Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

3 Important Lessons Leaders Can Learn From Success

3 important lessons leaders can learn from success that will help them inspire and motivate employees over the long run.

If there’s one attribute organizations and leaders everywhere share in common, it’s the pursuit to achieve success in their collective efforts. Granted, there is quite a large variance in terms of how each organization chooses to define what success would look like for them. But there’s little question that – at the end of the day – all of us are driven by the need to know that we’ll one day achieve success through our contributions and efforts.

Of course, there’s another aspect to success that many of us share in common and that is what do we do once we achieve that success? And by this, I’m not referring to how we choose to acknowledge or celebrate this accomplishment. Rather, I’m referring to that moment when the dust settles and we look with pride at what we’ve attained and find ourselves stuck with that lingering question – so, what do we do now?

If you look at any successful organization, you can see the answer they share in common: the focus tends to be on how to replicate both the conditions and measures they took that allowed them to achieve this successful outcome.

In some cases, this manifests itself in incremental improvements over the current product or service, something that’s become a key tactic of every major smartphone manufacturer.

Others, though, might look at how their concept, product, or idea ‘disrupted’ a market or industry and then go about looking for how to graft that approach onto other industries, which is why there’s an ongoing search to discover what will no doubt be initially described as ‘the next Uber’.

Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with either of these approaches in the short term, a recent conversation with one of my daughters helped to crystallize how we’re missing out on the important lessons to be learned from success in terms of the long view.

Last week, my daughter Malaika was among a select group of students at her high school who were recognized for their achievement of earning an year-round average of over 90%. This was her second year in a row where she earned an over 90% average, and I was curious to learn how she viewed achieving this level of success a second time around.

For example, does she believe she’s found the approach to achieve these high marks and all she has to do is to simply repeat these measures going forward? Or does she expect things to change and the need to adapt her approach to remain among the top students at her school?

Obviously, this quandary reflects similar questions leaders face when their organization finally succeeds in achieving its objectives. And after talking with Malaika to learn more about her perspective on this, I realized that her example sheds some light on three important lessons we can learn from success, lessons that go beyond where our next innovation or idea will come from to understanding what drives us over the long run to bring our best efforts to what we do.

1. Success teaches us to be persistent no matter what stands in our way
One of the biggest changes we’ve seen in Malaika’s outlook is how she views the inevitable obstacles and roadblocks she encounters in her studies. Since earning that first over-90% average two years ago, she’s become more driven when she faces a difficult challenge or obstacle. In many ways, she’s come to learn that the inevitable difficulties she’ll face are not a reason to give up, but simply a sign that she has to push herself even harder if she wants to continue to succeed in her efforts.

Similarly, after organizations achieve a success milestone, there is the tendency to avoid daunting obstacles or approaches that could rock the boat, and instead, focus on taking initiatives that serve more to solidify or reinforce their past successes.

Now, that’s not to say that we need to constantly disrupt what we do. Rather, it means that we need to be mindful in ensuring that our successes don’t result in our being complacent in challenging ourselves to figure out how we can do and be better going forward. Something that is especially true when organizations are facing obstacles that would require a substantial amount of time and resources to overcome in order to achieve a critical goal going forward.

And here we can find the first important lesson success provides us about how to Click here to continue reading »

How Leaders Can Make Their Message More Memorable

3 tricks that allow you to tap into how our memory works so you can craft messages that your employees and customers won't soon forget.

The following is a guest piece by cognitive scientist and author Dr. Carmen Simon.

Conversation between flight attendant and passenger:

“What would you like to drink, sir?”
“Water.”

Flight attendant goes to get it and turns around after 2 seconds:

“Sorry, was that a club soda?”
“No, water.”

I heard the exchange above just now, on a flight to Michigan. I hear similar ones in restaurants where someone places an order and the waiter returns after a few seconds to ask what the order was.

I hear a similar exchange at retail stores, where you tell sales reps your shoe size and a few seconds later, they return to ask again. I hear this exchange in meetings, where someone lists three issues and a few seconds later, someone else tries to repeat them but can only remember two. Memory is pathetic. And yet sublime. We would not be alive if we didn’t have memory.

While the human brain has not changed much in the past 40,000 years, what has changed is our ability to stay focused on a task. Distractions, anxieties, ruminations about the past, and constant temptations to predict the future interfere with our ability to remember and get things done here and now.

On the other hand, we seem to be perfectly capable of recollecting something that happened in childhood. How is that possible? And would the answer help us in business at all? After all, how do prospects remember to choose us if they can’t remember what someone said 2 seconds ago?

I’ve been intrigued by these questions and wrote the book “Impossible to Ignore: Creating Memorable Content To Influence Decisions” out of necessity. I wanted to know what helps us get on people’s minds and stay there long term. What are some issues that business people find challenging where memory is concerned? Here are three, along with solutions on how to address them: Click here to continue reading »

3 Ways Leaders Can Help Bring Great Ideas To Life

3 measures leaders should employ to create an organizational culture that encourages employees to share their ideas on how to change the way we work.

The following is a guest piece by Kotter International President, Russell Raath on behalf of The Economist Executive Education Navigator.

How often have you heard the phrase “that’s not how we do it here” uttered in your workplace? When employees suggest new ways to tackle challenges, are their contributions welcomed—no matter how outside-the-box they may be? Are staff members empowered to test new ideas and report back to management on their successes, as part of helping the organization constantly adapt and improve?

Maybe you have some version of the “suggestion scheme” where ideas are sent into some inbox in the cloud – where someone (hopefully) reviews them and determines whether an idea is viable and has merit.

In most organizations, the answers to these questions are often “no” or“never”. Yet the most innovative companies—those that can face challenging times and emerge stronger than ever—often recognize a key truth that is missing in many traditional, hierarchical organizations. That truth is that great ideas don’t only come from senior management.

