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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”

How Summer Vacation Can Drive Us To Succeed

A study on motivation and perception reveals a powerful truth for how leaders can use summer vacation breaks to motivate the best in their employees.

Of all the seasons of the year, summer is without question my favourite and no month encapsulates that summertime feeling more than the month of July. Not only is this the first full month where my girls are officially off-school, but this month also marks the return of one of my favourite summer festivals here in Montreal, the Festival International de Jazz de Montréal (if you haven’t attended this festival, this is definitely something to experience, whether you’re a Jazz fan or not).

Of course, the month of July also marks the beginning of the summer vacation period, and so it’s only natural that there’s much interest right now in exploring the topic of leadership and summer vacation.

While I’ve written in the past about why it’s important for leaders to make time for a vacation break, I wanted to shift the focus in this piece to look at the findings of a recent study that offers some valuable insights into how we can increase our motivation to achieve our shared goals when we return back to work following a vacation break.

Researchers from The Wharton School have been studying what they call the “fresh-start effect” and the impact this has on our motivational drive to achieve the goals we set up for ourselves. As part of their study published in “Psychological Science”, Dr. Katherine Milkman and her team of researchers conducted an experiment where they asked study participants to describe a personal goal they haven’t yet achieved but would like to attain later in the year.

The researchers then divided the participants into two groups and gave each one a different scenario to imagine. For the first group, the researchers asked them to imagine that they had moved into a new apartment after living in the same place for the past nine years.

For the second group, they also asked them to imagine moving into a new apartment, but in their case the scenario was that they had moved every year over the past nine years.

The participants in both groups were then asked to describe how motivated they were to begin work on achieving their goal after moving into this new apartment. What the researchers found was that the study participants who had moved into a new apartment after staying in the same place for nine years were far more motivated to achieve their goal than those who had moved every year.

The researchers concluded that study participants “would be more motivated to start tackling their personal goal after a psychologically meaningful relocation than they would be after a relocation that was less psychologically meaningful.”

So what does this study’s findings have to do with increasing our motivation to achieve our goals after returning from a vacation break? Well, as the researchers pointed out, while all of us are driven to Click here to continue reading »”How Summer Vacation Can Drive Us To Succeed”

Where Do We Go Next After We Succeed?

Secret to enduring success in leadership

So you achieved that long sought-after success at work – great! Everyone is cheering you on, applauding your success while you enjoy your time in the limelight.

But as time moves on, your colleagues start to focus on other matters and that success that garnered you all those accolades and praise slowly dims, leaving you with one uncomfortable and glaring question – what do I do now?

It’s the part of process of achieving success that we don’t often talk about, mostly because the focus tends to be on how we can be successful without any real honest examination of what do we do when we actually achieve it.

Understandably, part of the reason for that is that success – especially when it’s a public or life-changing moment – is often seen as being the pinnacle of our journey, leaving us with no where to go but down.

A great example of that is when actors win an Academy Award in the early stages of their career. Although life-changing, it also seems to limit their future successes, as many of them go off to make films that are not as critically acclaimed or commercially successful as the one that won them the Oscar. Given their limited body of work, it wouldn’t be surprising to find out that many of them went from being seen as rising stars to potential has-beens.

Fortunately, for most of us, our successes are not as character or career-defining, but that doesn’t necessarily free us from the expectations those around us might have about what we will do next or what achievement we will next attain.

It’s an idea that came to mind after seeing the overwhelming response to the piece I wrote last week about the power of expectations.

As a writer, you’re not always sure what ideas or insights will resonate the most with your readers. So when you see a piece of yours getting the attention like my last piece did – where it not only became the headline article for the Wednesday edition of SmartBrief on Leadership, but it was also featured in numerous other industry newsletters and leadership blogs – it’s hard not to feel like you succeeded in capturing lightning in a bottle.

Of course, as was the case with past articles I wrote which also captured the interest of so many and lead to dozens of new blog subscribers and new readers, it also gave rise to thoughts about how do we match that success. And even how can we surpass it.

There’s no question that this line of thought can leave you facing a daunting dilemma, if not a crisis of Click here to continue reading »”Where Do We Go Next After We Succeed?”

What Leaders Need To Do To Help Their Employees Succeed

Transforming-passion-into-purpose

When I was nine years old, my older cousin got a brand new chopper bicycle for his birthday and it was probably the coolest bike I ever saw. With its hot lime green chassis, checker-board banana seat, and a sports car-inspired gear shift affixed to the bike body just in front of the seat, this bike looked more like a hot rod than a conventional bicycle.

