Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

What Storytelling Reveals As The Role Leaders Should Play

A revealing look at three stories that help to illustrate how the function of leaders is to serve as mentors for the real heroes of their organization – their employees.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece about 3 fundamental storytelling elements leaders should employ to successfully drive change.

Now when it comes to using storytelling to help describe our vision or change initiative, the common tendency is to frame our story within the hero on a quest narrative, given how it’s the decisions and choices we make through our leadership that ultimately impact whether we collectively succeed or fail.

And yet, the truth is that while we may be the source of the vision or change initiative that guides our collective efforts, the actual role we play as leaders in our organization’s story is not that of the hero, but that of the mentor.

To understand why the role of mentor is the proper fit for leaders in terms of the journey your organization needs to take, let’s start off by looking at the three characteristics that define what a mentor does:

1. Mentors act as our teacher and guide
The most common role mentors play is that of a teacher and guide; that they use their own experiences and insights to help others learn about themselves and find the path they are meant to take to achieve a sense of meaning and purpose in their lives.

2. Mentors serve as both our cheerleader and our challenger
Mentors will often cheer us on – inspiring us to keep pushing ahead, and eager to celebrate our successes. But mentors also challenge us to question our assumptions of what we’re capable of and what we can achieve.

3. The mentoring relationship has a fixed end point
There’s a clear end point in the relationship between the mentor and the mentee. Specifically, that once the mentor has provided their mentee with all the help and guidance they can provide, it’s time for the mentee to use their acquired knowledge and insights to continue their journey on their own.

Taken together, these three characteristics illustrate what Christopher Vogler wrote in his book, “The Writer’s Journey”:

“Mentors provide heroes with motivation, inspiration, guidance, training, and gifts for the journey. Every hero is guided by something, and a story without some acknowledgement of this energy is incomplete.”

Interestingly, Vogler’s description of the role mentors play in storytelling mirrors the function of effective leadership. Namely, that it’s a leader’s responsibility to craft a vision that inspires people to commit their best efforts, as well as providing our employees with the support and guidance to help make that vision a reality.

Of course, when it comes to storytelling, it’s easy for us to imagine ourselves being the heroes of our organization’s story thanks to our leadership role. And yet, the simple truth is that as leaders, we serve as the mentor to the real heroes of our organization’s story – our employees [Twitter logoShare on Twitter].

With that in mind, I’d like to share stories from three different movies that help shine a light on how we can serve as mentors through our leadership to bring out the best in those we lead: Click here to continue reading »”What Storytelling Reveals As The Role Leaders Should Play”

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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A Year-End Note Of Inspiration To Keep Pushing Ahead

An end-of-year note to inspire leaders to challenge their outlook for how they will empower the best in those they lead.

With the end of one year and the beginning of a new one now upon us, the typical response for many of us is to reflect on what’s transpired over these past 12 months, while at the same time looking ahead in anticipation of what’s to come in the new year.

In the case of 2016, there seems to be a common consensus that this was a particularly bad year which many are glad to see come to an end. For some, this sentiment is borne from the loss of certain musicians, actors, and artists over the past 12 months, while for others, this feeling stems from the results of various political elections and referendums held around the world.

Of course, what is interesting about these negative impressions regarding this year is that the outcomes that many use to define 2016 as being a particularly ‘bad year’ have yet to be felt. It’s only in the months ahead that we’ll appreciate how there won’t be any new performances or new creative works from the musicians, actors and other creative types who passed away in 2016.

And while the voting process for Brexit and the US presidential election was held this year, the real consequences and impact of those choices won’t be truly felt or understood until well into 2017 and beyond. In other words, the ending of 2016 marks only the beginning for the UK and the US – along with the rest of the world – as to what their choices will give rise to in terms of what the future will hold for their respective countries.

And yet, this hasn’t stopped many from looking at these events in isolation; as a reflection of what this year represents, as opposed to what they might give rise to in the months and years ahead.

This disparity between an event and its long-term repercussions provides an important reminder for leaders everywhere, of the difference between how we might see things in our organization and how our employees experience them.

Consider, for example, when your organization experiences a loss or failure like when your organization loses a key contract to a competitor despite your team’s efforts, or when a new product/service that’s been championed to be your organization’s next great accomplishment fails to deliver on that promise.

In those moments, it’s only natural that the prevailing mood in your organization will be gloomy – that your employees will feel discouraged, possibly even disillusioned because they believed in their potential to succeed.

It’s in these moments where our leadership is needed most – not simply to Click here to continue reading »”A Year-End Note Of Inspiration To Keep Pushing Ahead”

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”

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”

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