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Leaders in the Trenches: Unexpected Influencers

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Jun 27, 2019 10:15:00 AM

Sometimes the most influential leaders step up not because position demands it, but because it’s the right thing to do even when the path ahead is foggy and feelings of uncertainty about how to proceed are intense. On occasions when a person unexpectedly comes forward to do more than is required, it can reveal his or her true capabilities and worth. Leading during crisis or upheaval takes commitment, flexibility and heart—and the outcome can mean big wins for the organization, as well as individual team members.

“Not long ago, I was working as an associate on a team that was enormously impacted by a major organizational transition and realignment. Our group significantly decreased in size, we lost our manager and had no direction or strategy for how to move forward in the new reality. Needless to say, the situation was scary and very uncomfortable. We all well understood that the financial stakes were really high, but our group felt completely lost and disconnected.

“At a point when we were feeling especially insecure, one of our accounts receivable analysts, Wayne Johnson, stepped forward to say he would be willing to volunteer to assist the team. An individual contributor without a team of his own, Wayne said he would be happy to stand in temporarily as someone to report to if anything was needed. His ultimate actions and commitment to the team, however, resulted in a much greater impact than we initially expected.

“Wayne took it upon himself to deep dive into our processes and figure out what needed to be done within our new organizational climate. Recognizing our roles were evolving and had to adjust to meet the changing needs of the business, he tested and reshaped our processes multiple times according to what was required, as well as what felt correct for the wellbeing of the business and our customers. His influence ensured we were able to keep things moving correctly.

“Yet, as much as he helped keep our team on track during an uncertain time, Wayne’s influence actually had a much larger impact on me personally. He recognized I was determined to learn and trusted me to take ownership in my role and run with it, all the while pushing me to expand my abilities and improve where I could do – and be – better. His consistent actions, unwavering encouragement and gentle guidance allowed me to be successful and gain visibility. My resulting growth and development led to my receiving a promotion.

“Wayne’s own drive and determination, combined with his openness, honesty and servant leadership mindset is inspiring. He pushed me to participate in more activities, resulting my pursuit of a graduate degree and participation in a Milestone Leadership experience. Both endeavors opened my eyes to the possibilities of how I, too, can lead. Having recently completed my MBA, I have been reflecting back on what helped me achieve this monumental goal. Wayne’s leadership and dedication to helping others to grow to their desired potential is at the pit of the fire that fueled my success.

When I see Wayne, I always try to thank him for the opportunities and drive he gave me. He would say, ‘It’s all you…you did the work,” but I know his kind insistence that I could achieve more really made the difference. I know now that leadership is a mindset, not just a position. I’m actively looking for ways I can make a difference, offer solutions and be the kind of inspiration Wayne has been for me.”

Melanie Suber, MBA—Lead Business Analyst – Post Audit, Genpact

At Milestone Leadership, experience tells us that anyone can step up as a leader, whether they hold the title on an org chart or not. Here are some ways to be a leader worth following, even if you’re not the one “in charge:”

  1. Look for gaps in processes or procedures that, if resolved or improved, could make everyone’s jobs easier. Take the initiative to suggest changes and help communicate or clarify what comes next.
  2. Be observant of where coworkers are struggling or feeling overwhelmed, and offer assistance. Don’t wait until a situation is critical; offer a hand.
  3. Set the tone for how you want team members to feel and behave toward you and each other. Establish a personal reputation for being welcoming, responsive and encouraging—and work to reinforce that same behavior within your group.
  4. Look for tasks that may be overlooked or going undone because others say, “That’s not my job.” Step in to carry a bit of extra weight when appropriate, even if it’s not explicitly spelled out in your job description.
  5. Pull up out of the weeds and look into the future. Rather than focus every moment on the to-do list for today, regularly consider and talk about what is ahead and develop an attitude of optimism and vision.
  6. Think beyond yourself and only what concerns you. Envision what is best for everyone and work to implement it. What’s good for the group will ultimately benefit each individual.
  7. Teach others. If you know how to do something well, share the wealth and improve your team’s overall capabilities by expanding the knowledge of your peers.
  8. Give credit and offer praise where it’s due. Not only acknowledge to a peer that you’ve noticed their achievement or great work—also take the time to tell their manager.
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Topics: Women in Leadership, Determination, Professional Development, Productivity, Growth, Initiative, Candor, Living Your Values, Motivation, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Feedback, Boss, Organization, Company Culture, Tips, innovation, Emotional Leadership, Success, Organizational Change, Intentionality, Workplace, Teams, Change Management, Milestone, Sacrifice, Team Health, Heart, Vision, Change, Problem Solving, Legacy, High Performance, Bravery, Aspirations, High Performing Teams, Dreams, Courage, Challenge, Strategy, Criticism, Learning, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Practical Tips & Tricks, Employee Development, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication, Affirmation, Service

