Milestone Blog

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

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

Teachers in the Trenches: A Brief Look at Real Leadership Stories

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Apr 4, 2019 9:09:42 AM

 

No matter where we are in life or how we arrived at that point, from start to finish there are always people along our path who teach or influence us—especially when we are open to learning and embracing a bit of healthy introspection. Sometimes lessons are conveyed very intentionally, and at other times we learn by simply observing someone’s behavior, demeanor or direct actions. This article is the first in a series of blogs where we will share a quote from someone who describes a real-life instance of something their current or past leader said or did that has impacted their own leadership journey.

“My first full time boss was an old Army Sergeant who has served in Vietnam. Warm and cuddly he was not, but he knew how to GSD (get stuff done.) He sat me down when I became a leader for him (dispatcher) and told me that the company we worked for ran long before I got there and will run long after I leave...so don't think that I can't be replaced if I screw up or didn't work as much as it took to get the job done.

“That was shocking to a 19-year old, but really stuck. Though it was meant to be a threat (veiled or otherwise) and I'm no longer with that company...which is no longer in business...I've taken that nugget and made it my own. I now encourage my people to take care of themselves and use that same phrase to show them that though they feel like what they are working on is the most important thing right now, it will all still be here when they get back and are rested.” 

-Zac McCool, Senior Manager of Engineering and Technology, J.B. Hunt

The leadership lesson gained from this originally negative comment took on a valuable meaning as the person’s career progressed. Encouraging team members to take time to occasionally refuel both mind and body has enormous benefits for overall long-term productivity. It’s true—the work and the organization will still be there when someone returns from vacation or takes time to recover from an illness—but the reward is increased creativity, enhanced focus, more energy and greater loyalty to the team. Encouraging team members to balance their time and work load to take care of themselves and their families is a small price to pay for attracting and retaining top talent in a tight labor market. 

If you have a leadership example you would like us to consider featuring, we would sincerely love to hear it! Please respond in the comments of this post, and we’ll reach out to hear your story. At Milestone Leadership, we understand that teachers and mentors come to us in all sorts of ways, both formally and informally. We also know leadership lessons are best shared so we can all grow together—and the most effective way for us to become better leaders is to clearly understand and embrace what influences and inspires our followers. Who inspired you? What is your leader worth following story?

 

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Topics: Productivity, Growth, Living Your Values, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Passion, Organization, Company Culture, 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

Tell Me a Story

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Mar 29, 2019 9:55:59 AM

 

Ask any group of leaders what robs them of sleep, and you’ll likely eventually hear something about challenges related to connecting with their team or peers—and struggles with how to more gracefully guide others through the stresses of change that are inevitable and inherent to any organization. Successfully managing through these issues requires finesse and acknowledgement of the importance of possessing some of the more intangible soft skills. One of those capabilities may seem insignificant on its face, but when appropriately used can actually wield enormous influence: Storytelling.

For many of us, our long-ago childhood bedtime rituals frequently included a story to coax us into our dreams. We revelled in the cozy simplicity of the voice of a parent or loved one reading aloud, making up a tall tale or sharing a treasured vignette about when they were once small themselves. Everything else would become still, and we listened intently—our minds filling with images and ideas that would usually last well beyond the telling.

Fast-forward to now, and it’s likely you still love a great story. We get pulled into them in spite of ourselves—on social media, television, movies or perhaps just overhearing someone while waiting in line at the DMV. National Public Radio even names their best, most captivating stories Driveway Moments because they’re so interesting we stay in our cars to listen to the end after we’ve already arrived at our destinations.

Work environments are no different, and leaders who are good storytellers have a real edge when striving to be relatable to team members and peers. The right story at the right time can be extraordinarily powerful. It has the potential to generate emotion, energy and establish a personal connection. Well-executed stories can frame up what needs to be learned or achieved by allowing listeners to create a relevant vision in their own minds that is memorable and relatable to a broader subject.

