others helped you out (now and then) you made the climb on your own. There’s nobody to thank when they come to interview you for Forbes or Fortune. All the admiration is aimed at you because you did it your way. And now, at the top, you pass along this key piece of wisdom to your people. “I gave you your orders. Now carry them out.” Magic words that put you and your management style in sharp focus. And the great thing is, if you give them orders that are lousy, and they carry them out… then it’s their fault for doing a lousy job!
MAKE SURE EVERYBODY IS SCARED OF YOU
This last one is so obvious, it’s almost shameful to list it for you. The greatest motivator of all… fear. If you can arrange the office so that the mere sight of you makes breath catch in your people’s throats, you’re on the way to becoming a Lousy Leader. Everything else is small potatoes next to this rule. Tell them if they want a friend to get a dog. Nothing… NOTHING succeeds like FEAR.
OK, so sorry this isn’t written in the Sarcastica font. Nobody sets out to be a lousy leader. Some people can’t help it because it stems from their personalities. Some people fail because the training they got was woefully inadequate. Some can’t cut it because they are afraid of leading others. And some just think they’re naturals and they become General Patton-2.0, they want their people to feel the fear.
(SPOILER – IT DOESN’T WORK!)
About the Author:
Mark Oristano has distilled the leadership lessons he learned in 30 years as an NFL broadcaster into a concise, complete course in leadership with principle. Lessons learned from his years in the front office of the original Dallas Cowboys makes compelling, yet easy to implement, rules for solid leadership. For more information, please visit: https://markoristano.com.
Six men and I sat atop four and a half million pounds of explosives waiting for the fuse to be lit to begin our flight on the Space Shuttle Discovery. We knew that for the next seven days our lives would depend on our acting synergistically. If anything went awry during the flight, if we didn’t work together, we might not make it home safely.
How did we come to that moment in time? We had been selected for the Astronaut Corps and this particular flight because we had proven track records of being good team players, both as leaders – and as followers – and had the requisite skills to accomplish a variety of space missions with varying payloads. Many of the skills I learned about teamwork are applicable to any group coming together to accomplish their goals. Here are some of the specifics.
Everyone has been a part of a team at one time or another whether it be on the playing field or at the office, or even in your own home. Can you recall a mediocre team, a terrible one or a lazy disorganized one? There are strategies to choose team players, to mold them into a great team, to define their goals, to motivate them for success, to deal with “outliers” and to learn from failure – and success.
CHOOSING AND DEVELOPING TEAM PLAYERS
When you are considering putting a potential team together or adding new members to a current team, the interview process is crucial. Do applicants have the requisite skills or must they be trained? You should consider whether each of these people has experience working well with similar teams. Can he or she give examples of types of projects those teams have worked on and how success was achieved? Also be sure your current team feel comfortable with this candidate.
MOLDING A GROUP OF PEOPLE INTO A TEAM
Not all groups of people can come together to form a great team. You’ll find natural leaders, potential leaders and excellent followers who will carry the ball down the field for the rest of your team. Each of them has a role to play. It is up to your leadership to learn the competencies and capabilities of each one of them and how to put them to the best use to accomplish the work that needs to be done.
DEFINING TEAM GOALS
Your team will only be effective if there are clear cut, well-defined goals which all of the team members understand and are willing to work toward. The role of your management or team leaders is to be able to state these goals precisely and make sure the team understands and is on board with achieving the goals. Your leadership should take responsibility for monitoring progress of the group and each individual. Should the goals of your team change, all team members much be briefed so there is clarity going forward.
RECOGNIZING WHAT MOTIVATES YOUR TEAM
It is imperative that you understand what motivates the people on your particular team. For some team members learning new skills, a sense of accomplishment or a feeling of success will be the best motivators. Others may value the opportunity for advancement or recognition. Financial rewards, raises or prizes may work in your company. Often the praise of their fellow members is sufficient. Have you considered a little friendly competition? Only by asking the team members will you find out.
DEALING WITH OUTLIERS
What if one of your company’s team members is not performing well or is ill-suited to the team, making the workplace uncomfortable and jeopardizing success? Can you show data that his or her performance is not up to the standards you have set and expect? What about negative reports from coworkers? A frank in-person discussion about these issues is crucial and it is imperative you solve the problem or let the person go so as not to poison the morale of the entire team.
PRACTICING AND LEARNING FROM FAILURE – AND SUCCESS
When things go wrong, it is imperative that you seek to learn all the causes and fix them right away. You must also be sure that team members learn from the failure so the same mistakes are not repeated. Never forget that learning from success will make your team and your outcomes better, too. Incorporate processes or procedures that worked well in the past and be sure to recognize those team members who made significant contributions to the achievement.