"Keep the Door Open, Please"

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Jun 13, 2019 11:05:00 AM

Are people actually walking through your open door? As leaders we have a tendency to say our doors are always open—and our organizations may even go so far as to officially tout an open door policy that theoretically reaches all the way to the top. But how many frontline employees in your workplace feel truly empowered to approach leaders at various levels with challenges or input?

The truth is, team members have a lot of opinions. They’re the ones charged with actually implementing an organization’s strategies, keeping abreast of competitors, and producing, implementing or promoting products and services. They have distinct thoughts about the culture of the workplace and how they and their peers feel about showing up to work each day. They know how customers feel about their company and they can tell you where the gaps in service lie. Team members can pinpoint the strengths of the organization and are no strangers to the not-so-pretty aspects that may be negatively impacting productivity or even losing clients.

When an organization describes itself as having an open door policy, it’s issuing a blanket statement about its culture that may—or more often may not—reflect the reality of how team dynamics and sharing of information actually functions. Leaders who say their offices are always open are really only meeting their team members a fraction of the way, and they are likely missing out on some enormously valuable input and innovative ideas.

At Milestone Leadership, we know leaders worth following take a proactive approach. Here are three ways to actually make good on an open door assertion and start hearing more from your team:

  • Walk straight through your own door, out of your office and meet your team members where they are. Make a commitment to regularly approach employees about what they’re experiencing, where they’re struggling and what they’re proud of. Initial conversations may not result in people feeling comfortable with sharing much information, but with consistency and a clearly demonstrated open mind that builds trust, feedback and ideas will start to flow both ways. Come prepared with questions that help to get people talking, and ask about specific topics you’re challenged by.
  • Don’t assume the information actually shared with you paints the entire picture. Human nature dictates that people tend to be more vocal with complaints or problems—a good example is online reviews where people feel the need to get negative experiences off of their chests, but may never take the time to leave praise or offer constructive suggestions. Similarly, leaders may hear about what people are upset about but they don’t have employees coming to them with fresh ideas or possible innovations. By reinforcing a culture of ongoing communication that encourages sharing all types of information, the likelihood of getting a broader view increases exponentially.
  • Think and interact with strategy in mind. As a leader, you have responsibility for the definition, communication and execution of your organization’s strategy. Many employees have roles that are more narrowly defined and they don’t necessarily think about big-picture views or overarching objectives every day. When talking with team members, reinforce the company’s strategy and how their work supports that. As they better see where their work fits into the grand scheme of things, they will become more proactive about suggesting ways to improve processes or even positively disrupt status quo.

Make sure your door really IS open—and make the sure the path goes both ways!

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Topics: Professional Development, Productivity, Initiative, Candor, Living Your Values, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Values, Feedback, Boss, Organization, Company Culture, Tips, innovation, Success, Intentionality, Workplace, Idea Generation, Teams, Milestone, Team Health, Problem Solving, High Performance, High Performing Teams, Transparency, Challenge, Strategy, Criticism, Learning, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Employee Development, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication

"Slowly...Step Away from the Desk..."

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Jun 1, 2019 8:45:00 AM

There’s a tendency you’ll notice with far too many people as they progress upwards in an organization: the higher a leader goes on the org chart, the less you see them. There’s always some rationale, most commonly that work load grows with greater responsibility, making it harder and harder to get away from the desk or computer. Yet, leaders are responsible for staying abreast of and positively influencing the workplace climate, and it is highly unlikely much meaningful inspiration and team connectiveness comes from someone rarely seen on an informal day-to-day basis.