“Good stories surprise us. They make us think and feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that a PowerPoint crammed with bar graphs never can.”      - Joe Lazauskas and Shane Snow, The Storytelling Edge: How to Transform Your Business, Stop Screaming into the Void, and Make People Love You

Not everyone is a natural storyteller, but leaders worth following know a great story has the potential to jog memories well into the future and can influence behavior and actions in a positive way—or even reinforce the organization’s vision and values. With practice and intention, there are several techniques that can help almost anyone craft good stories:

  1. Every story needs an identifiable beginning, middle and end—and the best stories bring it all home by tying the end back to the beginning in some form of resolution or connection. Open the story with a bit of context so people understand why it’s being told.
  2. Make sure the subject of the story is identifiable to the audience—and it shouldn’t always be about you. If you do talk about yourself, a bit of self-effacing humor can help curb what might otherwise been seen as egotistical or self-promoting.
  3. Stories about failures overcome are highly relatable. We’ve all felt the crush of defeat or embarrassment and it’s commonly accepted that people learn more from mistakes than successes.
  4. Appeal to emotion when appropriate. Not only does this connect the storyteller to the audience, people tend to remember how someone or something made them feel.
  5. When done telling a story, allow a moment for it to sink in. (Just like brief silence in a negotiation is a powerful tool, so is a moment of reflection after a story.)

At Milestone Leadership, we know people never outgrow a great story, whether it be around a campfire or on a long road trip—a sermon or a podcast—or simply in the breakroom over coffee. We hope you’ll tell yours.

“A well-told Story is a gift to the reader/listener/viewer because it teaches them how to confront their own discomforts.”  - Shawn Coyne, The Story Grid

 

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Topics: Productivity, Growth, Living Your Values, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Passion, Organization, Company Culture, 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

How a Hotel Chain Snagged a 96% Employee Approval Rating

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Mar 22, 2019 9:44:15 AM

 

There’s a list any company would be proud to find its name topping—the annual ranking of Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For. This year’s list is full of variety, representing everything from tech companies to grocery chains, financial firms to telecoms. In the number one spot for 2019 is Hilton, rising considerably from #33 in 2018.

At Milestone Leadership, we know that defining and constantly reinforcing an organizational culture which embraces values that benefit both customers and team members is fundamental to a company’s success. To see a well-known company in the highly competitive hospitality industry (known for an annual turnover rate topping 70%) manage to consistently land on Fortune’s annual list, it made us stop to wonder what values Hilton’s leadership has instilled to cause a whopping 96% of its employees to report “this is a great place to work.

Hilton has made it easy for team members to remember the company’s values—in fact, they actually spell it out in the form of an acronym:

H        Hospitality       We’re passionate about delivering exceptional guest experiences.

I          Integrity           We do the right thing, all the time.

L         Leadership      We’re leaders in our industry and in our communities.

T         Teamwork       We’re team players in everything we do.

O         Ownership      We’re the owners of our actions and decisions.

N         Now                  We operate with sense of urgency and discipline.

Much could be said about any one of these solid core values, but because Hilton was ranked as the best place to work largely based upon what employees reported in a 60-question survey, we wondered what they were so positive about with regard to their work experience. This is what they reported:

98%   When you join the company, you are made to feel welcome.

97%   I’m proud to tell others I work here.

96%   I am treated as a full member here regardless of my position.

96%   When I look at what I accomplish, I feel a sense of pride.

96%   I feel good about the ways we contribute to the community.

So, what’s the secret sauce? Simply put, the company has committed fully to finding tangible ways over the past decade to treat every team member—regardless of role or pay level—as well as they treat the guests at their properties. The results are clear: team members bring their best selves to their jobs, which means improved service, growing profits and rising stock values for Hilton even as the overall hotel industry is experiencing increased competition from Airbnb and other short-term rental options.

One way Hilton has shown employees they’re valued has been to implement programs that directly benefit team members at every level. Back-of-house spaces like break rooms have been renovated to look and feel as special as the spaces designed for guests. Hilton also allows employees to stay at its properties around the world at steeply discounted prices, a benefit that is coveted by team members and has allowed many to fulfill lifelong dreams. Yet, the company recognizes that beautiful facilities and travel accommodations can feel pretty empty unless there is a constant commitment to hiring managers who can inspire the best from their teams every day. Hilton seeks to find leadership talent who treat direct reports as equal peers; the expectation is that this degree of positive interaction and support starts in the C-suites and cascades outward.

Ultimately, Hilton recognizes the importance of building and retaining a network of leaders worth following who are empowered to act in accordance with the company’s stated values. The result is loyal, engaged people who are recognizing their greatest potential on the job.

It surely feels good to be #1.