The first time I saw it, I wanted so badly to take it for a spin, and so I ran to my older cousin and asked him if I could take his bike for a ride around the block. Given how it was a new bike and I was only nine, my older cousin clearly had no interest lending his bike to me.

Every summer after that, when we went to visit my uncle, aunt and my cousin, it was always the same answer my cousin gave me when I asked him once more if I could try his bike – “No”. Despite those repeated negative answers to my query, I never once wavered in my eagerness and anticipation of one day riding that bike.

A couple of years pass by, and on one of our summer trips to my uncle and aunt’s place, my aunt tells me how my older cousin is going to be taking his driver’s test soon. Given how he’ll be driving around town, my aunt tells me that he has little use for his chopper bike. She then looks at me and asks “Would you like to take his bike home with you?”

I couldn’t believe my ears. After years of asking my cousin to let me ride his chopper bike, his mom was now offering to make it mine. It didn’t take long for me to blurt out a very excited “Yes!”.

Of course, my parents being the pragmatic types thought that I should try the bike first before accepting it. Given how I’d waited years just to ride this bike, I wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity to actually own it. So I assured my parents that this bike was a good fit and so we packed up the bike and headed back to Montreal.

As we got home late that evening, I couldn’t try out my new bike until the next day which I figured was okay as that meant that I could show it off to my friends the next morning when I biked over to the neighbourhood park.

The next day, I went out to the garage, excited that I was finally going to be able to take this bike out for a ride. As I rode off our driveway and onto the street, though, I had an unexpected realization about this chopper bicycle – it was just a bike.

For years, I had built in my head this grand notion of what it would feel like riding this bike; of feeling that rush of excitement as I raced down the street on this eye-catching bicycle. As it turned out, riding this bike didn’t feel any different from riding any other bike.

So instead of being this amazing, exhilarating ride, it was actually unremarkable and even at times uncomfortable, especially when it came to changing the gears as the shift handle was difficult to reach. It comes as no surprise then why this bike remains the only one I’ve ever seen that had the gear shift placed down on the bike frame between the handlebars and the bike seat.

Now while my story ended in disappointment, but with an important life lesson on how sometimes things don’t live up to our expectations, I want to share another story – specifically, that of a painter – and how the contrast between his experience and mine can shed light on what leaders need to do to help their employees to succeed. Click here to continue reading »”What Leaders Need To Do To Help Their Employees Succeed”

Are You Helping Your Employees To Reach Their Potential?

Using-Leadership-To-See-Potential-In-Employees

When it comes to my role serving as the Governing Board Chairman at my daughters’ high school, one aspect of this leadership role that I enjoy the most is being invited to school events that celebrate the achievements of our students.

After all, when you spend much of your time discussing school budget issues, funding projects, approving various school policies and the like, having the opportunity to talk with students to learn about their accomplishments really helps to provide a context for the collective efforts of my team.

The most recent student celebratory event was particularly noteworthy as the focus was not on the best and brightest students in our school community. Instead, it was on students participating in a work-study program designed for students at-risk of dropping out or who suffer from intellectual disabilities.

The goal of this school-based program is simple – to provide these students with both a knowledge base and hands-on experience that will allow them to join the workforce at the end of the three year program. As these students are not the high achievers who win academic or athletic awards, they typically tend to get overlooked by others because there’s no rising star to be found among them.

And yet, a conversation I had with one of these students not only challenged that notion, but it helped to reveal a very important lesson that every leader today can benefit from. A lesson on how we can bring out the best in every employee under our care.

Before joining this work-study program, Malik was one of several students at-risk of dropping out of school, not just because he struggled to keep up with the school work, but also because he was extremely disorganized. As he told me when sharing his story, he had a hard time with the regular school work load because he couldn’t keep track of the various assignments he had to do.

It was at this point that Malik directed my focus to this binder he had on the table. As he revealed the contents inside his binder, he told me about how this program had helped him to become more organized, not just in how he managed his homework, but also in how he maintained his work station.

Most interestingly, Malik admitted that his newfound ability to be more organized has spilled into his family life as well in that he not only keeps his room clean, but he also makes his bed every morning, something his parents had never imagined he’d do.

Granted, this kind of effort would hardly be considered noteworthy or exceptional for most of us. But the point to here is not what Malik and his classmates accomplished. Rather, what Malik’s story reveals is the importance of helping those we lead to discover their potential to do more, to be more than they are today.

In the case of Malik and his fellow classmates, what helped drive their transformation to feeling like what they do matters and is important was Click here to continue reading »”Are You Helping Your Employees To Reach Their Potential?”

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