Tanveer Naseer

Leadership Coach, Speaker, and Writer

3 Key Steps To Finding Purpose In What You Do

3 key steps shared in a TEDx talk that can help us find purpose in what we do, as well as living the lives we were meant to live.

A few days ago, I got to live one of my dreams.

That’s something that not all of us get to say, which is why I realized that it’s worth taking the time to share this important milestone here on my leadership blog.

So what was this dream that came true for me? Well, this past Sunday, I had the privilege of giving a TEDx talk as one of the speakers at the TEDxConcordia event, something I’m sure you’ve probably figured out from seeing the picture above of me standing on the TEDxConcordia stage.

And if it wasn’t exciting enough to fulfill this dream of becoming a TEDx speaker right here in my hometown of Montreal, what made this all the more special was I gave this talk at the renowned Place des Arts – a performing arts venue has hosted performances by Jerry Seinfeld, Leonard Cohen, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, and many more, not to mention the Montreal International Jazz Festival. So I’m sure you can appreciate why this is definitely a memory-of-a-lifetime for me.

Now understandably, it’s going to take some time before my talk appears on the TEDx YouTube channel. But I didn’t want to wait until then to share some of the ideas that I presented in my TEDx talk, especially in light of the overwhelming response and heartwarming comments I received from attendees during the intermission and at the after-show cocktail party.

And so, I’d like to share with you the three key steps I shared in my TEDx talk “Forget Passion – Purpose is the Real Spice of Life” in the hopes that they will inspire you to not only be the kind of leader your employees need you to be, but also what we all need to live the lives we were meant to live: Click here to continue reading »”3 Key Steps To Finding Purpose In What You Do”

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”

3 Important Lessons Leaders Can Learn From Success

3 important lessons leaders can learn from success that will help them inspire and motivate employees over the long run.

If there’s one attribute organizations and leaders everywhere share in common, it’s the pursuit to achieve success in their collective efforts. Granted, there is quite a large variance in terms of how each organization chooses to define what success would look like for them. But there’s little question that – at the end of the day – all of us are driven by the need to know that we’ll one day achieve success through our contributions and efforts.

Of course, there’s another aspect to success that many of us share in common and that is what do we do once we achieve that success? And by this, I’m not referring to how we choose to acknowledge or celebrate this accomplishment. Rather, I’m referring to that moment when the dust settles and we look with pride at what we’ve attained and find ourselves stuck with that lingering question – so, what do we do now?

If you look at any successful organization, you can see the answer they share in common: the focus tends to be on how to replicate both the conditions and measures they took that allowed them to achieve this successful outcome.

In some cases, this manifests itself in incremental improvements over the current product or service, something that’s become a key tactic of every major smartphone manufacturer.

Others, though, might look at how their concept, product, or idea ‘disrupted’ a market or industry and then go about looking for how to graft that approach onto other industries, which is why there’s an ongoing search to discover what will no doubt be initially described as ‘the next Uber’.

Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with either of these approaches in the short term, a recent conversation with one of my daughters helped to crystallize how we’re missing out on the important lessons to be learned from success in terms of the long view.

Last week, my daughter Malaika was among a select group of students at her high school who were recognized for their achievement of earning an year-round average of over 90%. This was her second year in a row where she earned an over 90% average, and I was curious to learn how she viewed achieving this level of success a second time around.

For example, does she believe she’s found the approach to achieve these high marks and all she has to do is to simply repeat these measures going forward? Or does she expect things to change and the need to adapt her approach to remain among the top students at her school?

Obviously, this quandary reflects similar questions leaders face when their organization finally succeeds in achieving its objectives. And after talking with Malaika to learn more about her perspective on this, I realized that her example sheds some light on three important lessons we can learn from success, lessons that go beyond where our next innovation or idea will come from to understanding what drives us over the long run to bring our best efforts to what we do.

1. Success teaches us to be persistent no matter what stands in our way
One of the biggest changes we’ve seen in Malaika’s outlook is how she views the inevitable obstacles and roadblocks she encounters in her studies. Since earning that first over-90% average two years ago, she’s become more driven when she faces a difficult challenge or obstacle. In many ways, she’s come to learn that the inevitable difficulties she’ll face are not a reason to give up, but simply a sign that she has to push herself even harder if she wants to continue to succeed in her efforts.

Similarly, after organizations achieve a success milestone, there is the tendency to avoid daunting obstacles or approaches that could rock the boat, and instead, focus on taking initiatives that serve more to solidify or reinforce their past successes.

Now, that’s not to say that we need to constantly disrupt what we do. Rather, it means that we need to be mindful in ensuring that our successes don’t result in our being complacent in challenging ourselves to figure out how we can do and be better going forward. Something that is especially true when organizations are facing obstacles that would require a substantial amount of time and resources to overcome in order to achieve a critical goal going forward.

And here we can find the first important lesson success provides us about how to Click here to continue reading »”3 Important Lessons Leaders Can Learn From Success”

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”

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”

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