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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”

A Prescription For Empowering Employees To Succeed And Grow

A summer job experience reveals a powerful and important lesson for today's leaders on how to not only inspire employees, but empowering them to succeed.

Last month, my oldest daughter Alya began working at her new summer job and now that she’s worked for two different companies over the past two summer periods, it’s been interesting to hear her observations about the differences in how her bosses manage their employees.

These conversations with my daughter about her work has lead to recollections of my summer job experiences, and how one in particular has helped to shape my understandings of leadership and empowering employees.

When I was 18 years old, my uncle got me a job working in the warehouse of a pharmaceutical dispensary near his house in the Toronto suburbs. I was excited and nervous about taking on the job; excited because the pay was really good, but nervous because it meant giving up spending any time with my friends back in Montreal.

My boss, Mr. Hainsworth – the owner of this and another pharmaceutical dispensary in Southern Ontario – was what many people would call a straight shooter; you always knew where you stood with him so if he had a problem with something you did, he’d be sure to let you know.

For the first weeks on the job, I have to admit that being a teenager, I was a bit intimidated by his gruff exterior, even though many of his employees reassured me that he’s actually the sweetest man you’d ever know.

My job was pretty straightforward – I worked for the warehouse supervisor making sure the dispensary shelves were properly stocked, putting in orders to resupply our drug inventory, and basically managing the warehouse on the supervisor’s days off and when he took his summer vacation break.

The hardest part of the job was that the warehouse was located in the windowless basement of the medical office building, which is why I welcomed any chance to go upstairs to the dispensary in order to catch a glimpse of the summer blue sky.

On one of the warehouse supervisor’s days off, I decided to review our current inventory against upcoming renewal orders and I found that we had on our shelves a box full of medication that had expired a month ago. Given the large quantity of prescription vials, I decided to go see Mr. Hainsworth to ask him how do I go about disposing the expired medication.

After I explained the situation, Mr. Hainsworth paused from looking at his computer screen and looked at me. Instead of answering my question, he asked Click here to continue reading »”A Prescription For Empowering Employees To Succeed And Grow”

Creating A Customer-Centric Culture – The Disney Way

A lesson from the Disney organization on how storytelling can help leaders to build and sustain a customer-centric organizational culture.

The following is a guest piece by Bill Capodagli.

What is corporate culture? One of my clients once defined it as what employees do when everything else is stripped away or what they do when no one is looking. Twenty years ago, corporate or business culture sort of just happened…good, bad or indifferent.

More recently, executives have learned that creating a customer-centric culture can lead to a huge competitive advantage. In 2005, J. Kotter and James L. Heskett published their 10-year research project – “Corporate Culture and Performance” – in which they compared companies that intentionally managed their cultures to similar companies that did not.
Here are some of their findings:

Managed Their Cultures

  • Revenue growth of 682 percent.
  • Stock price increases of 901 percent.
  • Net income growth of 756 percent.
  • Job growth of 282 percent.

Did Not Manage Their Cultures

  • Revenue growth of 166 percent.
  • Stock price increase of 74 percent.
  • Net income growth of 1 percent.
  • Job growth of 36 percent.

Culture is now a common word in the lexicon of American business. In 2014, after a massive amount of searches on Merriam Webster’s on-line dictionary site, “culture” was proclaimed the “word of the year. “ In 2016, 87 percent of respondents of Deloitte University Press’ Global Human Capital Trends identified “culture” as important to their organizations.

None of these findings surprise me in the least. In “The Disney Way 3rd edition”, we feature highly successful organizations that have realized great success with Click here to continue reading »”Creating A Customer-Centric Culture – The Disney Way”

Why Leaders Need To Show Humility

JetBlue Chairman Joel Peterson on why humility is critical to leadership success in today's work environment.

The following is a guest piece by Joel Peterson, Chairman of JetBlue, with David A. Kaplan.

Self-promoting divas and power-hoarding executives destroy organizational trust. High-trust leaders, on the other hand, see their role as a stewardship, guiding people, assets, and decision-making—protecting the values and vision that make an organization what it is. And that requires humility.

French President Charles de Gaulle—not exactly a shrinking violet himself—used to remind people that “cemeteries are full of indispensable men.” Diva-style leaders who ignore that mordant reminder of humility are unlikely to build anything that lasts longer than they do. Only those interested in leadership as more than mere ego gratification have a chance to build something that outlasts them.

When a CEO becomes a household name, that CEO may well need to get his own house in order. In “Good to Great”, Jim Collins lamented the trend of boards that become “enamored with charismatic CEOs,” a tendency that, he concluded, was “most damaging” for “the long-term health of companies.” Indeed, his research showed that “good-to-great” CEOs generally received very little attention, whether in the mainstream press or in his interviews for the book.

It’s natural for strong leaders to feel they make a vital difference to everything—and everyone—in an organization. They often believe that the firm’s legacy and their own are one and the same. But that kind of arrogance (après moi, le déluge) can be deadly to trust.

Leaders with a me-first attitude are often Click here to continue reading »”Why Leaders Need To Show Humility”

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”

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