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

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 »”Recognizing Our Power To Lead And Inspire Others”

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 »”3 Factors That Prevent Leaders From Creating Workplace Optimism”

Learning To Focus On What Matters Most


One of the things that I enjoy about speaking at conferences and at various organizations is the opportunity to meet new people. In the case of the MHLC conference I spoke at last week, it was being able to meet up with friends I made from speaking at this conference for three consecutive years, as well as meeting colleagues in the leadership sphere who I had previously only connected with by email and on the phone.

Being able to spend time with these good friends was certainly one of my personal highlights from this conference. But there was something else that I came away pondering about, and it wasn’t my now infamous encounter with the drummer from ZZ Top (that’s a story for another time).

Looking back at the numerous conversations among those attending this conference, there was a couple of times where people told me how impressed they were with how well I remembered people’s names.

Now the reason why this caught my attention is because remembering names of people I just met is something I’d hardly say I’m good at, a fact I’m sure my wife will be happy to attest to given the number of times she’s had to remind me of the names of the people she works with.

The problem is that when I meet someone new, my sense of curiosity takes over and I become focused on asking questions to learn more about the person in order to develop that connection. Consequently, I end up remembering many details about the person’s life and their work – while their name tends to be a bit fuzzy around the edges.

As such, whenever I meet someone new, I do have to work at making sure I grab ahold of their name so that it sticks in my mind for more than a few minutes.

And yet, in thinking about those moments where people were impressed with my ability to recall the names of people I met a year ago, I realized that the common thread connecting them together had less to do with remembering their names and more to do with something more significant.

Something that leaders need to adopt if their are to be successful in tapping into the collective talents and experiences of those they lead.

Now to be clear, remembering a person’s name is important, but it’s only the first step in the bigger process of Click here to continue reading »”Learning To Focus On What Matters Most”

Leaders, It’s Time To Make Work Meaningful Again


Over the past couple of months, I’ve had numerous conversations with leaders in both the private and public sector, discussing some of the key issues they face today and what they see as the main challenges they’ll face going forward.

In many of those conversations, a common theme inevitably surfaces – how do I get my employees to care more about the work we do? How do I create that environment where people are internally motivated to bring their discretionary efforts to the table?

Naturally, such questions invariably lead to discussions of how can we make work more meaningful for our employees; of how do we help them make contributions that matter to them as much as it matters to our organization.

It’s a train of thought that came to mind a few days ago when my oldest daughter returned home from high school happy to share some great news – “Leslie’s back working at our school”.

To help put this news in context, my daughters’ high school has had to make some serious budget cuts this academic year, which unfortunately included having to let go of some valuable and greatly-appreciated personnel at our high school.

Without question, Leslie is one of these employees. But thankfully, the school’s administration has found some other way to keep him involved and present in the school community, much to the excitement and delight of the students.

Now I’m sure many of you are probably thinking that Leslie is one of the ‘cool teachers’ at my daughters’ high school. The truth, however, is that Leslie is not one of the teachers – he’s the school’s security guard.

So why would my daughter and the other students be excited about his return? It’s not because they go to a dangerous school – far from it. Rather, it’s because of how Leslie approaches his job.

Since the day he started, Leslie made a point to not simply sit in his security booth. Instead, he would reach out to engage with the students, wanting to learn about their successes, and taking part in the fun activities meant to break up to monotony of the school routine.

So when news broke out that Leslie would no longer be working at the school, many of the students were sad to hear it because for many of them, he was the smiling, friendly face that greeted them at the end of their school day. He was also the cheery presence that kept them company while they waited for their parents to come pick them up.

The way Leslie approached his job reminded me of a study I share in some of my talks which found that all of us view our work in one of three ways: as a job, as a career, or as a calling.

Now, it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear a pediatrician or a firefighter talking about their work as being their calling. But for the majority of us, the more likely response we’d give is that we view our work as being our career.

In Leslie’s case, given how he used to be a professional guitarist whose work can be heard on certain album recordings, it should be a given that he’d view his current work as a high school security guard as nothing more than a job.

And yet, in my numerous conversations with him, it was obvious that Leslie never saw his role at my daughters’ high school as just a job, and he certainly didn’t view it as a career.

Indeed, it’s clear to anyone who spent time interacting with him that he definitely sees the work he does in our school as being his calling. Why is that? The answer is surprisingly simple – Click here to continue reading »”Leaders, It’s Time To Make Work Meaningful Again”

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