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Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

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”

How Summer Vacation Can Drive Us To Succeed

A study on motivation and perception reveals a powerful truth for how leaders can use summer vacation breaks to motivate the best in their employees.

Of all the seasons of the year, summer is without question my favourite and no month encapsulates that summertime feeling more than the month of July. Not only is this the first full month where my girls are officially off-school, but this month also marks the return of one of my favourite summer festivals here in Montreal, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (if you haven’t attended this festival, this is definitely something to experience, whether you’re a Jazz fan or not).

Of course, the month of July also marks the beginning of the summer vacation period, and so it’s only natural that there’s much interest right now in exploring the topic of leadership and summer vacation.

While I’ve written in the past about why it’s important for leaders to make time for a vacation break, I wanted to shift the focus in this piece to look at the findings of a recent study that offers some valuable insights into how we can increase our motivation to achieve our shared goals when we return back to work following a vacation break.

Researchers from The Wharton School have been studying what they call the “fresh-start effect” and the impact this has on our motivational drive to achieve the goals we set up for ourselves. As part of their study published in “Psychological Science”, Dr. Katherine Milkman and her team of researchers conducted an experiment where they asked study participants to describe a personal goal they haven’t yet achieved but would like to attain later in the year.

The researchers then divided the participants into two groups and gave each one a different scenario to imagine. For the first group, the researchers asked them to imagine that they had moved into a new apartment after living in the same place for the past nine years.

For the second group, they also asked them to imagine moving into a new apartment, but in their case the scenario was that they had moved every year over the past nine years.

The participants in both groups were then asked to describe how motivated they were to begin work on achieving their goal after moving into this new apartment. What the researchers found was that the study participants who had moved into a new apartment after staying in the same place for nine years were far more motivated to achieve their goal than those who had moved every year.

The researchers concluded that study participants “would be more motivated to start tackling their personal goal after a psychologically meaningful relocation than they would be after a relocation that was less psychologically meaningful.”

So what does this study’s findings have to do with increasing our motivation to achieve our goals after returning from a vacation break? Well, as the researchers pointed out, while all of us are driven to Click here to continue reading »”How Summer Vacation Can Drive Us To Succeed”

What Leaders Need To Do To Help Their Employees Succeed

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When I was nine years old, my older cousin got a brand new chopper bicycle for his birthday and it was probably the coolest bike I ever saw. With its hot lime green chassis, checker-board banana seat, and a sports car-inspired gear shift affixed to the bike body just in front of the seat, this bike looked more like a hot rod than a conventional bicycle.

The first time I saw it, I wanted so badly to take it for a spin, and so I ran to my older cousin and asked him if I could take his bike for a ride around the block. Given how it was a new bike and I was only nine, my older cousin clearly had no interest lending his bike to me.

Every summer after that, when we went to visit my uncle, aunt and my cousin, it was always the same answer my cousin gave me when I asked him once more if I could try his bike – “No”. Despite those repeated negative answers to my query, I never once wavered in my eagerness and anticipation of one day riding that bike.

A couple of years pass by, and on one of our summer trips to my uncle and aunt’s place, my aunt tells me how my older cousin is going to be taking his driver’s test soon. Given how he’ll be driving around town, my aunt tells me that he has little use for his chopper bike. She then looks at me and asks “Would you like to take his bike home with you?”

I couldn’t believe my ears. After years of asking my cousin to let me ride his chopper bike, his mom was now offering to make it mine. It didn’t take long for me to blurt out a very excited “Yes!”.

Of course, my parents being the pragmatic types thought that I should try the bike first before accepting it. Given how I’d waited years just to ride this bike, I wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity to actually own it. So I assured my parents that this bike was a good fit and so we packed up the bike and headed back to Montreal.

As we got home late that evening, I couldn’t try out my new bike until the next day which I figured was okay as that meant that I could show it off to my friends the next morning when I biked over to the neighbourhood park.