Teams of all sorts are ubiquitous. Whether at a work site, on a sports team, in a nonprofit organization, or in a hospital operating room (or in today’s world, virtually or in-person), teams are everywhere. Undoubtedly you have been a team member and perhaps had the opportunity to be selected or hired as a team leader. Great teams that produce superior results are built following the following simple principles that lead to outstanding teamwork. You must:
– choose and develop great team members
– mold them into the best team for your organization,
– define your organization’s goals,
– motivate the team appropriately,
– deal with problem team members,
– learn from success and failure
And you’ll find you have built a team that is out of this world!
About the Author:
Dr. Rhea Seddon is a renowned speaker, Astronaut and the author of “Go For Orbit”, a memoir about her adventures spending 30 days in space aboard the Space Shuttle. She is also a former surgeon, healthcare executive and entrepreneur. Dr. Seddon speaks to audiences of all kinds on the topics of teamwork, leadership and taking advantage of opportunities. Visit www.RheaSeddon.com.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kate Zabriskie is the president of Business Training Works, Inc., a Maryland-based talent development firm. Kate and her team help businesses establish customer service strategies and train their people to live up to what’s promised.
Zombies in the workplace are soul-sucking, money-draining, productivity-killing entities that chip away at an organization’s spirit and its engagement levels one convert at a time. These creatures often look like the rest of us, but deep down they’re cancerous beasts that can potentially drive a business to ruin.So what’s a manager to do? Recognize the problem, know its source, understand why action is essential, and then do the work required to create a zombie-free workplace.
KNOWING YOUR ZOMBIES
Although zombies come in many varieties, most resemble one or more of the following:
- Negative zombies – Often the easiest to spot, they complain, moan, and express their dissatisfaction regularly. Some will use humor to disguise their disgust, but they are nevertheless contagious and a threat to the uninfected.
- Minimum-contributor zombies – They do the basics but nothing more. You will never see them looking for work or volunteering for projects. Furthermore, many act as if they are doing you a favor when you ask them to perform a task they get paid for doing.
- Status-quo zombies – These change-averse creatures dig in their heels and fight the future. They are happy with everything the way it is and take no initiative to implement new ideas. The most dangerous of this variety will even resort to sabotage if they feel threatened.
- Shortcut zombies – They find ways to cut corners and circumvent processes. Their choices frequently expose the organization to unneeded risk. Worse still, when these zombies are in charge of training others, they pass on bad habits and poor practices.
IDENTIFYING THE SOURCE
To rid an organization of zombies, you must understand how you got them. Each zombie has a creation story. These are the most common:
- The ready-made zombie story: People who were really zombies when someone interviewed them, and they got the job anyway.
- The we-did-it-here zombie story: Unlike the ready-made zombies, these zombies were created after they joined the organization. They were discouraged, taught to fear, or worse.
- The retired-on-the-job zombie story: These zombies should be long retired, but because of a need to complete a certain number of years of employment before receiving some financial reward or other benefit, they’re still in the workplace and just going through the motions.
- The abandoned zombie: Abandoned zombies are employees who could perform well if they didn’t feel as if they were the only ones who cared. After struggling alone, these poor creatures eventually succumbed and now just try to survive.
MAKING THE CHOICE BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE
When left unchecked, zombies can take over a department, division, or even an entire organization with relative ease. For that reason, it is essential that organizations are focused and vigilant in their approach to zombie management. Organizations that fail to take the problem seriously may find that it’s too late. To escape havoc when zombies gain a foothold, good employees will often leave for safer territory. Then, by the time management recognizes its predicament, a lot of talent has walked out the door, and what remains is not sufficient to do great work.
Implementing an anti-zombie initiative is no easy task, but it can be done and done well if you take the process seriously and stay dedicated to invigorating your workforce.
Be candid about your numbers. High turnover is a strong sign that there is a zombie problem. High absenteeism, poor output, and substandard financial performance are other clues. Think about what you would see if your organization were-zombie free and what numbers would be associated with that vision. Next, compare those statistics to the current reality and set some performance goals.
Once you understand your global numbers, you should measure employee engagement. You can run a formal survey with a company that specializes in engagement or create one on your own. As with step one, the goal here is to get a sense of what’s working, what isn’t, and the breadth of your zombie problem.
Next, ask yourself what are you seeing and hearing that you don’t want to see, and what are you not seeing and hearing that you do? After you know where the gaps are, think about solutions to address those shortcomings. If your zombies belong to the status-quo category, for example, consider putting in a process whereby everyone is tasked with finding two ways to improve his or her work processes or outputs. No matter what you choose, be sure you have the stamina to stick with the zombie-eradication tactics you implement. Fewer activities done well will beat a lot of mediocre ones every time.
Be prepared to let go of those you can’t save. Despite best efforts, some zombies simply can’t be cured. If you’ve done all you can, and they’re still the walking dead or worse, it’s time to say goodbye. If the termination process in your organization is cumbersome and lengthy, at a minimum, you must protect the uninfected and recently cured from the zombie holdouts.
Recognize success and coach for deficiencies. Saving zombies happens one employee at a time. People who are clear about expectations, receive proper training, get coaching when they miss the mark, and feel appreciated when they get it right or go above and beyond, are highly unlikely to enter or venture back into zombie territory.