For this installment of Leaders in the Trenches, we would like to highlight a story shared with us about a public school educator whose daily actions inspired generations of students and colleagues:

“After an eleven-year hiatus taking off from my teaching career moving around all over the United States with my husband’s career, having four kids, and volunteering a bit, I completed a graduate level degree and was finally certified to teach in the state where we lived. I’d had several interviews, but repeatedly found out I was the “second choice,” and someone else was hired. Finally, I had what seemed to be a successful interview at an elementary school. After we’d visited a bit, the principal, Jim Lewis, asked me if I’d like to take a walk around the school with him. As we left the office, we encountered an aide pushing a young student with special needs in a wheelchair. As Jim made eye contact with both of these people, asked about their day, and then touched the child and spoke further with him, I was impressed. There was a sincerity and evidence of purpose here that impacted me greatly.

“After working with Jim for a few years, I was telling my husband a story about something remarkable this principal had done, to which he said, “You’d eat glass for him, wouldn’t you?” I thought about it a second, chuckled, and then replied, “Yeah, pretty much.” Besides demonstrating a sincere interest in his employees and students, what else did Jim do to command such loyalty?

“He knew the value of learning about others and then using that information to aid in collaboration for future success. After the horrific school shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas in 1998, he wondered what could be done to help better protect students. He visited with an involved parent, and the two came up with an idea to start a program to encourage fathers of students to volunteer a day to walk the school halls and make sure doors stayed locked, among other things. As parents would come in to volunteer, master collaborator Jim would visit with them and find out about their connections and interests. Many programs and the facility itself were improved over time because he knew who to call for help with common, shared goals. It’s important to note—that school safety volunteer program, WatchDog Dads, has gone national!

"One education consultant said, “If you want to impact change in your school, get out of the office, get out of the office, get out of the office.” While Jim probably had a stack of paperwork on his desk and a colorful pile of Post-It notes scrawled with names and numbers of parents to call, he made the time to walk the building to see what was going on. How else could he “brag” on the incredible work being done by teachers, students, and volunteers?! 

“Jim Lewis went on to be a superintendent then a retired grandpa who enjoys hanging out with his family and traveling. When many former students and colleagues hear his name, they inevitably sing, “See the sun, shining in the window, time to start a new day,” the way he often started morning school announcements.”

-Teresa Cornett, Retired Teacher

At a time when management of employees is increasingly done through email—or leaders rely on formally scheduled meetings rather than impromptu and casual check-in conversations, it’s no wonder many teams don’t really feel like teams. Add the challenge of workplaces that are a combination of physical office space and remote digital workstations, it’s more important than ever that leaders develop and practice effective methods of staying engaged with their teams.  

Here are a few ways a leader can make a real impact:

  • Get up and walk around the workplace on a daily basis—and not always at the same time. Talk to people where they are doing their work, ask questions, request feedback. Don’t leave anyone out. (If team members work remotely and walk-by visits are not an option, impromptu phone calls and video conferencing can achieve a similar effect.)
  • As casual conversations arise and team members feel more comfortable engaging, take the opportunity to use those discussions to reinforce values and vision. When a leader is able to illustrate the organization’s purpose in the context of real talk about real situations, it can have a positive, crystallizing effect for individuals and the overall team.
  • If a problem is identified in the course of visiting with team members, provide support right then. Not having all of the answers or the ability to remove barriers immediately is not what is important—but showing a sense of urgency to help problem solve and not default to “I’ll look into it” is key to helping team members believe leaders have their backs.

At Milestone Leadership, our work with leaders worth following over the years has shown us the enormous value of connection and the lasting impact of making a commitment to team engagement.

Step away from your desk. Go learn something new about someone you work with—and what is challenging them. Repeat. And repeat.