The idea that saves the business $10 million may come from a production line supervisor; the concept that opens up an entirely new market for your products might come from a junior sales rep.

The point, one that smart organizations have realized, is that great ideas can come from any level of the organization. This is a concept explored in great depth in Dr. John Kotter’s latest business fable, “That’s Not How We Do It Here!”, which chronicles a clan of meerkats struggling with a drought that reduces their resources and leads to the rise of dangerous new predators.

Written as a business book, there are a number of key lessons on how leaders, at any organizational level, can bring great ideas to the surface: Click here to continue reading »

Why Expressing Gratitude Through Our Leadership Matters

A look at how expressing gratitude can help leaders bring out the best in those they lead and drive their organizations to succeed.

This past weekend marked the celebration of Thanksgiving Day here in Canada, our last holiday long-weekend before the inevitable cold blast of winter arrives to blanket our country in snow and ice. While Thanksgiving in Canada differs from that in the United States in being a celebration of the end of the harvest period, what these two holidays share in common is that it’s a holiday for spending time with family, and expressing gratitude for the good fortune we’ve experienced this year.

After spending time with my family this weekend and catching up with everyone, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between those moments of sharing words of gratitude with my family with those moments where leaders express gratitude to those they lead.

After all, more than simply being a nice thing to do, expressing gratitude through our leadership has been shown to have a tangible impact on the overall productivity of our employees, if not also on the level of commitment they bring to the work they do.

For the past several years, Dr. Adam Grant and Dr. Francesca Gino have been studying how expressions of gratitude impact prosocial behaviour and fuel motivational drive, and one study in particular provides some interesting insights for leaders on the benefits of expressing gratitude to those under our care.

Dr. Grant and Dr. Gino conducted an experiment to look at how expressing gratitude would affect the motivation and commitment levels of fundraisers who were hired to raise funds for a university from within their alumni community.

For this experiment, the fundraisers were paid a fixed amount regardless of how many calls they made, and each of them was provided with daily feedback about their performance. The fundraisers were separated into two groups working different shifts, with one group getting a visit from a university director who personally thanked the fundraisers for their work, while the other group was simply left to do their assigned tasks.

What the researchers found was that the fundraisers who received those messages of gratitude from the university director made more phone calls to help raise money for the university as compared to those who hadn’t.

Upon reviewing the results of their experiment, Dr. Grant and Dr. Gino concluded that expressions of gratitude increase employee motivation and performance levels because it makes people feel ‘socially valued’.

Now to be clear, this doesn’t mean that all we have to do is say ‘thank you’ to our employees in order to increase their productivity. Rather, what this study’s findings demonstrate is that a genuine recognition of your employee’s efforts will ignite their internal drive and commitment [Twitter-logo-smallShare on Twitter].

In other words, this isn’t about Click here to continue reading »

Is Your Leadership Based On Influence Or Authority?

A look at authority and influence in leadership and why one of these is more critical than the other to succeed at leadership in today's organizations.

With a complex endeavour such as leadership, it’s only natural that there be different schools of thought and perspectives on what would be the best way to lead your team and organization forward. Of course, while there might be different approaches to leadership, there are still a few binary aspects to how we approach the role of leader in today’s organizations.

One example is the choice between the command-and-control style of leadership and one that’s more collaborative and inclusive in how we rally people around a common cause or goal. While most of us have come to appreciate the limitations and inefficiencies that come with a top-down style of leadership, one binary approach to leadership that’s not so clear is the one where we choose either to rely on our authority or on our influence to guide our team or organization.

Now to be clear, leaders by default do operate with some form of authority, usually as a result of their position within their organization. Where problems arise is when we think that all a person needs to lead others is a sense of authority without any consideration for the impact our actions have on those we have the responsibility to lead.

To help illustrate what I mean by this, I’d like to share the example of two people I worked with during my clinical-work days at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal.

Irene was a member of the nurses team that the doctors and my fellow clinicians collaborated with in our work treating the various patients that came to our hospital-based clinic. Although this team of nurses didn’t have a head nurse, Irene liked to think of herself as being the head nurse and certainly liked to act like she had that weight to throw around in her interactions with both fellow staff and patients.

Now while there was no question that Irene was a competent and caring nurse, it was clear talking to her fellow nurses that if a head nurse job were to be created and Irene were to get it, the nurses would be lining up at the HR department with requests to transfer to another department.

The problem Irene had is that while she was certainly technically competent as a nurse, she had little to no influence in terms of people wanting to follow her advice and suggestions.

In fact, it was so bad that there were a few occasions where I saw Irene give some unsolicited advice about a particular case and her fellow nurses would outright ignore her. And if you asked the other nurses why they’d behave that way, they’d tell you about how they didn’t want to make Irene’s ego any bigger than it already was.

Now compare Irene’s example to Helen, another nurse who worked at this clinic. Helen was the nurse who everyone went to if they needed help with a particular problem or if you just needed a friendly ear to vent to about some difficult patient.

Helen was just as competent and caring a nurse as Irene, but the difference between these two professionals was that Helen made it all about the patient, while Irene was more interested in finding opportunities to showcase herself and her abilities.

While both nurses had the same level of authority in how they performed their jobs, time and time again when patients returned, it was Helen who received the most requests from patients to have her working on their case.

Now the reason why I wanted to use nurses who lack formal leadership titles to discuss this issue is in part because it’s a common adage that in today’s modern workplaces, anybody can be a leader; that we don’t need a title to wield influence within our team and organization.

But perhaps more importantly, Irene and Helen’s example also helps to illustrate a key finding from recent neuroscience studies that offer an important reality check for how effective we are in bringing out the best in those we lead.

Researchers have found that the relationship between Click here to continue reading »

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