Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

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”

Is Your Leadership Based On Influence Or Authority?

A look at authority and influence in leadership and why one of these is more critical than the other to succeed at leadership in today's organizations.

With a complex endeavour such as leadership, it’s only natural that there be different schools of thought and perspectives on what would be the best way to lead your team and organization forward. Of course, while there might be different approaches to leadership, there are still a few binary aspects to how we approach the role of leader in today’s organizations.

One example is the choice between the command-and-control style of leadership and one that’s more collaborative and inclusive in how we rally people around a common cause or goal. While most of us have come to appreciate the limitations and inefficiencies that come with a top-down style of leadership, one binary approach to leadership that’s not so clear is the one where we choose either to rely on our authority or on our influence to guide our team or organization.

Now to be clear, leaders by default do operate with some form of authority, usually as a result of their position within their organization. Where problems arise is when we think that all a person needs to lead others is a sense of authority without any consideration for the impact our actions have on those we have the responsibility to lead.

To help illustrate what I mean by this, I’d like to share the example of two people I worked with during my clinical-work days at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal.

Irene was a member of the nurses team that the doctors and my fellow clinicians collaborated with in our work treating the various patients that came to our hospital-based clinic. Although this team of nurses didn’t have a head nurse, Irene liked to think of herself as being the head nurse and certainly liked to act like she had that weight to throw around in her interactions with both fellow staff and patients.

Now while there was no question that Irene was a competent and caring nurse, it was clear talking to her fellow nurses that if a head nurse job were to be created and Irene were to get it, the nurses would be lining up at the HR department with requests to transfer to another department.

The problem Irene had is that while she was certainly technically competent as a nurse, she had little to no influence in terms of people wanting to follow her advice and suggestions.

In fact, it was so bad that there were a few occasions where I saw Irene give some unsolicited advice about a particular case and her fellow nurses would outright ignore her. And if you asked the other nurses why they’d behave that way, they’d tell you about how they didn’t want to make Irene’s ego any bigger than it already was.

Now compare Irene’s example to Helen, another nurse who worked at this clinic. Helen was the nurse who everyone went to if they needed help with a particular problem or if you just needed a friendly ear to vent to about some difficult patient.

Helen was just as competent and caring a nurse as Irene, but the difference between these two professionals was that Helen made it all about the patient, while Irene was more interested in finding opportunities to showcase herself and her abilities.

While both nurses had the same level of authority in how they performed their jobs, time and time again when patients returned, it was Helen who received the most requests from patients to have her working on their case.

Now the reason why I wanted to use nurses who lack formal leadership titles to discuss this issue is in part because it’s a common adage that in today’s modern workplaces, anybody can be a leader; that we don’t need a title to wield influence within our team and organization.

But perhaps more importantly, Irene and Helen’s example also helps to illustrate a key finding from recent neuroscience studies that offer an important reality check for how effective we are in bringing out the best in those we lead.

Researchers have found that the relationship between Click here to continue reading »”Is Your Leadership Based On Influence Or Authority?”

3 Critical Factors To Help Your Team Stay The Course

Learn about 3 critical factors leaders need to employ to help keep their employees on track to achieving the long-term goals of their organization.

When it comes to leading teams, the common focus in the leadership literature tends to be on team building; on answering the question of how do we rally people and get them on board and aligned with our company’s vision or long-term goals.

Of course, this makes a lot of sense when we realize that our chances to succeed in pushing forth a new initiative or change mandate is dependent on how much our employees are genuinely invested in bringing their best efforts to transforming this idea into our new reality.

But what about when we’re months – or even years – into the process of implementing our vision or long-term goals for our organization? How do we help our employees to not only sustain their drive and interest, but help them to stay the course in face of the inevitable obstacles, unexpected changes, and unpopular decisions we need to make along the way?

While the specifics will understandably vary from one team to another – and from one situation to another – there are nonetheless three critical factors that every leader should be employing to ensure that their leadership is serving to help their employees to stay the course over the long run.

1. Encourage your employees to ask ‘what is our purpose?’
Perhaps one of the stranger ironies of the modern workplace is the fact that the further you move towards achieving your goal, the easier it becomes to lose sight of it.

Consider, for example, the faster-pace by which we not only have to operate, but by which decisions have to be made in light of new information or new realities. The consequences of this new reality is that many leaders are now working within a reactive state – of simply responding to the things that are demanding their attention without considering which issues are truly important to achieving their long-term goals.

And if those in leadership positions are having a hard time keeping their focus on what matters, it shouldn’t be surprising to find employees being disengaged in their work because they no longer can see the connection between what they do and the purpose behind their organization’s collective efforts.

By openly encouraging your employees to ask ‘what is our purpose’, you allow them to find the answer that best resonates with them; of finding the context that defines the value of their contributions to the overall vision of your organization.

While it’s important for leaders to communicate that value and importance to their employees, it’s equally important that Click here to continue reading »”3 Critical Factors To Help Your Team Stay The Course”

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”

What It Takes To Overcome Distractions In The Workplace

A lesson from Olympic rowers reveals a powerful message for leaders on how they can help their employees to overcome workplace distractions.

As the final week of the summer period slowly comes to an end, I have to admit to feeling a mix bag of emotions. As much I as enjoy summer and all the activities and beautiful weather it brings, I’m looking forward to returning to a more regular routine both at work and at home.

After all, given the blue skies seen outside the office window and the ease with which family activities can be planned with children being on summer vacation break, the summer months do present quite a number of distractions that can impede one’s productivity and drive to push ahead.

Of course, in today’s modern, digital workspace, there are far more and at times, far greater distractions than the sight of a sunny blue sky outside your window.

In most cases, when it comes to things that impact the overall productivity of employees, the common tendency is to view meetings and emails as the biggest impediments.

And yet, according to a recent CareerBuilder survey of over 2 000 managers, the biggest distractions employees face in today’s workplaces are text messaging/using their smartphones, followed by surfing the web.

And the impact of these distractions on workplace productivity is quite significant, as 75% of employers state that their organizations lose two or more hours of productivity every day because their employees are distracted.

To make matters worse, the leaders surveyed in this study noted that this loss in productivity leads to a compromised quality of work, missed deadlines, and even negative repercussions in employer-employee relationships and as well customer relationships.

Now the typical response in light of such findings is to limit the usage of smartphones at work or to restrict access to what sites employees can surf while on the job.

While this might solve the issue of employees using their smartphones and the internet for non-work related matters, it overlooks the underlying issue behind these behaviours and what leaders should really be doing to help their employees develop the means to overcome the distractions they’ll inevitably face while at work.

And as with most things in life, the best way for us to appreciate what we should be doing is by looking at the lessons learned by others about what it takes to succeed in the face of various obstacles. Click here to continue reading »”What It Takes To Overcome Distractions In The Workplace”

« Older Entries