- Do managers “walk the talk” and model anti-zombie behavior?
- Do employees understand how their work is connected to the organization’s goals? Can they explain that connection in a sentence or less?
- Are employees held accountable for following established processes and procedures?
- Do managers confront negativity?
- Do managers encourage and reward initiative?
- Do they meet one-on-one with their direct reports on a regular basis?
- Does a strong zombie pre-employment screening interview process exist?
- When good people leave, does someone conduct an exit interview to see if zombies are the reason for the departure?
The answers to those questions should serve as a starting point for encouraging engagement and avoiding everything from a small zombie outbreak to a full-blown apocalypse. You can never be too prepared.
Have you ever said something at work you wish you hadn’t? Sometimes the wrong words just blurt out to employees or with the client. The first step in fixing common communication blunders on the job is to know what those blunders are. Then you can say something the smart way and not the dumb way. Verbal communication expert, Greg Alcorn, CEO of Global Contact Services (GCS) of Salisbury, NC, is the author of 7 Dumb Things We All Say and speaks to thousands of people each year on improving verbal communication at work.
BELOW, GREG HAS LISTED THE SEVEN BIGGEST BLUNDERS YOU MAY NOT HAVE USED, BUT HAVE DEFINITELY COME ACROSS!
ONE: Using Bad Bookends. The biggest blunder is starting and ending what you say with the wrong phrasing. Conversation bookends are the small comments or questions just before or right after a full statement or request for action. Be better with your starting and ending bookends. Pre-sentence bookends as a tool can be engaging, demeaning, or distracting. Names are great bookends. Starting a sentence with the name of the person you are talking to warms that person up. “Mary, may I put you on hold?” Saying your name last in your introduction makes it easy for the person you are talking with remember your name. “This is the help line; my name is Jack.”
TWO: Starting with Wrong First Words. Are you familiar with the adage, “Getting off on the wrong foot”? Conversations have first impressions, and they begin with your first three words. Hint: one of the words should be the other person’s name. Using names is important when speaking on the phone, especially conference calls. Conference call principle number one is if you’re going to call on somebody, start with the name. Instead of saying, “What were the metrics on our operations yesterday, Frank?” ask the right way: “Frank, what were the metrics on our operation yesterday?” If you don’t start with the name, you might catch the person by surprise. It certainly catches people’s attention when you say their name first.
THREE: Not Choosing Your Words Well. The words you choose paint a picture for the listener. Your words express your attitude and your personality. Keep it positive. Don’t start a sentence with the word “no.” Even in introductions, you can’t go wrong with saying the person’s name first. A person’s name followed by the four words “I need your help” is a winner. “Rachel, I need your help.” This is especially powerful when it’s in a situation in which you might be the boss and the other person might be a manager, or you might be in a perceived superior position.
FOUR: Poor Questions and Bad Listening. Meaningful questions always stay on subject, keep a conversation moving forward, and ensure the other person feels heard and understood. Becoming a better listener is easier than you might think. It starts by committing to be a great listener and making an active choice to listen. Ask good questions and really listen. This is the “You have two ears and one mouth” principle.
FIVE: Focus-on-Me Attitude. Making it all about you is a turn off for them. This is not a technique; this is an attitude. The best way to describe a benefit is to describe the feeling received. “I came by as soon as I heard you lost the sale; I’m sad.” The fellow employee can recognize the extra effort and surely appreciates the sentiment. It’s a powerful sentence. A special visit, a sense of urgency, and a sincere feeling (sad). Empathy shows feelings.
SIX: Wrong Tone. People feel more comfortable with pleasant, variable tone quality. Voice tone is made up of rate, pitch, and volume. Think tone and don’t drone. The tone of our voice helps others to hear our empathy. The rate, pitch, and volume of our statements of empathy helps express feelings. Usually, but not always, we hear implied empathy when somebody slows down speech and lowers the pitch and volume. Say, “I am sad to hear that you lost the supermarket account,” and I’ll bet you will automatically say it slow and low. The same with excitement at the opposite end of the spectrum. Say “Team, we won the hotel account!” You can’t help but say it fast, high, and loud. Tone expresses empathy.
SEVEN: Not Diffusing Difficult Drama. Stressful conversations, or drama, can be avoided by mastering word selection, listening, and questioning skills. Drama can be inevitable, however. Most stressful situations can be defused when you apply the three Rs: recognize, restate, and reassure. Ask others: “What would you like to see happen?” Those are seven magic words that can defuse difficult drama: Words are just a tool, like electricity is a tool. And like any tool, they can be used for helping or for harming. Electricity can cook a person’s dinner, or it can burn a person’s dinner. Words can turn people on or turn people off.
Here is the bottom line: Nobody wants to say dumb things. But we all do. The first step towards reducing the number of dumb things you say is to know what the dumb things are. Then don’t say that, say something smarter.