Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

Leading In The Face Of Adversity And Sorrow

A national tragedy shines a light on a powerful leadership message on how we can do better going forward after enduring the worst.

Illustration created by my daughter Zafina in response to the terrorist attack on a Quebec City mosque.

As many of my long-time readers know, I publish new articles on leadership here on my blog every Tuesday. Now I had a piece written up that I was in the process of editing for publication this week, but a recent attack in my home province has lead me to shelve that piece so that I can share something a little more personal, and hopefully inspiring for how we can do better going forward.

This past Sunday night, news broke out that a native Quebecer – emboldened by the rise in right-wing, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim sentiments across North America and Europe – walked into a Quebec City mosque and began shooting at the men, women, and children praying inside, killing 6 people and wounding 19 others. It’s the worst act of terrorism to ever happen in my country.

Within a mere 24 hours, I went from feeling hopeful optimism at seeing people around the world rally together in solidarity against the bigotry, fear-mongering, and hate exemplified by Trump’s Muslim ban – to outright horror, anger, and sadness at how one of my fellow Quebecers could think it was acceptable to destroy the lives of innocent families simply because he has a problem with their faith.

As I write this, my emotions are still raw, my heart heavy and aching, and tears well up when I look at my daughters and imagine what kind of world will await them. Make no mistake, my province does have issues with racism, Islamophobia, and antisemitism. But I never imagined that this kind of hate would find expression in the form of a terrorist attack so close to home.

As I sat here trying to prepare my latest leadership piece for publication, I realized that I couldn’t simply act as though nothing happened because something did happen. Something that will now forever change who we are as Quebecers, and how we must go about seeing and understanding ourselves going forward.

Of course, whenever an event arises that shatters our perceptions of our community and country, there is an understandable need to try and make sense of it; to understand how such a horrific act of terrorism could happen where we live, and what good, if any, we can find in this darkness that’s fallen upon us.

And so, I wanted to address this tragedy from the point of leadership – of what do we do when faced with adversity and sorrow, not from failing to land a new client, but when tragedy strikes that affects those we lead at their very core.

To date, I’ve been genuinely impressed and touched by the actions of politicians at all levels here – from the mayor of Quebec City and our Quebec Premier, all the way to our Prime Minister and the leaders of our federal opposition parties. Each of them recognized the importance of not only expressing solidarity and inclusion in the face of terrorism and unbridled hatred towards Muslims, but of reaching out to the Muslim community to let them know you’re not alone and you’re one of us.

It’s a powerful message, not simply because it reasserts the values of Quebec and Canada – those of championing multiculturalism, a shared identity, and our collective and individual freedoms – but it also sends a much needed message to the Muslim community, a minority group that’s a regular victim of stigmatization and vilification. The message: you belong here and you matter.

The simplicity of this message reveals an important point that leaders everywhere need to recognize: Click here to continue reading »”Leading In The Face Of Adversity And Sorrow”

4 Leadership Lessons We Can Learn From The Olympics

4 valuable lessons we can take from the Olympics for how we can inspire our employees to bring their best efforts to the work they do.

With the latest edition of the Summer Olympic Games now well under way in Rio, there is naturally much interest in the outcomes of various sporting events. Within the leadership and management field, there is also much interest in discovering insights that can help us to better understand how to inspire the best in our employees.

Of course, the typical focus on lessons we can learn from the Olympics tend to be on teamwork, communication, building confidence and the like.

But for this piece, I’d like to take a more broader view, using the microcosm the Olympic Games provide to examine what drives or motivates us to push ourselves to succeed. To that end, here are 4 key lessons leaders can learn from the Olympics on how to ignite their employees’ drive to bring their best selves to the work they do.

1. Success is important, but so is creating meaning and a sense of belonging
I have to admit that what sparked my interest in writing this piece was the story of the Canadian women’s 4x100m freestyle relay team and in particular, the events that transpired after their qualifying heat on Saturday morning.

Hours before the final swim, the decision was made that Michelle Williams, who had swam in the morning relay team heat, would be replaced by her team mate Penny Oleksiak to swim in the final that night.

Reports then came out about how the news had not only hit Michelle hard, but that her entire team was deeply upset by the change in the lineup. Although this is a commonly used tactic in this sport to maximize a team’s chances of winning a medal, for this group of first-time Olympians, it still felt like a betrayal for the hard word Michelle had given to get the team to the final.

Seeing how hard they were taking the news, the coach got his team together and told them that it didn’t matter who was swimming in the final that night because this was a team effort.

He reminded his team members that each of them played a key role in getting them to the Olympics and to now potentially winning a medal for their country. The coach then told them that what matters here is not who crosses the finish line, but how we work together to make that happen.

When the swimming finals came up that evening, the negative emotions these athletes had been feeling hours earlier were clearly replaced with a steely determination to deliver their best.

And deliver their best they did as this swimming team went on to win the Bronze medal, the first medal for Canada at the Rio Olympic Games and the first medal Canada has won in this particular swimming event since 1976.

Now while this story has that Hollywood-style ending that makes the Olympic Games so much fun to watch, the real message here is Click here to continue reading »”4 Leadership Lessons We Can Learn From The Olympics”

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A Prescription For Empowering Employees To Succeed And Grow

A summer job experience reveals a powerful and important lesson for today's leaders on how to not only inspire employees, but empowering them to succeed.

Last month, my oldest daughter Alya began working at her new summer job and now that she’s worked for two different companies over the past two summer periods, it’s been interesting to hear her observations about the differences in how her bosses manage their employees.

These conversations with my daughter about her work has lead to recollections of my summer job experiences, and how one in particular has helped to shape my understandings of leadership and empowering employees.

When I was 18 years old, my uncle got me a job working in the warehouse of a pharmaceutical dispensary near his house in the Toronto suburbs. I was excited and nervous about taking on the job; excited because the pay was really good, but nervous because it meant giving up spending any time with my friends back in Montreal.

My boss, Mr. Hainsworth – the owner of this and another pharmaceutical dispensary in Southern Ontario – was what many people would call a straight shooter; you always knew where you stood with him so if he had a problem with something you did, he’d be sure to let you know.

For the first weeks on the job, I have to admit that being a teenager, I was a bit intimidated by his gruff exterior, even though many of his employees reassured me that he’s actually the sweetest man you’d ever know.

My job was pretty straightforward – I worked for the warehouse supervisor making sure the dispensary shelves were properly stocked, putting in orders to resupply our drug inventory, and basically managing the warehouse on the supervisor’s days off and when he took his summer vacation break.

The hardest part of the job was that the warehouse was located in the windowless basement of the medical office building, which is why I welcomed any chance to go upstairs to the dispensary in order to catch a glimpse of the summer blue sky.

On one of the warehouse supervisor’s days off, I decided to review our current inventory against upcoming renewal orders and I found that we had on our shelves a box full of medication that had expired a month ago. Given the large quantity of prescription vials, I decided to go see Mr. Hainsworth to ask him how do I go about disposing the expired medication.

After I explained the situation, Mr. Hainsworth paused from looking at his computer screen and looked at me. Instead of answering my question, he asked Click here to continue reading »”A Prescription For Empowering Employees To Succeed And Grow”

Recognizing Our Power To Lead And Inspire Others

Understanding-power-to-lead-and-inspire

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 »”Recognizing Our Power To Lead And Inspire Others”