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”

How Would You Answer This Question About Your Leadership?

A question every leader should be asking themselves in order to figure out how successful they'll ultimately be in their collective efforts.

When it comes to leadership, there are many facets that we examine and explore in our drive to learn how we can succeed in leading our team and organization. But one aspect that’s rarely looked at is how the way we view our role can leave us creating more of a polarizing effect than a unifying one.

It’s a notion that I’ve been pondering about as I observe the reactions to the last week’s inauguration of of the new US president. Certainly, there can be no doubt that – regardless of your political leanings – the new US president is certainly a polarizing figure. In that light, it’s not surprising to see a growing division within the US population between those who support and champion him, and those who oppose him and what he represents.

But what’s been interesting to note is that small fragment found in between these two diverging groups – people who are openly against the new presidency, but who are encouraging their fellow Americans to put aside their differences and to support him as their president.

As a Canadian, I have to admit to finding this notion to be a bit odd. Granted, I can understand the emotional need behind these pleas – after all, who wouldn’t be hurt and dismayed from seeing a growing division and outright resentment brewing within the various groups that make up your country.

And yet, for me at least, the ability to openly challenge, criticize, and oppose your nation’s leader is one of the very hallmarks of both democracy and patriotism. Indeed, I for one was very vocal in publicly speaking against both our previous Prime Minister and previous Quebec Premier because I sincerely believed that their vision for my country and for my province were not what was best for our society, and certainly not what would guarantee a more prosperous and stable future for everyone.

In other words, my dissension and criticism wasn’t simply directed towards their role of being the Prime Minister of Canada or the Quebec Premier. Rather, it was about their vision and their goals, and whether those were things that I wanted to personally commit myself as a citizen to helping become a part of our collective reality.

That distinction is something that we often recognize in our conversations and examinations about the nature of leadership; that people commit their best efforts not because of who we are, but because of what we stand for and what we hope to achieve.

As such, the idea that people should simply support their leader for the purposes of creating the illusion of collective harmony is not only troublesome in terms of ensuring accountability amongst those in charge, but it also diminishes the underlying motivational drive that compels people to commit their best selves to the work they do.

It also reveals an important question Click here to continue reading »”How Would You Answer This Question About Your Leadership?”

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My Top 10 Leadership Insights For 2016

A look back at my Top 10 leadership insights from 2016 and the common themes they reveal about how leaders can be successful in 2017.

There’s no question that the start of a new year brings to mind notions of new beginnings and a chance for a fresh start. Of course, as much as we might be eager to set our sights ahead into 2017 and envision all the possibilities and goals we might achieve, it’s worth taking the time to look back on the year that was and what we learned along the way.

It’s from that vantage point that I sat down to put together my Top 10 leadership insights for 2016 as determined by you, the readers of my leadership blog. In putting this list together, it’s always interesting to see which of my pieces were the most popular with my readers, and where I might differ in terms of which articles I’d put in a list of my Top 10 favourite leadership articles for 2016

For example, as a Star Trek fan, I’d definitely include my piece “4 Important Leadership Lessons From The Final Frontier” that celebrated Star Trek’s 50th anniversary in 2016, a piece which came close, but didn’t quite make the Top 10 list of my readers’ most favourite pieces.

What’s also interesting about this process is how certain threads or themes begin to emerge that serve to shine a light on what issues or challenges today’s leaders are most interested in learning more about. Looking at the list of 10 leadership insights found below, it’s clear that many leaders are interested in learning how to develop stronger relationships with those under their care; that their focus is increasing on how to empower their employees to bring their full selves to the work they do.

It’s an encouraging sign, and certainly a great way to begin a new year.

And so with that, here now are my Top 10 leadership insights as selected by the readers of my award-winning leadership blog:

Leadership Insight #10 – Empathy allows us to bridge the gap between how we see things and how others experience them. [Share on Twitter]

“Through our empathy, we’re able to move beyond the binary attitude of “I’m right/you’re wrong” which can impede any initiative from moving forward, to one that’s driven by the desire to discover that common ground we share with one another so that we can promote collaboration and foster sustainable growth.

It’s a truth that becomes all the more obvious when we remember that the key to your organization’s success and future prosperity is no longer based solely on the processes and technologies found within your company’s walls, but within the talents, insights, and experiences of those you lead. Something that one can tap into only if we create conditions where people feel connected to what they do and to those around them, as well as being a part of the shared purpose that defines your collective efforts.

But how do we know if we’re truly being empathetic in our leadership? How can we tell if we’re creating conditions that allow all of our employees to succeed and thrive, as opposed to a select few like our ‘star players’ or those we personally relate to?”

Read more on this leadership insight here: A Timely Reminder Of The Power Of Empathy In Leadership

 

Leadership Insight #9 – When we lead only by authority, our focus is only on ourselves and not on how to empower others. [Share on Twitter]

“Now I’ve written before about the importance of building relationships with those we lead and one of the key reasons for that is to help us better understand our employees’ needs, and of what will best motivate them to bring their best efforts to the table. It’s through such efforts that we’re able to influence others because we’re able to connect our vision or ideas to things that our employees would care about as well.

Again, as leaders, your employees do have to follow your lead and that alone is a sign of your authority. But getting people to believe in your vision, in the goals you want to achieve requires influence, something we don’t have a right to simply because of our title or role. Rather, it’s something we have to earn by gaining the trust and respect of those we have the responsibility to guide and support so that they can succeed in their collective efforts.”

