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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”

Understanding What Drives Us To Push Ahead

How do we motivate our employees – and ourselves – when the focus is simply on getting today's work done?

As the month of June begins to wind down, I’ve found myself reflecting on a unique milestone for my blog – namely, how this month marks my 8th year of writing my blog, marking almost a decade of sharing my writings and insights with my online readership.

I have to be honest in admitting that I never imagined that I’d be writing a blog for so long, where I put out new ideas and insights every week. Extrapolate that out over eight years and that means over 400 articles on communication, vision, teamwork, shared purpose, employee engagement, strategy, and so many other topics found under the umbrella of leadership.

Then again, creating new articles to share your ideas and insights on leadership doesn’t come with a fixed end point – a date and time that you can circle on a calendar or enter into an app as being the finish line.

Indeed, as is the case with leadership, you can’t know ahead when you’ll be done until you reach that moment where you can survey the landscape around you and know that you’ve done what you were meant to do, and that it’s now time to hand over the helm to someone else.

Of course, there are times well before you cross that finish line where you might feel the desire – or perhaps more accurately, the fatigue – that comes with delivering on the expectations others have of you; a feeling that makes you want to call it a day and let someone else mind the store.

It’s certainly a thought that comes to mind at times when I’m sitting at my computer trying to figure out what to write next – of what lessons I can share from the work I do, from the conversations I have with various leaders, or even from things I observe going on around me.

In those moments of creative stillness, I find myself facing one critical question to determine which fork in the road I should take; between moving on or moving ahead – does what I do still matter?

Now, I could use various metrics for my blog to help evaluate that question. This is, after all, the age of Big Data, where so many of those critical insights that we need to determine our progress, of where we need to focus our limited time and resources to obtain the end outcomes we desire can be extracted from reams of data tracking almost every aspect of modern work and life.

And yet, what this fails to take into consideration is that leadership is not found in a spreadsheet, but in the relationships we have with those we lead [Twitter-logo-smallShare on Twitter].

One thing that I’ve come to rely on to remind me of this notion is Click here to continue reading »”Understanding What Drives Us To Push Ahead”

Inspiring Those We Lead To Build A Better Tomorrow

A message for leaders to inspire those they lead to believe in their potential and the lessons they've learned that can help to build a better tomorrow.

Around this time of the year, it’s become a common sight to see commencement speeches from high school and university graduation ceremonies being shared on leadership sites as inspiration on how we can better serve those we lead.

The popularity of these kinds of speeches in leadership circles is not too surprising when we consider how the very nature of the commencement speech is to draw attention to the lessons learned and how they can be applied going forward to create a future filled with purpose, meaning, and joy.

Indeed, this speaks to the very heart of what it takes to be a successful leader, as leadership is not just about getting results, but finding ways to inspire those you lead to be better [Twitter-logo-smallShare on Twitter].

That’s why I’m taking this opportunity to share the commencement speech I gave this past weekend at the high school where I serve as Governing Board Chairman, a speech that was also a very personal one as my daughter Alya was among the hundreds of graduates whose achievements we were there to celebrate.

As someone who writes, speaks and works with leaders to help them better understand what it takes bring out the best in those they lead, it was a genuine privilege to be able to inspire this group of newly minted graduates about what they can achieve going forward.

It was a privilege to deliver this speech because as leaders, we have an obligation to inspire passion and excitement for what the future might hold [Twitter-logo-smallShare on Twitter]; for what those we lead can do, for what they can become, and how they can live a life that matters.

Indeed, it was my hope that in sharing this message to this new generation of leaders, inventors, team players, and game-changers that they would appreciate that optimism is not the absence of negativity, but the ability to rise above despite it [Twitter-logo-smallShare on Twitter], a message that unfortunately bears repeating in light of the numerous challenges dogging our world today.

Amid all the wonderful comments I received from the students, staff, and parents in attendance at this weekend’s graduation ceremony, there was one comment which I got from one of the many proud mothers in attendance that compelled me to share my speech with my readers.

When this mother approached me after the ceremony, she thanked me for speaking to the students; of making my message be about them and their future. And then she paused for a moment and then added “thanks also for inspiring the rest of us and reminding us of what we could do as well”.

This mother’s comment illustrates an important point that every leader should remember; that it’s not enough to talk of a better tomorrow; we need to inspire people to want to make it happen [Twitter-logo-smallShare on Twitter].

That’s why I wanted to share this commencement speech here on my blog – as a reminder of this simple truth; that when we help others to succeed, we help ourselves to become that better version of who we can be [Twitter-logo-smallShare on Twitter].

I hope you enjoy it and find within it the seeds of inspiration and hope that we can do better and be better going forward.

* * * Click here to continue reading »”Inspiring Those We Lead To Build A Better Tomorrow”

What Leaders Need To Do To Successfully Resolve A Crisis

4 critical steps that every leader should take in order to successfully resolve a crisis within their organization.

The following is a guest piece by Jim Lukaszewski.

Most crisis plans that are actually completed these days are so complicated and compartmentalized that it defies even the most skillful leader’s abilities to lead effectively. Too many crisis plans focus on external issues and the media rather than providing a simple, sensible, constructive, achievable response strategy. I have advocated for many years the concept of the Grand Strategy to drive crisis response using the Golden Hour metaphor as the driving force.

Very few management problems are crises, but all crises are management problems. Preplanning executive actions and decisions can avoid career-defining moments. Include specific executive leadership instructions in all plans and response scenarios.

The Grand Strategy is a 5-step leadership-driven process. Note the word “process.” This is a powerful management approach. It’s called the Golden Hour Strategy because the intention is to launch all five steps within the first 60-120 minutes of a crisis incident, whatever the crisis happens to be. Here now are those five important steps: Click here to continue reading »”What Leaders Need To Do To Successfully Resolve A Crisis”

10 Principles For Developing Strategic Leaders

Learn about 10 principles that every organization should employ in order to develop strategic leaders who can drive organizational growth and success.

The following is a guest piece by Jessica Leitch, David Lancefield, and Mark Dawson.

Most companies have leaders with the strong operational skills needed to maintain the status quo. But they are facing a critical deficit: They lack people with the know-how, experience, and confidence required to tackle “wicked problems.” Such problems can’t be solved by a single command, they have causes that seem incomprehensible and solutions that seem uncertain, and they often require companies to transform the way they do business.

A 2015 PwC study of 6,000 senior executives, conducted using a research methodology developed by David Rooke of Harthill Consulting and William Torbert of Boston University, revealed just how pervasive this shortfall is: Only 8 percent of the respondents turned out to be strategic leaders, or those effective at leading transformations.

Fortunately, companies can build the capacity for strategic leadership. The following 10 principles can help unlock potential strategic leaders in your enterprise. These principles represent a combination of organizational systems and individual capabilities — the hardware and software of transformation.

You may have already adopted some of these tenets, and think that’s enough. But only when you implement all of them together, as a single system, will they enable you to attract, develop, and retain the strategic leaders who’ve eluded you thus far. Click here to continue reading »”10 Principles For Developing Strategic Leaders”

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