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Topics: Initiative, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Values, Feedback, Boss, Company Culture, Tips, Emotional Leadership, Success, Intentionality, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Team Health, Heart, Legacy, Stories, High Performance, High Performing Teams, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Employee Development, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication, Affirmation

Go Ahead and File That Under "Happy"

Posted by Milestone Leadership on May 23, 2019 11:45:00 AM

 

 

More years ago than I care to consider, I started my own quiet little office tradition. I can’t claim the idea as uniquely my own, but I do know the concept came to mind for me on a particularly challenging day that was made unexpectedly, 180-degrees better by a simple handwritten letter from someone I only fleetingly met once. I don’t remember what the work crisis du jour was that had me momentarily out of sorts, but I certainly do remember that note, who it was from and what it said.

The letter became the very first document to go into my Happy File. A couple of decades later, that file is pretty fat. And it has gone with me to every job since—increasingly a little rough around the edges but more loved and appreciated with the passing years.

My Happy File is filled with cards, emails, formal letters and a few sticky notes. Each of those tokens represents a person whose path crossed mine, some on a daily basis and some only once. Some of those people are no longer with us. Every message is filled with encouragement, appreciation, affirmation and thanks; every message reflects another person’s consideration towards me and an understanding that a personal sentiment or simple handwritten thanks is worth more than its weight in gold.

When self-doubt creeps in or I’m feeling a little overwhelmed, a quick look through my Happy File can be a pretty powerful thing. I believe when other people put down in words what a great job you did or how much your efforts benefited them, the intent is undeniable and indelible. Reading messages like these again after time has passed is an effective reminder of your capabilities and impact—and can help us regain a bit of lost mojo.

So, here’s the leadership lesson in all of this. YOUR words are so meaningful to others; share them. Take the time to recognize what your team members do well and put it down in writing. I would like to challenge you as a leader to kindle this tradition in your own workplace or where you volunteer—and actually give your direct reports or peers their own starter Happy File…with the first letter or card from you.

At Milestone Leadership, we know leaders worth following take the time to recognize and reinforce the positive things their team members do. Great leaders know that high functioning organizations result when people feel appreciated, acknowledged and confident. Don’t leave others to wonder if they’re making a difference—tell them.

 P.S. If you decide to take this challenge, would you please let us know how it goes?

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Topics: Growth, Initiative, Worth, Candor, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Authenticity, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Reflection, Values, Feedback, Boss, Company Culture, Tips, Emotional Leadership, Success, Intentionality, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Ping Pong, Truth, Team Health, Heart, Legacy, Stories, High Performance, High Performing Teams, Challenge, Mentors, Learning, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Employee Development, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication, Affirmation, Gift

Leaders in the Trenches: Seeing More in Someone Than They See in Themselves

Posted by Milestone Leadership on May 16, 2019 11:54:09 AM

 

Rarely do we get where we’re going alone. Every stage of life and career is influenced by others—and those who see and enable potential in the people around them have some of the greatest impact of all. Personal and professional success comes, in part, as a result of leaders who take an active interest and role in developing team members. When a leader pushes the boundaries of an employee’s perception of his or her capabilities, it not only develops new skills and acumen, it builds the kind of confidence needed in fast-paced, ever-shifting work environments.

We invite you to read a great perspective on recognizing and cultivating potential from one of Milestone Leadership’s Soderquist Fellows:

“When I began working for Milestone Leadership as a new fellow, I walked in the door feeling like I was just a student. I was convinced l was incapable of taking on the things I was told I would be doing.

"I kept thinking to myself, ‘Don’t you know I don’t know how to do this? Why do you trust me enough to give me this role? I’m unqualified…don’t you see this?'

"Yet, every personal doubt of mine was met with encouragement from my leaders. I was surrounded by people who believed in me and my capacity to learn—they saw my potential before I saw it myself.

"I was pushed and stretched in ways I couldn’t have imagined, challenged every day by people who trusted and cared for me. I learned I could be the person they saw in me, and I began to move outside of my comfort zone toward a role bigger than I would have ever defined for myself.

"The expectations were very high, but with that came so much trust in my abilities. That unconditional trust has changed my outlook as a young professional. What an honor it has been to have people believe in me so strongly, while caring for me enough to push me to my fullest potential through meaningful feedback. I learned that receiving ongoing feedback should be normal from a team—not because I was wrong, but because I was capable of more and better.