Read more on this leadership insight here: Is Your Leadership Based On Influence Or Authority?

 

Leadership Insight #8 – The power of relationships is that it allows us the freedom of knowing we don’t have to go it alone. [Share on Twitter]

“One of the truisms of modern-day leadership is that as leaders, we can’t expect to have all the answers. Of course, the corollary to that axiom is that leaders shouldn’t be afraid to ask or accept a helping hand from those they lead. After all, how can we help those we lead to grow if we don’t value their ability to offer a helping hand?

How can we encourage our employees to challenge their Click here to continue reading »”My Top 10 Leadership Insights For 2016″

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Are You Employing This Key To Giving Effective Feedback?

Discover whether the kind of feedback you offer to your employees is employing this critical measure that drives organizational growth and success.

With December now upon us, many leaders and their organizations are now shifting their focus towards that much debated and much-maligned practice for evaluating employee productivity and effectiveness: the annual performance review.

Of course, while there has been much written lately about the ‘death of annual performance reviews’, a study done by Towers Watson revealed that – despite the high profile examples of companies like Microsoft, Accenture, and GE completely ditching their annual performance reviews – a majority of North American organizations are opting to transform their current performance review process as opposed to doing away with them completely.

Now whether you agree with continuing to use annual performance reviews or not, the fact is these discussions about this feedback tool reveal that there’s a far more pressing issue that leaders everywhere need to address – namely, what kind of feedback, if any, are we providing to those we lead?

Of course, when it comes to giving feedback, there’s a common approach that many leaders opt to use, something that’s often referred to as the ‘feedback sandwich’.

What this technique involves is starting the conversation with something positive – the argument being that this will help your employee to be receptive to what you have to say next. At this point, you offer what you really want to share, that is the negative feedback that’s the reason behind this conversation, after which you give your employee some more positive feedback in order to to help soften the blow and ‘end on a high note’.

Now in theory this might sound like a fair and balanced approach to offering someone feedback that can be hard to hear, given how we’re reinforcing or reminding them of the things they do well, before and after pointing out where they went wrong or what they need to improve on going forward.

But the reality is that it’s not so much the receiver of our feedback as it is ourselves who we’re hoping to protect through this communication ploy. That by setting up a friendly start and a reassuring ending, we might avoid the necessary unpleasantness that comes with telling someone they’re doing something wrong.

This strategy also gives us the false impression that Click here to continue reading »”Are You Employing This Key To Giving Effective Feedback?”

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Does Your Leadership Bring Out The Best In Those You Lead?

The findings of a recent global study reveal some important points for leaders on how to ensure they are creating a workplace environment that brings out the best in their employees.

Over the past few weeks, there’s been a noticeable uptick in leadership and management articles focusing on the topic of how leaders can ensure that they are providing a ‘safe’ environment for all of their employees. There’s little doubt that the rising interest in this topic is in response to the outcome of the recent presidential election in the United States.

While it’s unfortunate that we even have to consider or discuss such issues in today’s organizations, it does serve as a potent reminder of an even larger issue that affects all employees, and not just those who belong to a particular minority group. And that is, what kind of organizational climate are you helping or enabling to take root within your organization?

Now, to be clear, I’m not simply referring to whether you have a toxic workplace environment within your company’s walls. Rather, this is about whether you’re creating conditions where people are driven to bring their full selves to the work they do, or whether your employees are simply doing what’s expected of them. That they are simply reacting to what they see going on around them, instead of being proactive in finding ways to ensure your collective success in achieving your long term goals.

The reason why leaders need to be concerned about this issue as we begin to shift our focus to the new year ahead can be found in the findings of a recent survey done by Dale Carnegie Training, where they interviewed over 3 300 full-time employees in 14 countries, including Canada, United States, and the United Kingdom.

Through their survey, the researchers found that 44% of employees worldwide said that they will be looking for a new job in 2017 (in the US alone, 26% of employees said they’d be looking for a new job in the next 12 months, while 15% said they’re already actively looking for a new place to work).

To put this another way, what this means is that almost half of your workforce is at risk of looking for a new job in 2017, a troubling statistic to be sure. Of course, I’m sure many leaders will try to reassure themselves by pointing to the current job market in their industry; of how there are fewer better options out there that might convince some of their employees to jump ship.

But what we really need to take note of here is not whether 40% of our employees might leave our organization in 2017. Rather, the critical message here is the implications of having almost half of your employees thinking about looking for work elsewhere. Namely, that while these employees are doing the work that’s been assigned to them, they’re not fully committed to giving their best efforts towards helping you to achieve your vision or shared purpose.

And frankly, the truth is leadership is not about enabling people to meet expectations, but empowering them to exceed them [Twitter-logo-smallShare on Twitter].

Again, going back to this Dale Carnegie Training study, the researchers reported that “effective leaders develop themselves and create a safe environment that fosters their employees’ capacity to grow”, as almost 80% of employees worldwide have stated that a key motivating factor is having a leader who “encourages me and makes me believe in my ability to improve” instead of simply being “satisfied with competence”.

Not surprisingly, this study also found that one of the things employees want to see their leaders provide more of is Click here to continue reading »”Does Your Leadership Bring Out The Best In Those You Lead?”

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