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”

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”

Leadership Biz Cafe Podcast #18 – Braden Kelley On How Leaders Can Successfully Drive Change

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In today’s faster paced, interconnected world, there’s little doubt that change is the new reality; the new standard by which we now have to operate. But if leaders recognize change as being a new constant in our organization’s field of view, why then are so many leaders struggling to effectively drive change in their organization? It’s the question that serves as the basis of my talk with innovation expert and author, Braden Kelley.

Braden is an experienced innovation speaker, trainer, and digital transformation specialist. In addition to being one of the co-founders of the respected website, InnovationExcellence.com, Braden has published more than 500 articles on innovation as well as being author of the book “Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire”. His latest book is “Charting Change: A Visual Toolkit for Making Change Stick” which will be the focus of our conversation in this episode.

Over the course of this episode, Braden and I touch on a number of fascinating insights that he describes in his latest book, including: Click here to continue reading »”Leadership Biz Cafe Podcast #18 – Braden Kelley On How Leaders Can Successfully Drive Change”

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Understanding The Power Of Our Words

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If I were to ask you what you thought was the greatest invention in human history, what would be your reply? I imagine for some of you, your answer would be the personal computer and all the technological marvels that now make up our digital world. For others, I could imagine hearing the invention of the light bulb being our greatest invention.

The interesting thing about this question is that there’s no right answer and that, if anything, it reveals more about the respondent and their perception and relationship to the world around them. For myself, I would say our greatest invention is language and our use of words to communicate with one another.

Granted, this might seem like an obvious answer from someone who regularly writes and speaks about leadership. But what really sparked my thoughts on this has more to do with something I heard in a talk and what it reminds us about the critical nature words play in our ability to successfully lead those under our care.

The talk in question is one given by Mohammed Qahtani, a security engineer from Saudi Arabia, which won him the 2015 Toastmasters International World Championship of Public Speaking. In his speech, “The Power of Words”, Qahtani shares a number of personal examples of how the words we use can have a dramatic impact on how others understand and view the relationships we have with them.

But what struck me the most about his talk was this comment he made about how our words can influence those around us:

“Words when said and articulated in the right way can change someone’s mind. They can alter someone’s belief. You have the power to bring someone from the slums of life and make a successful person out of them, or destroy someone’s happiness using only your words. … A simple choice of words can make the difference between someone accepting or denying your message.”

Listening to Qahtani’s words, I was reminded of two leaders and how their words served to shape how others viewed and responded to their leadership. The first leader was Click here to continue reading »”Understanding The Power Of Our Words”

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How Leaders Can Cure A Toxic Workplace

Curing-toxic-workplace

One of the things I enjoy about sharing my writings and insights on leadership is the opportunity it creates to interact with my readers – to hear their stories and what they’ve learned along the way, as well as some of the challenges they are trying to overcome.

Recently, one challenge in particular caught my attention as it was brought forth by both a reader of my leadership blog and by an audience member at a talk I gave last week.  The challenge in question was what do you do if you have to lead a team in a toxic workplace setting? And how can you overcome this to effectively lead your employees?

Given the interest expressed by two different segments of my audience, I want to share some key steps leaders should employ to help cure toxic workplaces and replace them with a more healthy, productive work environment.

Granted, I can’t provide specific steps because every situation is different and comes with its own set of variables and constraints that leaders will have to work with. However, the following measures will nonetheless provide you with both the right perspective and framework to help cure toxic workplaces in your organization.

1. Identify and rally ‘change champions’ in your organization
Now before we can put into action measures to cure a toxic workplace, we need to first understand something about how our brain operates. Neuroscience has shown that our brains are hard-wired to avoid threats in our environment.

Consequently, not only is our brain focused more on looking out for danger than benefits, but the neural signals we get from our different senses are processed first through that lens of whether it’s a good or bad experience before our higher brain functions can help us to create a context for what we’re seeing, hearing, or feeling.

Now it’s important to note here that it’s not just dangerous or harmful events that our brain identifies as threats. Rather, it labels anything that creates ambiguity or uncertainty as a threat and consequently, something we should avoid. And all of this happens subconsciously which is why we may not be able to rationally explain why we fear something, only that we do.

In the case of making changes to your workplace environment, even though Click here to continue reading »”How Leaders Can Cure A Toxic Workplace”

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