Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

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 »”3 Ways Leaders Can Help Bring Great Ideas To Life”

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 »”Why Expressing Gratitude Through Our Leadership Matters”

Do Your Organization’s Values Reflect What It Stands For?

The recent scandal at Wells Fargo provides a unique backdrop to discuss the role organizational values should be playing in today's leadership.

Over the past several months, there has been a growing discussion and even discord in various parts of the world over the issue of reasserting what our values are as a society and country.

From the various debates in European countries about the sociological impact of rising refugee populations, to the polarizing political climate brewing within the current US election period, there’s been a growing unrest in certain countries to ‘protect their country’s values’ in light of changing demographics and the growing interdependence brought on by today’s global economy.

Ironically, in almost every one of these discussions regarding the importance of protecting a society’s or country’s values, there’s a noticeable absence of clarity about which values exactly are in need of protection, or are currently at risk of being washed away by the arrival of immigrants and refugees on their country’s proverbial shores (in most cases, when certain values are pointed out as being at risk, they tend to be those that are already enshrined in a country’s laws or are deeply entrenched in existing cultural norms).

That lack of clarity about what values these countries need to protect reflects a current affliction impacting many of today’s organizations. Specifically, of how the values an organization uses to define who they are and what they’re all about tend to be contradicted by the decisions and choices their leaders make regarding the best way to achieve their short term goals.

Consider, for example, Wells Fargo, the latest US financial organization to get caught up in a major scandal and subsequent public relations disaster. An examination of the text found on their company’s webpage simply titled “Our Values” reveals this telling statement:

“All team members should know our values so well that if our policy manuals didn’t exist, we would still make decisions based on our common understanding of our culture and what we stand for. … If we had to choose, we’d rather have a team member who lives by our values than one who just memorizes them.”

And then further down on this same page, Wells Fargo identifies “ethics” and “what’s right for our customers” as being among those values that they expect all of their employees to recognize and abide by in how they perform their duties within their organization.

Now, considering the recent revelation that this financial institution had created almost 2 million fraudulent bank and credit card accounts in order to increase fees they charged to their existing client base, it’s not surprising that this company has lost the confidence and trust of both their customer base and the public at large. The fact that their actions blatantly contradict the very values they espouse to hold dear only makes the hole in which they’ve dug themselves into even deeper and harder to get out of.

But the larger issue this situation exposes for other organizations is whether Click here to continue reading »”Do Your Organization’s Values Reflect What It Stands For?”

4 Important Leadership Lessons From The Final Frontier

In honour of the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, here are 4 important leadership lessons we can learn from the crew of the Starship Enterprise.

If you’re a Star Trek fan like myself, then you know this week marks a historic milestone for this science fiction cultural phenomenon. More specifically, how this Thursday, September 8th marks the 50th anniversary of the airing of the first episode in this iconic, internationally renowned television series.

Whether you’re a fan of the series, or sci-fi in general, or not, you have to admit it’s an impressive feat for a series made literally half a century ago to have given rise to four television spinoff series (with a fifth TV series now in the works), along with 13 movies, including the recent reboot series of which my daughter Alya is a big fan.

Now while I imagine much will be written and spoken this week regarding the enduring appeal of this show, there can be no doubt that a big factor behind its ability to continue to garner new fans decades after its series run is because of its earnest desire to showcase our collective humanity at its very best.

But there’s another aspect of this popular franchise that we can also appreciate and that is some of the lessons we can learn about how to be the kind of leader who not only inspires the best in others, but who also demonstrates a sense of clarity about who we are and what we’d like to achieve.

To that end, here are 4 important leadership lessons we can learn from Star Trek to improve the way we lead our team and organization.

1. You have to care about your people as much as you do about your mission
With a show as old as the original Star Trek series, it’s only natural that certain presumptions are made about the show and its characters that are not necessarily reflective of what was really shown on the series. One example of this was how in recent years, people began to think of Captain Kirk as being this action-oriented leader while his more recent, modern counterparts in subsequent TV sequel series were the more thoughtful, cerebral type.

While there certainly were more fight sequences in The Original Series as compared to the ones it gave rise to, the truth is that one thing that was ever-present in Kirk’s character was how his primary focus was on his crew. While the most obvious example of this can be seen in various episodes where Kirk faces a threatening adversary and barters his own life in exchange for the safety of his crew, the most evocative example of this is seen in those moments where he kneels over the body of a lost crewman.

Unlike his contemporaries who absorbed crew losses as new data to reformulate their strategy, Kirk never shied away from letting others see that he’s taking this loss personally, regardless of how well or how little he knew them.

But he also demonstrated that sense of care and concern in how he pushed his crew to do better; to challenge themselves to rise above the challenges before them because he believed in their potential to be more. That’s why the stories in this series remain timeless – it’s not about the technology, but about Click here to continue reading »”4 Important Leadership Lessons From The Final Frontier”

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”

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