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”

Engaging Culture One Conversation At A Time

Communicating organizational culture and change

The following is a guest post by contributing editor of strategy+business Sally Helgesen.

The intense focus on corporate change during the last decade has given us a greater appreciation of the role that culture plays in organizations. Change efforts can succeed only if the culture is engaged; getting the strategy and other formal elements right is never enough.

And culture is vested in people — how they work, what they believe, how they behave and communicate, and what they ask of themselves. It’s the bedrock reality of an organization, its true ground. When culture is harnessed, extraordinary transformations can occur.

Many of this year’s business books recognize culture’s role as the essential driver of effective change. But frequently their suggestions for engaging the levers of culture are limited to exhortation: Be more open! Behave less hierarchically! Become a change agent! By contrast, the two books reviewed below offer highly specific ways of engaging culture to build more effective, productive, and innovative organizations.

Déjà Review

The first edition of Productive Workplaces: Dignity, Meaning, and Community in the 21st Century by Marvin R. Weibord is a highly personal, sometimes idiosyncratic account of Weisbord’s own quest to become a better leader, and a wise and timeless contribution to the literature of work that a quarter-century later is the year’s best business book on organizational culture.

In the new edition, updated and expanded, Weisbord Click here to continue reading »”Engaging Culture One Conversation At A Time”

A Lesson From School on Understanding Your Employee’s Value

A few days ago, one of my daughters shared an interesting story about a recent event that happened at her school. My daughter and a few of her friends had noticed that Peter*, the school’s custodian, wasn’t out in the hallway greeting the kids like he usually did every morning. They went to their teacher to ask her if she had seen Peter and she told them that he no longer worked at their school. As it turned out, Peter had quit his job following a meeting he had with the school’s administration regarding his work schedule.

Essentially, over the last few months, the school’s administration had been assigning Peter more and more tasks which he was expected to complete before the children arrived at school. Looking at the most recent additions to this work list, Peter realized that this workload was becoming increasing unfeasible and so he went to see the school’s administrator to discuss the situation. Peter pointed out that even though he arrived at school every morning at 6AM, he still wouldn’t have enough time to complete all the tasks that were being assigned to him.

The administrator responded to this by telling Peter that he’d just have to come to the school an hour earlier so that the work would be completed before the children arrived. Giving this perfunctory and rather dismissive response, Peter realized that the school’s administration wasn’t interested in working with him to find a more reasonable solution and so, he quit his position as the school’s custodian.

While the administrator’s handling of this situation deserves some scrutiny, what’s particularly interesting about this story is how Peter’s departure was felt by the children who attend this school. Considering that he was essentially the school’s janitor and not a beloved teacher, one wouldn’t necessarily expect his leaving the school would have mattered.

But this is where the administrator’s treatment of Peter and the reaction of the children to his leaving overlap to provide us with a valuable lesson on how leaders should view the various members of their organization and the unique contributions they make. Click here to continue reading »”A Lesson From School on Understanding Your Employee’s Value”

Coffee House Book Review – “Wikibrands” by Sean Moffitt and Mike Dover

In the second edition of this series, I’ll be reviewing the book “Wikibrands: Reinventing Your Company In a Customer-Driven Marketplace”, which examines the issue of brand marketing in this social media age, as well as providing a blueprint for organizations to help them navigate and showcase their brand in this increasingly noisier communications world.

Now, for those who think branding is merely an issue that marketers or your marketing department needs to worry about, I suggest you read this recent piece of mine where I discuss the growing shift in organizational branding to reflect an organization’s culture and purpose, and why leaders need to have their eyes, hands and mind deeply involved in this subject.

In their book, Moffitt and Dover define wikibrands as “a progressive set of organizations, products, services, ideas, and causes that tap into the powers of customer participation, social influence, and collaboration to drive business value”.

The first few chapters of this book are understandably spent providing readers with an overview of how social media is changing both the face of business and how businesses conduct their affairs. Specifically, how organizations are shifting their customer-directed interactions from simply broadcasting to their target audience, to engaging in a conversational, and at times collaborative, interaction with their customers to increase the value their organization provides.

For regular users of the various social media channels, the ideas and points presented in these early chapters are not anything new or surprising. However, it does provide a good backdrop for leaders who are still unsure of the role social media will play in how their organizations operate.

Where the book really gets interesting is when the authors begin to discuss their “FLIRT model”. The FLIRT model comprises of five key elements the authors regard as being vital to successfully creating a wikibrand for any organization: Click here to continue reading »”Coffee House Book Review – “Wikibrands” by Sean Moffitt and Mike Dover”

Why It’s Time to Rethink Your Company Brand’s Message

At the moment I’m reading a book on business branding (which I’ll be reviewing in the next instalment of my “Coffee House Book Review” series) which has lead to some thoughts about the connection between leadership and branding. More specifically, to reassessing how leadership should view the role of the ‘corporate brand’, which in the context of this piece I’ll be referring to as an organization’s brand.

In most cases, when we talk about an organization’s brand, it’s often looked at through some marketing lens. Namely, that the sole function of an organization’s brand is to define the content of outward-directing interactions with the target audience for their products and/or services.

However, in today’s hyper-connected environment and the subsequent push for greater transparency, an organization’s brand is being defined more through their internal culture and how they conduct their business interactions. In other words, brands have moved beyond simply selling consumers your products/services to answering the question – what is the purpose of your organization, your raison d’être?

Indeed, one only needs to look at successful organizations like Nike, Zappos, and Apple to appreciate that brands are no longer used simply to build market shares, but instead are used to distill and define the key aspects of their organizational culture.

So why should leaders start viewing this as an important issue to reflect on and consider? With many discussions underway over the issue of how to retain key talent as the economy improves, it’s vital that leaders evaluate what’s being presented through their organization’s brand – and reinforced through their internal culture – if they are to curb employee attrition, as well as attracting new talent to join their teams to help fuel future growth and development.

Of course, for some leaders, answering the question “what is your organization’s purpose” might seem easy – it’s to be profitable, to make our shareholders happy, and so forth. But the reality is that Click here to continue reading »”Why It’s Time to Rethink Your Company Brand’s Message”