The next day, I went out to the garage, excited that I was finally going to be able to take this bike out for a ride. As I rode off our driveway and onto the street, though, I had an unexpected realization about this chopper bicycle – it was just a bike.

For years, I had built in my head this grand notion of what it would feel like riding this bike; of feeling that rush of excitement as I raced down the street on this eye-catching bicycle. As it turned out, riding this bike didn’t feel any different from riding any other bike.

So instead of being this amazing, exhilarating ride, it was actually unremarkable and even at times uncomfortable, especially when it came to changing the gears as the shift handle was difficult to reach. It comes as no surprise then why this bike remains the only one I’ve ever seen that had the gear shift placed down on the bike frame between the handlebars and the bike seat.

Now while my story ended in disappointment, but with an important life lesson on how sometimes things don’t live up to our expectations, I want to share another story – specifically, that of a painter – and how the contrast between his experience and mine can shed light on what leaders need to do to help their employees to succeed. Click here to continue reading »”What Leaders Need To Do To Help Their Employees Succeed”

Leadership Biz Cafe Podcast #18 – Braden Kelley On How Leaders Can Successfully Drive Change

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In today’s faster paced, interconnected world, there’s little doubt that change is the new reality; the new standard by which we now have to operate. But if leaders recognize change as being a new constant in our organization’s field of view, why then are so many leaders struggling to effectively drive change in their organization? It’s the question that serves as the basis of my talk with innovation expert and author, Braden Kelley.

Braden is an experienced innovation speaker, trainer, and digital transformation specialist. In addition to being one of the co-founders of the respected website, InnovationExcellence.com, Braden has published more than 500 articles on innovation as well as being author of the book “Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire”. His latest book is “Charting Change: A Visual Toolkit for Making Change Stick” which will be the focus of our conversation in this episode.

Over the course of this episode, Braden and I touch on a number of fascinating insights that he describes in his latest book, including: Click here to continue reading »”Leadership Biz Cafe Podcast #18 – Braden Kelley On How Leaders Can Successfully Drive Change”

How To Successfully Achieve Your Goals This Year

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Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of being invited to be the in-studio guest expert on CBC Radio to discuss why people have a hard time keeping their New Year’s Resolutions and what we should be doing to be successful in achieving our goals.

Over the course of the hour-long show, the show’s host invited callers from across Montreal to call in to share their experiences in making New Year’s Resolutions after which he asked me to share my insights on how people can succeed at achieving their goals over the next 12 months.

Although the focus of the program was on New Year’s Resolutions, I realized that some of the insights I discussed on this show are also valuable for leaders who want to make sure they are providing the right conditions for their employees to be successful in their collective efforts.

And so with 2016 now well under way, I’d like to share the following 3 key strategies that will help you cross the finish line in achieving those goals you’ve mapped out for your organization to attain this year.

1. Direct your focus towards goals that matter
In much of my work with leaders in both Canada and the US, one issue that repeatedly comes up is the struggle with busyness – of feeling like the work we’re doing is simply for the sake of getting things off our plate so we can move onto the next thing demanding our attention, as opposed to doing work that helps move our organization forward in achieving our shared vision.

Indeed, there’s been a number of studies that have pointed out how today’s leaders are operating from an increasingly distracted state – where their focus is often taken away from what matters most to their organization’s shared purpose due to the increasing pull they face on their time, attention and resources.

As such, while many of us are understandably feeling as though our workloads continue to increase year after year, the kind of work we do every day is becoming more and more disconnected from what inspires us to show up and deliver our best efforts to the cause.

That’s why when it comes to defining goals for those you lead, you need to answer the question – why does it matter? [Twitter-logo-smallShare on Twitter] Why should your employees dedicate their talents, creativity, and efforts to making this goal a reality? And where will it lead your organization once you’ve achieved it? Click here to continue reading »”How To Successfully Achieve Your Goals This Year”

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