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Culture Change is a Complex Process

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Leadership Lessons From Unlikely Authors

leadership lessons

I’m currently in the process of prepping my house to go on the market and our real estate agent has issued the edict that I have to box up some of the books in my office. So, I’ve been reluctantly working through the shelves, trying to decide which ones I can live without until we move sometime in the summer. Despite my initial resistance, the packing process has actually turned out to be a really good thing. In fact, I’ve discovered two really important things:

  1. I have a lot of books. In fact, I may have a problem. Even after donating a few to the local library, I’ve still got far too many, if I’m perfectly honest.
  2. Nearly each book on my shelf has been the source of a valuable piece of leadership insight that has helped me on my journey of continuous learning.

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Healthy Leadership Practices to Cure What Ails You

Healthy Leadership Practices

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months (and perhaps that’s where we all ought to be moving to right now!), I’m sure you’ve been inundated with updates, plans, and preparations for COVID-19. There are a lot of great resources out there that can help you know what to do as we move into a new way of working and leading. And there are plenty of experts out there with tips for building resilience and adaptability while leading under crisis. Folks like the Center for Creative Leadership and ProHabits have great resources available or on the way to help. But, I thought I’d share a few key practices that you may have overlooked in your efforts to lead your team through this current or any future crisis. Read More…

The Calm in the Center of the Storm

calm in the center of the storm

As we face today’s challenges and uncertainties, we are all experiencing emotions and thoughts that we have seldom, if ever, confronted before.

Life indeed throws challenges our way.  And those challenges have varying degrees of uncertainty.  The end result is a sort of disorientation that, to most of us, can be downright scary.  It’s akin to being on a ship in the middle of a stormy sea, or an airplane experiencing severe turbulence.  Few of us have been in such situations and therefore cannot know either the duration or the outcomes that might occur.  Consequently, we can become lost in our own thoughts and emotions, filled with recurring worry about the future.

And we can feel alone.

These are the times that each of us needs to take a turn being the calm in the center of the storm.  And it is not just the leaders in organizations that can and should do it.  It is everyone. Read More…

Building Empathy To Address Critical Talent Gaps

organizational empathy

Talent challenges continue to be a priority for most agencies across the federal government. Frequent turnover, hard to fill roles, and shortages in mission-critical skill sets are all too common in most federal agencies.

There are countless strategies and approaches agency leaders can, and have, tried to address these complex challenges. But, building organizational empathy may be just the tool HR leaders need to make a near term impact.

Building organizational empathy is a strategic element for organizations trying to hire and retain top talent in an increasingly tight labor market. Research by the benefits technology firm, Business Solver in their State of Workplace Empathy report reveals that empathy is a key driver of retention, motivation, and productivity. More than 90% of employees surveyed indicated they were more likely to stay with an empathetic employer. In fact, respondents were even willing to trade off hours and pay in favor of increased empathy.

In an increasingly competitive talent environment, building a culture of empathy should be a key part of the people strategy in all organizations.

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Learning To Work In New Ways Amidst The COVID-19 Pandemic

remote work

The World Health Organization has declared the COVID-19 outbreak an official pandemic. Subsequently, the U.S. stock market looks like a more epic roller-coaster than Space Mountain, Americans are making a run on toilet paper, and citizens are beginning to feel the pressure of cancellations of a wide variety of gatherings. While the situation is certainly dynamic and messaging around the situation seems to be constantly evolving, many business owners are coming to grips with a world of work that spans from mildly inconvenient to completely debilitating.

Businesses that rely on in-person customer purchases (restaurants, sports venues, concert halls, etc.) and their employees, many of whom do not have the benefit of being paid when they are not working, seem to be facing what could be a cataclysmic fate made worse by the fact that many large U.S. employers are forcing employees to work from home. Thankfully, my own two companies largely utilize remote work models so my teams are well-versed in working out of their homes. In situations like we face currently, I realize that we are the fortunate ones and that there are some lessons we have become accustomed to that may be of value to those of you who are struggling to adapt to a new, remote way of working together. Read More…

Organizational Agility And Resilience – Two Critical Sides Of The Same Coin

Agility and Resilience

In a world where longstanding business models are being disrupted (many at the hand of a staggering rate of technological advances), you won’t get ten paces without hearing terms like agility and resilience being thrown around. This dynamic has seen the rise of brands like Amazon/Whole Foods, Netflix, and Uber as well as the demise of others like Kodak who failed to see and respond quickly enough to changes in the market. If you’re reading this and thinking that this isn’t something that applies to you, you’re sadly mistaken. Even historically stable industries are being disrupted in ways that require the ability to adapt and transform in order to thrive.

