Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

7 Ways To Improve Your Work Culture Through Experimentation

A marketing firm CEO shares 6 tips from his company's experience on using experimentation to improve organizational culture.

The following is a guest piece by CEO Matt Rizzetta.

As our business has scaled, one thing that we’ve carried with us each step of the way has been a commitment to experimentation in the workplace. Some of our best ideas and biggest cultural differentiators were borne from experiments we created.

Make no mistake about it. While I’m incredibly proud of the culture of experimentation that we’ve cultivated through the years, it’s come at a steep price. Lots of time, commitment, sleepless nights and many painful lessons along the way as experiments have been developed, implemented and scrutinized at every step of the test lab.

If you’re a business leader looking to inject a dose of experimentation to improve your culture, here are seven tips to keep in mind:

1. Find the Right Rhythm and Balance in Your Symphony
Think about experimentation in your workplace as if it were a symphony. You need to find the right mixture of instruments in order to create the perfect piece. Rhythm and balance are key.

Create experimental initiatives that are customized to the structure of your org chart and the various roles and functions within your company. In our case, this means individuals, teams, and company-wide initiatives.

All of our experiments are geared toward one of these buckets, with balance and parity being spread across each. In addition to the org chart, use your Click here to continue reading »”7 Ways To Improve Your Work Culture Through Experimentation”

How Failure Taught Me To Become A Better Listener

The story of one leader's failure reveals a powerful lesson on the importance of effective listening to leadership success.

In my work with various leaders, one of the strategies I often share is employing the art of asking questions. While asking questions can help a leader gain a better understanding of current conditions both within and outside their organization, it can also prove to be a helpful tool in gaining insight from one’s own experiences.

It’s an idea I was recently reminded of during an interview I did with my friend and fellow leadership expert Kevin Kruse for his leadership podcast, The LEADx Leadership Show. During the interview, Kevin asked me to share with his audience a story of when I failed as a leader and what I learned from that experience.

Now while the focus of Kevin’s question was to showcase how as leaders we can learn from past mistakes, I realized that there’s also within this story a powerful lesson on what it really means to be a good listener, especially when you have the responsibility to lead others.

In one of my first management roles, I had the responsibility of overseeing the functioning of several laboratories in a biotech firm, along with managing the cleaning staff. As the cleaning staff didn’t come from a science background as I did, I wanted to help them understand the work that was being done and how their efforts helped with these ongoing projects.

One day, one of the senior directors – who at the time was also one of my mentors – called me into his office for a quick chat. After exchanging a few updates, the director told me that he had received a few complaints from some members of the cleaning staff (before I joined the company, the cleaning staff had worked under this director).

I figured this probably had to do with some new demand being put upon my team by one of the project leaders. So I already started plotting in my mind where I could find time to sit down with the cleaning staff to explain these new requests.

As it turned out, the complaint wasn’t about some new demand. Instead, the complaint was about me. Specifically, the cleaning staff had become disgruntled over how I was speaking with them.

The director went on to explain how the cleaning staff initially enjoyed working under me, but lately, I left them feeling as though their only job was to do my bidding.

As hard as it was to hear, I began to realize that in my drive to inform my employees, I had unintentionally turned our conversations into one-way interactions. Put simply, I had become the dreaded micromanager interested more in telling people what to do than in listening to what they had to say.

While my story illustrates the ease with which any of us can become disempowering micromanagers, I realized it also revealed the importance of why leaders need to be good listeners if we are to ultimately succeed in our efforts..

Namely, that to effectively lead others, we need more than our perspective. We need insights from those we lead [Twitter logoShare on Twitter].

In that conversation with this director, I realized that Click here to continue reading »”How Failure Taught Me To Become A Better Listener”

Forget Passion – What Employees Need Is Purpose-Led Work

Discover why it takes more than passion to inspire the very best in our employees and how the key is providing purpose-led work.

These days, it seems like the world is facing scarcity in a wide range of areas – from something as basic as access to food and clean water, to something more personal as a lack of time to get through our various daily tasks.

But if there’s one area where there’s no concerns about scarcity these days it’s passion. Whether it’s discussions about politics, social issues, or even the latest movies or TV shows, there’s no doubt that there’s a lot of passion – and debate – to be found in these conversations.

While these forms of passion can become problematic at times, in general, we tend to view people being passionate about something to be a good thing. And no doubt this is why there persists this misguided notion that the key to success is to ‘figure out what you’re passionate about and build a life doing that’.

Don’t get me wrong – passion is a great motivator. But the catch is that its ability to motivate us only works over the short term. When it comes to running the long game, passion sadly comes up short.

That’s why many leaders run into trouble when they try to improve employee morale by encouraging employees to be passionate about their work. While we might gain an uptick in productivity, the truth is that passion alone is not enough to keep that internal drive going over the long run.

What we’re missing is the other half of the equation – that while passion might get our employees energized and excited about what we can create through our collective efforts, what we need to keep our employees invested in our organizational vision is creating purpose-led work.

Thankfully, a majority of leaders are beginning to understand this as a recent survey done by EY Beacon and Harvard Business Review Analytic Services found that more than 80% of executives said purpose-led work leads to greater levels of employee satisfaction and customer loyalty, not to mention improving an organization’s ability to transform.

That’s why it’s important to recognize that passion without purpose is a lost opportunity for us to do something that’s meaningful and enduring [Twitter logoShare on Twitter].

Granted, when we start talking about creating purpose-led work, this can lead to some hesitation on the part of leaders and their organizations because of the misplaced notion that purposeful work has to be glamorous or exciting.

The truth, however, is that Click here to continue reading »”Forget Passion – What Employees Need Is Purpose-Led Work”

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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