 

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Topics: Productivity, Growth, Living Your Values, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Tone at the Top, Advice, Management, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Self Awareness, Passion, Organization, Company Culture, 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

Unvacationing: Don't Lead by Example

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Mar 14, 2019 11:55:46 AM

 

You started dreaming more than a year ago. You read a ton of blogs and began planning the perfect vacation. You saved up and then secured all the travel arrangements. You packed for every possible scenario.

You’ve arrived in your version of paradise, and the accommodations you booked are just what you’d hoped. You’ve scouted the perfect restaurants and excursions to enjoy. Everything is just what you anticipated—maybe even better—and you’re so ready to truly relax so it can all sink in….

EXCEPT YOU DON’T.

You check work email. You look at your phone again and again, making sure more texts aren’t coming in from your department. You promise yourself you’ll keep your responses short and only when necessary—but back at the office, because they saw you responded even when your out-of-office reply said you were unavailable, you’ve clearly indicated things are still “game on” for you. And the emails don’t let up. A few voice messages trickle in, usually starting something like, “Heyyyyy, I know you’re on vacation, BUT…” 

How do you feel when you read this? Does this sound too familiar, perhaps your own behavior or something you see regularly from your team members?

There is ever-growing scientific evidence indicating preoccupation with work and the inability to unplug is detrimental to productivity. Pushing ourselves constantly to do one more (and one more) task, to send just a few more emails, and to make a couple of last quick calls until we don’t remember where the time went…ultimately causes our brains to rebel against us. We find our usual creativity to be lacking, our quick thinking to have slowed and words start to escape us. We become irritable and listless, distracted and more easily frustrated.

According to a report by the U.S. Travel Association’s Project: Time Off Coalition’s report “The Tethered Vacation,” only 27% of U.S. employees actually unplug from work during their vacations and 78% say they are more comfortable taking time off if they know they can access work. More than a fourth of employees say they check back in hourly or several times a day. Employees who maintain more frequent contact with the office during vacation generally fear work will pile up and no one else can handle their responsibilities—and the fear of taking time off only increases as they advance professionally. Fifty-one percent of those who check in frequently report stress in their home life, compared to the 36% who actually unplug on vacation. Those stress levels ramp up substantially more at work.

Organizations have the ability to create cultures that support unplugging, and the benefits are very real. The fact is that employees in supportive environments are significantly more engaged. 69% feel valued for their contributions, 64% feel their employer cares for them as a person inside and outside of the office, and 73% feel their jobs are important to the company’s mission. Engaged employees who are able to unplug on vacation are the same ones who are willing to put in the extra time later under tough deadlines or when a project necessitates.

As a leader, you may wonder how much you can truly influence the culture of your organization when it comes to unplugging.  Research cited in “The Tethered Vacation” indicates managers and their behaviors have an enormous influence over direct reports’ time—actually more than their own families. The fact is that managers who don’t disconnect when on vacation (86%) are frequently putting pressure on direct reports to do the same. In the end, the push for continuous productivity and constant connection ultimately results in an opposite effect: employees who feel their leader places pressure on them to stay connected to work are generally less likely to be truly engaged. In other words, they’re present…but they’re not really there. And not only are they not really there, 40% of employees in unsupportive cultures are planning or already looking for new jobs.

Leaders worth following set the tone within their organizations. When leaders actively model behaviors they expect to see in team members and establish rules of engagement that benefit everyone, the outcome is overwhelmingly positive. Through proactive planning and shared responsibility, it is possible to establish work environments that allow all employees the opportunity to take time needed to recharge and refresh—and in so doing actually increase productivity while building loyalty.

Time to dust off that passport and turn off those mobile phone notifications for a few days—be the change!

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Topics: Professional Development, Unplug, Technology, Growth, Balance, Living Your Values, Employee Engagement, Leadership, Advice, Fun, Empowerment, Effectiveness, Reflection, Values, Organization, Company Culture, Success, Intentionality, Experience, Workplace, Burnout, Teams, Milestone, Truth, Team Health, Change, Top Down Leadership, Team Dysfunction, High Performance, Dsyfunction, Role Models, Learning, Relationships, Values & Ethics, Personal Development, Creating Culture, Leader Worth Following, Vacation

A Millennial’s Perspectives on Leadership

Posted by Milestone Leadership on Mar 7, 2019 11:30:49 AM

 

Leaders worth following know their greatest influence and capabilities evolve as a result of consciously internalizing and applying a lifetime of experiences, both personal and professional. Some lessons arrive in the form of epiphany moments, out-of-the-blue realizations that render certain things crystal clear. Other lessons come about more slowly—through formal education or by learning to identify patterns and actions over time that begin to inform how best to guide and support others.