"As I leave my role at Milestone, I carry with me what we refer to as humble confidence. I learned to have confidence in my and my company’s ability to deliver excellence, but with the humbleness that the outcome wasn’t about me. It was always about serving others.

"My leaders trusted and cared enough about me as a person to push me to my fullest potential. I now feel ready and qualified to step into my next opportunity, eager to contribute to others and embrace a fresh mission and culture.”

-Marisa Judson, Soderquist Fellow and Project Coordinator, Milestone Leadership

At Milestone Leadership, we know leaders worth following are those who help team members build from the place of their own strengths, while recognizing and addressing areas that need development. They willingly trust their followers, giving ample room to stretch and grow—but offer meaningful and constructive feedback and the confidence of a soft place to land and regroup when things don’t go as planned.

Who saw and appreciated your potential enough to guide, shape and encourage you along your path? Thank them.

 

Marisa Judson joined the Milestone Leadership team as a Soderquist Fellow in 2017 and completed her MBA with an emphasis in Market Research and Consumer Insights at John Brown University in the spring of 2019. During her fellowship, she was instrumental in helping coordinate outstanding leadership experiences for hundreds of professionals, as well as managed a wide array of marketing responsibilities for the organization. Marisa will begin the next phase of her career as an account manager with Field Agent, strengthened with the healthy confidence and capabilities that have grown exponentially as a result of working with a team of people who immediately saw and cultivated her enormous potential.

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Topics: Women in Leadership, Soderquist Fellowship, Productivity, Women, Growth, Worth, Candor, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Authenticity, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Millennials, Values, Feedback, Coaching, Self Awareness, Boss, Company Culture, Tips, Success, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Truth, Team Health, High Performance, Mentorship, High Performing Teams, Challenge, Criticism, Mentors, Learning, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Employee Development, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication, Gift

Minds are Like Parachutes: Best When Open

Posted by Milestone Leadership on May 9, 2019 8:57:27 AM

 

One irony of human nature is the tendency we have to believe everyone around us should be open-minded about our opinions and behaviors, yet so frequently we struggle with people who don’t think and behave the same way we do. On occasion, we encounter someone who demonstrates genuine openness to hearing new perspectives and is uninterested in qualifying everything as good or bad, black or white. Spending time around such a person can have an enormously positive impact, as it gives others tacit permission to express thoughts and capabilities without fear of being judged as right or wrong. 

This leadership story helps illustrate the value of having and encouraging an open mind:

“I was a 19-year old college freshman at a tiny liberal arts college, and I decided to take a public speaking course during a short winter term. The faculty was small, so some members covered a variety of subjects—and in this case we had a philosophy professor teaching us the topic.

“The class was made up of almost entirely traditional students, except for one single mom who seemed so much older than the rest of us (in reality, she was probably only in her thirties!) It was this woman’s turn to give her presentation, and part of the routine was for other class members to offer feedback at the conclusion of each speech. We took turns giving our suggestions, but as one member of the class was offering his not-so-constructive comments, the professor promptly interrupted him with this statement, “Be careful what you say. Have an open mind. If your mind is open, it leaves more room for the good stuff.”

“At the time, my professor’s remark didn’t seem all that profound. It was, though, and that guidance and management of the situation has literally stayed with me for decades. I realized her words were actually a kind, yet pointed, way of stopping unpleasantness in its tracks—and a simultaneous reminder that what we fill our heads with is a large determiner of what kind of person we will be. If we keep an open mind, we give ourselves the space to be positive and flexible to different ways of thinking. If we fill our minds with negativity, the likelihood is that we’ll behave in negative ways. I have been inspired by that simple statement and have called it to mind in countless situations over the years.”

-Laura Mabry, Manager of Corporate and Foundation Relations, University of Arkansas

A number of qualities are inherent to open-mindedness: continuous learner, curious spirit, knack for seeing things from fresh perspectives and respect for differing beliefs of others. People who authentically demonstrate these characteristics frequently have a special charisma and way of making those around them feel comfortable and confident.

