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”

Are You A First Responder Or A Leader?

Learn how leaders can foster greater trust among their employees by focusing more on promoting their autonomy than on putting out fires.

The following is a guest piece by Elliot Begoun.

Mark looked up from his computer and took a deep breath. The frenetic pace of the day had given way to the serene quiet of an empty building. He both treasured this time and found himself tortured by it. The stillness and the lack of interruption, allowed him to finally focus without the chaos of the day constantly ripping him away from his work.

But, this time came with a big sacrifice. Sitting in his office at 7:30 pm meant that he had once again failed to make it to his daughter’s soccer practice, and was sure to miss dinner with the family. He shook his head as if to drive the thought away and returned to the spreadsheet that was demanding his attention.

The next morning Mark had his weekly breakfast meeting with his friend and long-time mentor Sam, who greeted him by saying, “You look like crap! When was the last time you got a good night’s sleep?”

Mark smiled and said, “I think it was that vacation we took 4 months ago.” Sadly, Mark was not kidding.

He went on to tell Sam about yesterday’s craziness. It started by having to run down to the production floor because there was a problem with the filler, and before he could even make it back to his office the QA manager had flagged him down. When he finally did get there, he explained that he was bombarded by emails and phone calls, all of which were in search of some solution or another. Sam just sat and listened intently.

When Mark finally wrapped up his recantation, Sam said, “It sounds to me like you are more of a first responder than you are a leader.”

A puzzled look washed over Mark’s face, so Sam continued. “You are Click here to continue reading »”Are You A First Responder Or A Leader?”

Leadership Biz Cafe Podcast #17 – Whitney Johnson On Using Disruptive Innovation To Drive Growth

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When it comes to disruptive innovation, the common and natural tendency is to view it from the lens of organizational growth and evolution. But can the power of disruptive innovation also be applied at the individual level to drive personal success and growth, and if so, how exactly do we go about doing that? It’s the question that serves as the guiding focus of my talk with management thinker, writer, and author, Whitney Johnson.

Whitney is the co-founder of Rose Park Advisors, an investment firm she co-founded with renowned innovation thinker Clayton Christensen. She’s also a former award-winning Wall Street analyst and this year she was a finalist in the Best in Talent Category for the Management Thinkers50.

In addition to writing for the Harvard Business Review and LinkedInfluencer, Whitney’s work has been featured in Fast Company, BBC, CNN, The Guardian, and several other media outlets.

Whitney is also the author of two books, the first being “Dare, Dream, Do” and her latest being “Disrupt Yourself: Putting the Power of Disruptive Innovation to Work”, which is also the focus of this episode’s discussion.

Over the course of this episode, Whitney and I touch on a number of fascinating and personal insights that she shares in her latest book, including: Click here to continue reading »”Leadership Biz Cafe Podcast #17 – Whitney Johnson On Using Disruptive Innovation To Drive Growth”

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A Lesson On Bringing Out The Best In Those You Lead

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been writing about the various characteristics and perspectives leaders need to have to be successful in bringing out the best in those they lead. Sharing some of these insights has brought to mind a question I was asked recently following one of my presentations on leadership.

The question I was asked revolved around how can a leader encourage those under their care to challenge their assumptions of what they’re capable of in order to help them to grow and evolve into stronger contributors to their organization’s vision.

I decided to answer this question by sharing a personal example of a leader I worked with who not only inspired me to dream bigger, but who encouraged me to challenge how I viewed myself and the contributions I could make.

Given the positive response I got from the other audience members, I decided this would be a good story to share with my readers to continue our discussion on how we can bring out the best in those we lead, especially in the face of the growing demands and distractions we face every day at work.

Dan was the president of a biotechnology company where I served in my first middle management role. Now, the interesting thing about Dan is that when you first meet him, he can seem a bit intimidating, not only because he’s quite tall (I’m sure he was a star player on his high school’s basketball team), but because he had this air of quiet confidence and assuredness about him.

And yet, when you talk with him, he had this way about him that made you feel quickly at ease around him, where you no longer saw him as the top dog in the organization, but as someone who was there to help you out if he can.

One of my fondest memories of working with Dan revolves around the numerous one-on-one meetings I had with him in his office. Whenever he saw me waiting outside his corner office near the secretary’s desk, he’d greet me with a warm smile and invite me to take a seat next to his desk.

What was interesting about these meetings was how Click here to continue reading »”A Lesson On Bringing Out The Best In Those You Lead”

Creating A Workplace Environment Where Employees Matter

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One of my favourite stories from the time of NASA’s Apollo space missions involves a visit by a group of guests to Mission Control. As they were walking down one of the building’s hallways, they spotted a man in a lab coat walking in the opposite direction and as they neared them, they asked him what he did at NASA. The man looked at the visitors and replied matter-of-factly, “I’m helping to put a man on the Moon”.

Of course, what makes this NASA employee’s response so noteworthy is the fact that he wasn’t one of the engineers or scientists involved in designing the rockets or overseeing the lunar missions. Instead, he was the building’s janitor.

It’s a story that came to mind in a discussion I had last week with a team of leaders where we were discussing the challenge many organizations face of improving the levels of employee engagement found within the various teams and departments that make up their organization.

Often times, these discussions reveal both a wariness and a sense of uncertainty regarding the complexity and difficulties involved in trying to reignite the internal motivations of our employees to bring their full selves to the work they do.

And yet, what this story of the NASA janitor reveals is the both the possibility and opportunity for us to use our leadership to create that kind of environment where our employees feel valued; where they know that the work and contributions they make matter because it’s tied to the larger purpose that defines our collective efforts.

Indeed, every time I’ve shared this story with clients and conference attendees, I see in their faces that look of understanding and hope that they too might be able to inspire all of their employees – regardless of the role they play in their organization – to feel that sense of connection and value to the shared purpose that defines why they do what they do.

Of course, there are numerous studies out there that have revealed the ease by which we can create that kind of sentiment within our workforce. For example, in a study I collaborated on with Phillips North America around employee engagement and workplace attitudes, one of the more intriguing findings was the fact that more than 50% of the respondents said they’d gladly take a pay cut in order to do meaningful work.

What this reveals is that people want to know that what they do matters; that it makes a difference and creates value [Twitter-logo-smallShare on Twitter], not just for their organization, but for themselves as well.

Unfortunately, the challenge we now face is how to keep our focus on initiatives meant to help inspire our employees while grappling with Click here to continue reading »”Creating A Workplace Environment Where Employees Matter”

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