Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

3 Ways Leaders Can Help Bring Great Ideas To Life

3 measures leaders should employ to create an organizational culture that encourages employees to share their ideas on how to change the way we work.

The following is a guest piece by Kotter International President, Russell Raath on behalf of The Economist Executive Education Navigator.

How often have you heard the phrase “that’s not how we do it here” uttered in your workplace? When employees suggest new ways to tackle challenges, are their contributions welcomed—no matter how outside-the-box they may be? Are staff members empowered to test new ideas and report back to management on their successes, as part of helping the organization constantly adapt and improve?

Maybe you have some version of the “suggestion scheme” where ideas are sent into some inbox in the cloud – where someone (hopefully) reviews them and determines whether an idea is viable and has merit.

In most organizations, the answers to these questions are often “no” or“never”. Yet the most innovative companies—those that can face challenging times and emerge stronger than ever—often recognize a key truth that is missing in many traditional, hierarchical organizations. That truth is that great ideas don’t only come from senior management.

The idea that saves the business $10 million may come from a production line supervisor; the concept that opens up an entirely new market for your products might come from a junior sales rep.

The point, one that smart organizations have realized, is that great ideas can come from any level of the organization. This is a concept explored in great depth in Dr. John Kotter’s latest business fable, “That’s Not How We Do It Here!”, which chronicles a clan of meerkats struggling with a drought that reduces their resources and leads to the rise of dangerous new predators.

Written as a business book, there are a number of key lessons on how leaders, at any organizational level, can bring great ideas to the surface: Click here to continue reading »”3 Ways Leaders Can Help Bring Great Ideas To Life”

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?”

Do Your Organization’s Values Reflect What It Stands For?

The recent scandal at Wells Fargo provides a unique backdrop to discuss the role organizational values should be playing in today's leadership.

Over the past several months, there has been a growing discussion and even discord in various parts of the world over the issue of reasserting what our values are as a society and country.

From the various debates in European countries about the sociological impact of rising refugee populations, to the polarizing political climate brewing within the current US election period, there’s been a growing unrest in certain countries to ‘protect their country’s values’ in light of changing demographics and the growing interdependence brought on by today’s global economy.

Ironically, in almost every one of these discussions regarding the importance of protecting a society’s or country’s values, there’s a noticeable absence of clarity about which values exactly are in need of protection, or are currently at risk of being washed away by the arrival of immigrants and refugees on their country’s proverbial shores (in most cases, when certain values are pointed out as being at risk, they tend to be those that are already enshrined in a country’s laws or are deeply entrenched in existing cultural norms).

That lack of clarity about what values these countries need to protect reflects a current affliction impacting many of today’s organizations. Specifically, of how the values an organization uses to define who they are and what they’re all about tend to be contradicted by the decisions and choices their leaders make regarding the best way to achieve their short term goals.

Consider, for example, Wells Fargo, the latest US financial organization to get caught up in a major scandal and subsequent public relations disaster. An examination of the text found on their company’s webpage simply titled “Our Values” reveals this telling statement:

“All team members should know our values so well that if our policy manuals didn’t exist, we would still make decisions based on our common understanding of our culture and what we stand for. … If we had to choose, we’d rather have a team member who lives by our values than one who just memorizes them.”

And then further down on this same page, Wells Fargo identifies “ethics” and “what’s right for our customers” as being among those values that they expect all of their employees to recognize and abide by in how they perform their duties within their organization.

Now, considering the recent revelation that this financial institution had created almost 2 million fraudulent bank and credit card accounts in order to increase fees they charged to their existing client base, it’s not surprising that this company has lost the confidence and trust of both their customer base and the public at large. The fact that their actions blatantly contradict the very values they espouse to hold dear only makes the hole in which they’ve dug themselves into even deeper and harder to get out of.

But the larger issue this situation exposes for other organizations is whether Click here to continue reading »”Do Your Organization’s Values Reflect What It Stands For?”

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”

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