At Milestone Leadership, we know open-mindedness is an important trait among leaders worth following. They inspire the best thinking, creativity and behavior in others. When followers are encouraged to be their genuine selves, the result is a greater degree of trust among team members, resulting in collective confidence and willingness to take calculated risks, communicate more effectively and bring their best efforts to the group.

Have you pulled the parachute ripcord for your team?

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Topics: Productivity, Growth, Candor, Motivation, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Authenticity, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Feedback, Self Awareness, Boss, Company Culture, Tips, Emotional Leadership, Success, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Truth, Team Health, High Performance, High Performing Teams, Dreams, Criticism, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication

Transforming Pollyanna into a Warrior Princess

Posted by Milestone Leadership on May 2, 2019 10:05:00 AM

 

When I began my second year of graduate school for counseling, I didn’t think I was going to make it.  To be honest, I was turning out to be a terrible therapist.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was concerned about my situation.  I just didn’t know how to translate the book knowledge that I had learned in the first year into actually helping people. 

My program allowed me the opportunity to do live counseling behind a one way mirror, where a supervisor sat and observed me and my work.  One such supervisor was a woman named Sharon Shepherd. 

Sharon was an amazing therapist I had the privilege of observing as a student.  I was so excited to have her work with me, but was also terrified because I knew my counseling skills weren’t “clicking” between the two of us.  A few days after my first session, I received an email from Sharon.  In the email, she said many helpful things, but she used an image that helped me understand what she meant and what I needed to change.  She called me Pollyanna (like the Disney character).  I was having a difficult time giving honest feedback to clients.  I only wanted to talk about the good things that I saw.  Beyond this great image that helped me understand the work I needed to do, she also modeled the behavior she wanted to see.  She gave me honest feedback.  The feedback didn’t hurt.  It wasn’t harsh and it wasn’t personal.  It was true and I knew it.

I learned many things during my time in supervision for becoming a counselor.  One of the most important things was this idea of giving honest feedback.  How often do we hold back as coaches, leaders, supervisors, etc. because we are afraid of hurting someone’s feelings?  How often do we only point out the things that we are comfortable talking about?  When we are in a position to give feedback to someone, the only way to do so in a way that is respectful to that person and their growth is to give them the truth – positive and negative.

Over the next several months after receiving that email from Sharon, my technique improved and I wasn’t as terrible as I had been previously, thanks to many great supervisors.  After one of my last sessions, I received another email from Sharon.  In it, she let me know that Pollyanna had morphed into Xena Warrior Princess and that she was proud of me.  Because Sharon had given me honest feedback, the compliment I received from her was much stronger and more important than it had been had she ignored the truth.  I’m often described as someone who “tells is like it is.”  While I attempt to come at hard truths with compassion and kindness, Sharon truly taught me that telling the truth is a kindness in and of itself.

 As a leader, your job is to help people grow, and the only way to do that is to tell them the truth.  Help them find their inner Xena Warrior Princess.

Reposted from previously published blog.

Author:
Lori Chalmers

  

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Topics: Growth, Candor, Leadership, Honesty, Authenticity, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Humility, Management, Empowerment, Values, Company Culture, Tips, Success, Intentionality, Workplace, Milestone, Truth, Real, High Performance, Bravery, Courage, Challenge, Criticism, Mentors, Learning, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication

"You Think This Is All a Big Joke??"

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Apr 26, 2019 2:00:28 PM

 

Is there anything that feels better than a belly laugh? Experts tell us laughing is actually serious business when it comes to personal health benefits, yet so many workplaces seem to be pretty stoic places. There are plenty of reasons why people who typically have a good sense of humor tend to be more reserved in the office, with one of the most common factors being a concern that attempts at being funny or pointing out something silly may fail miserably and leave them feeling embarrassed or exposed.

Despite reservations by some around demonstrating a great sense of humor at work, there are many surveys which conclude employees believe it is a factor which can play heavily in a person’s potential for advancement—and an ability to laugh or keep things light at appropriate times is considered one of the very best traits a leader can have.