We have the honor of observing people at various career stages learn and grow in an array of settings. A particularly special group, the Soderquist Fellowship program, brings us new talented students each year who work with Milestone Leadership as project coordinators while pursuing their Master’s degrees at John Brown University. These bright individuals learn an enormous amount through applied academics and constant exposure to executives who are leading corporations and nonprofits at the highest levels. And the truth is, our seasoned professionals learn just as much from working with these students—and are inspired and invigorated by their enthusiasm, passion and idealism.

One of our Soderquist Fellows, Meaghan Ranz, successfully completed the program and earned her MBA in Organizational Behavior. She then stayed with Milestone for an additional year to work as a fulltime special projects coordinator. Meaghan is moving on to follow her passion for social work and to support efforts to help abused and neglected children, but pursuing new avenues does not lessen her love for what she has gained through her time with Milestone Leadership. We asked Meaghan to share a bit about what she has learned from supporting, observing and interacting with an array of leaders over the last few years.

Why did you initially decide to apply to become a Soderquist Fellow?

In 2016, I had just graduated with my undergraduate degree in family and human services (social work) and a minor in management. During my senior thesis and throughout college I was struck by how stretched thin nonprofit leaders and their organizations are. Many of the leaders we interviewed did not have enough time, resources, or training to strategically think about their organization or leadership. Several did not know if their organization was successful because data and feedback was not a luxury they had. This began my passion to understand the foundation of what makes a business and leader successful. I so desired to spend time gaining the education, skills, and training that would empower me when it was time to head back into the world of social services. 

What did the experience teach you about yourself on a personal level?

I am a completely different person now than I was before I started the fellowship, in the best way possible. My experience in the fellowship was something like a pressure cooker. I was challenged, given incredible responsibility, and treated like a professional. At the same time, the ingredients to succeed were all there, and the support from my team and our partners was amazing. Even in the most challenging times, I knew people had my back. In the end, I am loving the person I became through the process! I trust quickly, pursue excellence, view my teammates like family, desire to improve, do not put as much pressure on myself to be perfect, and feel much more confident walking into a difficult and stretching next role. The fellowship program has formed me into someone who knows her limits and isn't afraid of healthy boundaries—but also someone who is ready to break down barriers (with help!) and seek the type of professional and personal life that is worth following.

What professional skills did you gain from your time as a Fellow and through Milestone Leadership?

This list goes on and on! I gained incredible professional experience including but not limited to: written and verbal communication, networking with a wide range of leaders across industry lines, confident humility, continuous feedback loop with supervisors and teammates, leading meetings, strategic direction and execution, time management, delegation, reflection. Truly, I could keep going! The fellowship provided me with a framework to view leadership and my role, professionally and personally, as so much more than simply showing up and completing tasks. It has been about asking the difficult questions and beginning my journey of becoming a leader worth following

What would you encourage other 20-somethings to do which you believe could make the greatest impact on their professional futures?

Be vulnerable. Don't be afraid to not know all the answers: In the last year, about 80% of my job consisted of things I have never done before. I found that it is so important to first ask the question "What do I want this to look like once the problem is solved?" Then I bit the bullet and walked into the offices of many superiors and peers, as prepared as possible, but still saying something like, "I'm not even sure if I'm asking the right question or language around this...but here is how I understand it to the best of my ability. But you are the expert and I'm ready to learn so that we can tackle this problem together!" I was amazed at how much I learned, how quickly I grew, and the trusting relationships I built along the way with incredible people! I do not have the answers...not even a little bit! But I am creative and resourceful and not afraid to ask for help. We are better together!

Get to know yourself: Some of the most important moments in the past few years have not been working in professional environments...don't get me wrong, those have been great! But the best has been the lunches, coffee dates, counseling sessions, and meetings with people who help me reflect and get to know myself. Why do I do what I do? What informs my choices? How do I react when under stress? What do I value? These are the reflections that make real change. These questions help me know who I want to become and remind me that I'm not alone!

What will you miss most?

The people, absolutely! Our team shows up in trials and celebration, and they are some of the most supportive people I've ever met. I will be forever grateful for the role they've played in my life and professional journey. I'll especially miss having to make a nerf basketball shot before I leave the office...because it usually took at least 15 minutes. Ha!

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