The belief that organizations must master the ability to innovate and drive new products and services to market in order to beat out the competition has contributed to the focus on agility as a critical success factor. These organizations must “fail fast”, quickly learn from mistakes, and adapt to changing market conditions in order to outperform their competitors in the long-term.

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Webinar Download: Tips for Solving People-Related Issues

People-Related Issues

Did you know? Senior leaders spend 61% of their time solving people-related issues.

Imagine the impact you could have on your client’s business if you resolved these challenges. In this recorded webinar, we discuss HOW you can advise on talent and strategy to bring value to your engagements.

Learn from Tim Bowden, Partner at gothamCulture and Russ Thomas, Regional Director of Partnerships at The Predictive Index:

  • Practical tips for diagnosing people problems
  • How to use people data to drive solutions
  • How to align your client’s talent to their strategy
  • Lessons from the field

Access the webinar recording here.

Why Are We Still Investing In Engagement & Self-Actualization At Work?

For over two decades, since the concept came into awareness, many managers have been working to improve employee engagement. Historically, though, you can trace the roots engagement back to the work of Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs. When Maslow’s general theory of motivation was translated into the world of management, self-actualization became the goal for all employees — an idea that many authors (e.g. here) have since related to employee engagement.

Since Maslow entered management, managers have pushed for engagement, finding fulfillment, or simply “doing what you love” on the job. But, this is a narrow interpretation of an already pretty narrow view of human motivation.

A quick look at global employee engagement suggests that the way we’ve been pursuing self-actualizing work is likely misguided. Despite massive investments over the past two decades, we’ve seen little change in global employee engagement. In fact, a recent report from Gallup celebrates a 1% increase actively engaged members of the workforce with no change in the percent who are actively disengaged — and says nothing about the consistent majority of workers who are neither actively engaged or disengaged.

All of the effort and investment in driving engagement and self-actualization typically ignores what we really know about motivation. Motivation at work, and beyond, is deeply individual. We know that work motivation isn’t simply a linear progression toward self-actualization, engagement, or happiness. What then should a well-intentioned manager who’s been overdosed with Maslow do to help improve employee experience and performance?

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Why I’m Taking a Day Off From Being Busy – And You Should Too

For the past 12 years since my family relocated to Northern Virginia, I’ve talked to my dad at least once a week on the phone. I’ve noticed over the past few weeks, though, that our conversations have evolved into a pretty familiar pattern. One that around various versions of one question: “What’s keeping you busy these days?” Of course, I’ve always got a list – starting new projects at work or at home, scrambling to get the next proposal in or find the next client, preparing for the sale of our house, or any other number of to-do’s whether large or small. Even my dad who’s been retired for the past five or so years also seems to always be busy. This phenomenon certainly isn’t unique to me and my dad.

The Culture of Being Busy
A few years ago the Atlantic published an article asserting that “Ugh, I’m so busy” has become the status symbol of our time. And in 2018, sociologist Anna Akbari’s Psychology Today article challenged readers to define their success not by their lack of time, but by the quality time they dedicated to the people and things that they loved. It seems our culture has come to embrace busyness over all else. The idea is that to be successful and happy we need to constantly have schedules filled to the brim. That being important means battling multiple conflicting priorities. Or that productivity means just having too much on our plate to possibly fit in one more thing.

And I think I’ve taken the bait, hook, line, and sinker. I pursue hobbies with such zeal that they look more like vocations. And I work so hard to provide my kids with opportunities, experiences, and activities that I stay busy keeping them busy. But at the end of the day, I don’t think I’m any more productive, significantly happier or more well off because of how busy I’ve become. Nor do I think any of the other folks I encounter who are constantly busy are any of these things either.

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A Study in the Art of Servant Leadership

“Know your Marines and look out for their welfare.”

“Employ your Marines in accordance with their capabilities.”

These are two leadership principles the Marine Corps instills into its leaders at all levels, regardless of rank or seniority. These principles are taken seriously, as they can mean the difference between mission success and failure, life and death. Despite the stakes being different in the business world, these two concepts are vital to a leader’s success and, more importantly, that of their subordinates.

In our technologically infused, fast-paced world of business, the speed and amount of information available to us is unprecedented. Transactions now move faster, decisions are made quicker, and we’re able to collaborate and complete tasks more rapidly. However, leaders have largely missed one important side effect that can degrade the performance of their teams. Behavioral scientists call it the cognitive load, and it takes a toll on our teams more than we realize.

Simply put, the cognitive load is the mental “work” needed for any thought or action. Every task, conversation, email, project, meeting, etc. has a cognitive load price tag, and we all have a different capacity for what we can take on. This is why we spend hours refining our presentations to our leadership – there’s just too much information for them to consider and they want you to reduce the cognitive load required to make a decision.

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