Here are six reasons why leaders should encourage and model a bit of laughter:

  1. Humor is a pathway to play. All work and no play do not offer a creative, open-minded, dynamic atmosphere. Laughing gives our brains a moment of healthy distraction and a chance to briefly reboot so we can focus better afterward, as well as even tap into fresh ideas.
  2. Laughter puts people at ease, breaks tension and builds cohesiveness in groups; cohesive, trusting groups work better together and members feel greater loyalty to each other.
  3. When people laugh with each other, they relax and are open to seeing more possibilities. Circumstances become less about maintaining constant control and more about looking at reality. (And even a tough reality can allow for glimmers of humor.)
  4. Humor is a major morale booster. When a workplace allows for an occasionally playful environment where not every single thing is taken seriously, people actually want to be there.
  5. Those who embrace humor are easier to approach and get to know, which ultimately leads to others feeling more comfortable to be honest and forthright when it really matters.
  6. Stress can make us sick, but laughter actually increases our beta-endorphins and strengthens our immune systems. Plus, laughing burns calories…so less time on the treadmill!

Our Milestone Leadership team really likes to laugh and we encourage humor in our every day activities. We believe leaders worth following are individuals whom others genuinely enjoy being around. Leaders who can recognize and occasionally defuse stressful situations using a bit of appropriate humor are very powerful in their ability to create healthy work environments, motivate team members and encourage personal connections.

According to Harvard Business Review, “Good comedy is a conspiracy. Create an in-group.” 

😄😂🤣

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Topics: Productivity, Growth, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Tone at the Top, Advice, Fun, Laughter, Management, Values, Boss, Company Culture, Tips, Emotional Leadership, Success, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Team Health, High Performance, High Performing Teams, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication, Humor

The Leadership Chronicles: “If They Don’t Get It, Maybe It’s You?”

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Apr 18, 2019 9:29:21 AM

 

We’ve heard it so many times – employees don’t leave bad companies, they leave bad managers. Leaders have an enormous influence on employee engagement and morale, but they also have a critical responsibility to make certain team members understand their jobs and how to be successful in their roles. For many companies, training and onboarding is largely conducted by a professional training staff, so often managers feel they can take a back seat for encouraging and overseeing learning and skill development. In this edition of Leadership Chronicles, we offer a real-life example relating to this topic:

“One of my first jobs out of college was in retail management for a major chain clothing store in Princeton, New Jersey. Merchandising and operations were dictated to us at the store level in great detail, and it was our job as managers to hold the staff accountable for meeting the strict standards. The job and the hours were brutal, but what I learned in my two years there has continued to serve me better than almost any professional experience I've had since.

“Our district manager was a no-nonsense man named Lon who had grown up and lived most of his life in Brooklyn, New York. While Lon didn't have much in the way of soft skills, he DID understand retail. Ultimately, his no-nonsense approach taught me a valuable leadership lesson.   

“Most of the staff in our store were high school and college students whose concern for how denim was folded took a back seat to the rest of their lives. One day I groaned to Lon on his monthly visit to our store that I thought we were going to have to fire several people because they struggled to meet our standards. The conversation that followed went something like this:

Lon:     “Have you trained them?”

Me:      “Well, they all went through our orientation.” 

Lon:     “But nothing since then?”

Me:      “I guess not. We shouldn't have to show people more than once how to do                                something.” 

Long pause. 

Lon:     “If you don't think people are meeting the expectations, you first have to make                      sure they know what the expectations are. It's your job to develop them to meet                    the expectations. If you don't like the way the staff is performing, then as the                          manager, it's your fault.” 

“He then went on to explain why it's more costly to hire new people than to develop current staff. Of course, he was right

“This lesson has come back to me in every role I've ever had. As a leader it's my job to train, develop, and work alongside my staff so they can meet the expectations of their roles, and beyond that, so they can grow into other roles outside of the organization or company. If I'm frustrated with someone, then the first questions to ask myself are, ‘What is MY role in this person's performance? Where have I faltered in my leadership?’

-Angie Albright, Executive Director, Clinton House Museum

Research tells us that information gained from training on its own without direct application and reinforcement in reality is quickly lost. What team members learn in a classroom setting or through online training is a mere starting point. When leaders identify ways to take ownership in actively reinforcing training on the job, skills begin to really take hold.

