Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

Leadership Biz Cafe Podcast #16 – Heidi Grant Halvorson On Why No One Understands You


A common theme found among the numerous books and articles on successful leadership is that leaders need to be more open, more transparent with those they lead in order to improve communication channels and drive forward initiatives that are key to an organization’s success and growth.

But what if we’re not as open or as easy to read as we might think that we are? What if the actions we’re taking overlook a key aspect of how our brain operates?

That’s the premise and focus of this new episode of my leadership show, “Leadership Biz Cafe” where I welcome Dr. Heidi Grant Halvorson to share her insights from her latest book “No One Understands You And What To Do About It”.

Heidi is a social psychologist whose research and writings focus on the science of motivation. She is also the Associate Director of the Motivation Science Center at Columbia Business School and a member of many esteemed scientific communities and organizations. In addition to authoring several books including “Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals” and “Focus”, Heidi is a frequent contributor to the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, The Wall Street Journal, and Psychology Today.

You may also recognize her name from some of the guest contributions she’s made to my leadership blog as well.

Over the course of our conversation, Heidi and I discuss a number of interesting points and insights from various studies shared in her latest book that can help leaders become more effective in their roles, including: Click here to continue reading »

Recognizing Our Power To Lead And Inspire Others


Over the course of this year, I’ve had the opportunity to travel all over North America speaking at conferences and with organizations about how we can do a better job being the kind of leader our employees need us to be.

As I travelled from the East Coast down to the South Coast, and just two weeks ago, to the West Coast when I spoke at an IT-education conference in Vancouver, British Columbia, I couldn’t help but notice a common line of inquiry being brought forward by some of the leaders in attendance.

While the exact circumstances and dynamics varied among these different leaders, there was nonetheless a common thread at the heart of each of these questions being asked – how do I get those in charge above me to be more like the leaders you demonstrated are necessary for an organization’s long-term growth and success?

Regardless of the focus of my talk or the industry in which these leaders serve, I always began my answer with the same starting point – the fundamental truth is that we can’t get people to do what we want or need, even if at times it’s in their best interests.

Consider, for example, those times when we’re given advice by our doctors for how we can improve our health. How many of us openly embrace the changes to our lifestyle that we’re being told to make? Most often we don’t, that is until our health deteriorates to the point where we no longer have the choice but to follow our doctor’s directives.

But what’s really interesting about this question is not how it surfaces in such diverse groups – from businesses to public institutions, from government agencies here in Canada to multinational organizations based in the US. Rather, what’s interesting is how in each of these situations, the leader standing before me is essentially giving up their power to be the change they need to see in their organization.

Of course, the almost immediate response most of us have to discussing power in the workplace is to view it within the lens of our organization’s structure; that the degree of power one has is relative to the position you hold within the organization.

While it’s understandable to view power from this perspective, the problem I have with this viewpoint is that it leads us to Click here to continue reading »

Why Leaders Need To Stop Using Performance Reviews


The following is a guest piece by former Disney executive Ken Goldstein.

I don’t like performance reviews. I never liked giving them, and I never liked getting them. They are like school report cards, only less well-meaning and more poorly formed. They make the workplace more political, needlessly enforcing nerve-wracking centers of power. They serve a legal function much more than a creative function. They don’t make products better and they don’t serve customer needs.

They are obligatory, perfunctory, dreaded time sucks for both giver and receiver, putting a check mark in an annual rite of passage that is largely ignored until the Earth completes another full orbit around the Sun.

On the other hand, I love feedback – really good, thoughtful, useful, timely, focused feedback. I love to give it and I love to get it as part of a regular routine. No check boxes, no check marks.

Feedback, sometimes known as coaching, requires relevant substance to have impact. It needs to center on step by step improvement in how an individual is doing against goals, how a team is advancing by virtue of an individual’s progress, how innovation is being served by attitudes and decisions on a daily basis, and how an individual’s achievements are translated into outcomes valued by an employer.

I don’t believe anyone can effectively coach, empower, and bolster an individual’s workplace contributions sitting down once a year and filtering a list of positive and negative attributes. The best you can hope for is polite-speak that doesn’t upset anyone too much – unless you are marching someone to the door – and the worst you can muster is demoralization that shuts down all future hope of trust and collaboration.

Here are three thumbnail cases against performance reviews that you should find terrifying. Click here to continue reading »

5 Behaviours Successful Brain-Aware Leaders Practice


The following is a guest piece by Amy Brann.

Most leaders we work with are passionate, committed, intelligent and dedicated. They want to make their organization the best it can possibly be. They want to support their employees and enable them to do their best work. They also want to reduce their stress levels and have a good life.

Every leader, and every person you work with, has a brain. Over the last 20 years fascinating insights have come from the field of neuroscience to help us better understand this organ that drives so much of our behaviour. Neuroscience isn’t the only piece of the puzzle, but it lends a wonderful lens through which we can see even more clearly.

1. Illuminate Contribution
We’re starting with the concept that, as a leader, you have to build everything else around. Neuroscience tells us that our connection to contribution activates our neural reward networks (which is a great thing). So as leaders one of our most important challenges is to illuminate contribution.

If the organization is set up well then this shouldn’t be too hard, it just requires an investment of attention and potentially some systems to be set up.

Remember the story of President Kennedy’s visit to the NASA space centre in 1962? He noticed a janitor carrying a broom and walked over to the man saying “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?” The janitor responded “I’m helping put a man on the moon, Mr President”.

The level of engaged brains you achieve is dramatically different if people are aware of the contribution they are making on a daily basis. So how can you do it? Hopefully you have already started. Every way you communicate internally and externally is a potential opportunity.

The one-one approach means that every time you meet with someone Click here to continue reading »

3 Factors That Prevent Leaders From Creating Workplace Optimism


The following is a guest piece by Shawn Murphy.

For too long people have been taken for granted in the workplace. Leaders attempt to control, manage, dictate, coerce people to do what is needed. A people-centric approach to running a business is celebrated as an accomplishment in foreword-thinking organizations.

We need more leaders who motivate people to mobilize them to achieve great things for the company. It’s the latter scenario that best positions a leader to create workplace optimism.

Workplace optimism is a description for a climate that gives employees hope that good things will come from hard work. Optimistic workplaces emerge when leaders purposefully highlight what’s right with the environment and what’s possible when finding solutions to problems.

Employees don’t need to be optimists to appreciate workplace optimism. What makes such a positive environment effective is that it’s rooted in what unites us as humans: relatedness, purpose, goals, and even meaning.

Yet, many leaders are unaware of how the work environment influences employees’ perceptions of the workplace. And when relatedness, purpose and meaning are absent, workplace optimism struggles to emerge.

So, what snags leaders from creating workplace optimism? Below are a few symptoms, and their antidote, that you need to avoid if you want to create a positive work experience for your team. Click here to continue reading »

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