At Milestone Leadership, we understand that managers possess great deal of influence over how team members feel about their ability to perform well. Leaders worth following take the time to develop a strategy for each employee that involves regular one-on-one conversations, coaching, opportunities to apply new skills, and a plan for future learning and development.  The message to direct reports is clear: they have a leader partner who is vested in their success–and they see firsthand that their skills, knowledge and capabilities both present and future are important to the organization.

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Topics: Professional Development, Storytelling, Productivity, Growth, Candor, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Values, Feedback, Coaching, Boss, Organization, Company Culture, Tips, Success, Intentionality, Experience, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Team Health, Top Down Leadership, Stories, High Performance, High Performing Teams, Criticism, Learning, Powerful Influencers, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Employee Development, Personal Development, Creating Culture, clarity, Leader Worth Following, Communication

Teachers in the Trenches: A Brief Look at Receiving the Gift of Feedback

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Apr 15, 2019 2:08:03 PM

 

For this installment of “Teachers in the Trenches: A Brief Look at Real Leadership Stories,” we share with you a quote about the power of hearing and accepting input from others and the way one leader has been able to both teach and inspire his followers through a consistent, positive message.

“A number of years ago I was a newbie at P&G, and my leader at the time was Mike Graen, director of Information Technology. He had a huge impact on my career for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that he demonstrated what it is to be a true servant leader—always willing and ready to get in the trenches with his team. He had a wonderful way of empowering us to find solutions to complex issues. Mike taught me to push beyond the obvious, and his encouraging way of doing that, and his confidence in my abilities to do so, has given me lasting confidence.

“Mike had an impactful phrase he used, which has become somewhat of a mantra for me, ‘Feedback is a gift.’ Those words I’ve repeated many times, and the meaning is something I’ve taken to heart. That simple phrase taught me that hearing feedback can be incredibly valuable and critical to success. We have to own what we hear from others about the work we do—and we have an obligation to ask questions to gain clarity about that feedback. We must listen without defensiveness and learn to take action based upon what others share with us. Receiving feedback in the right spirit helps us build our toolkits and improve our work.”

-Suzanne Herzog Owens, Chief Product Officer, WhyteSpyder

Leaders worth following know how to provide constructive feedback that is actually motivating and beneficial to their team members—and they have to be open to receiving feedback, as well. Some of the best lessons that leaders can hope to receive come from their followers and peers. It is critical to internalize and act upon this feedback in the spirit it is intended.

Whether you’re leading or following (or both), here are some ways to graciously accept and use feedback as the gift it is meant to be:

  • As you’re hearing feedback, take a second to remind yourself that you’re gaining insight for ways you can improve your effectiveness or make something you’re working on better.
  • Listen fully and try not to let your brain race to the point that you’re not hearing what is being said. Once the person has shared their thoughts, restate what you believe you were told to make sure you’re on the same page.
  • Don’t go on the defensive. Don’t argue. Stop, listen and acknowledge what you’ve been told.
  • Ask clarifying questions and inquire about possible solutions for addressing any issues.
  • Thank the person who has taken the time to share feedback with you. It might not have been easy for them, but by acknowledging politely and sincerely, you are showing your respect for their assessment—even if you may not fully agree.
  • Afterwards, consciously look for examples of your behavior or activities that relate to the criticism and actively address them. If you find ways to improve and take specific action to do so, it’s great to follow up with the person who provided feedback to demonstrate your progress.  

 

At Milestone Leadership, we recognize feedback is a necessity, and like all communication, it’s best when it flows both directions. Building a culture that embraces and cultivates feedback invites trust and meaningful interaction among team members—which leads to innovation, productivity and loyalty.

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Topics: Productivity, Growth, Candor, Living Your Values, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Honesty, Authenticity, Candidness, Tone at the Top, Advice, Humility, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Feedback, Passion, Organization, Company Culture, Tips, Success, Intentionality, Experience, Workplace, Teams, Milestone, Truth, Team Health, Top Down Leadership, High Performance, Purpose, High Performing Teams, Recognition, Learning, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Communication

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