Imagine having managers in your company who make it their responsibility to do exactly this with their direct reports? How might this kind of inspiration affect your company’s bottom line?
Inspiration’s a key motivator for employees. A good manager inspires their employees and teams a number of ways. They listen, ask questions and make it a priority to help others make the connection between the organization’s vision and goals with that employee’s or team’s specific accountabilities.
Great managers create a culture of curiosity and creativity. They know the strengths of their employees and make way for them to express their talents.
The result is employees who feel heard,
valued and and connected to the bigger picture. This translates to being engaged
Unfortunately many of us have
experienced low motivation and inspiration in our work.
According to O.C. Tanner, an employee recognition and reward solutions company, more than 1 in 4 employees don’t trust their direct manager. It’s no surprise then that only half say their manager motivates them to do their best work.
If we don’t trust our manager, it’s
highly unlikely they will inspire us. This can result in lessened enthusiasm
for doing one’s best or a growing culture of negative behaviors by team
members. Whatever the outcome, lack of inspiration can spread throughout the
organization like wildfire.
What does inspiration really look like?
How does a great manager inspire?
Inspiration begins with the manager who makes it their purpose to hold others up rather than hold him or herself up. They recognize great work in others and use feedback as a respectful tool for learning. Abundance is the perspective of a great senior leader; they’re willing to share what they know and get out of the way when they should.
The problem in many organizations is that senior leaders assume
when they promote or hire a new manager that they’ll come with all the skills
and traits necessary to be an effective manager. And that’s a mistake because there are very
few “naturally great” managers.
what’s the solution? Support and development.
especially new ones, need an array of tools and experiences that expose them to
new perspectives and the soft people skills.
And they need this before they
develop habits that won’t serve them or their teams well.
an ROI perspective, investing in managers early in their career can result in
huge savings later on: the loss of productivity and revenue plus the cost of
high turnover will be far greater than money spent at the beginning of a
If we want motivated employees, we need to develop managers who inspire. This means investing in managers to develop strong skills for leading people effectively – early in their career.
Consider this. It’s 2025 and the world we knew 6 years ago has changed dramatically. The workforce no longer hinges on hierarchies and what worked in the past. It’s about what could be possible and new agile systems schematics. Data Analyst has toppled Dentist as the top job and Tech Ethicists are highly sought after.
those are only a smidgen of what I imagine will be different in the 2025 world
of work. We’ll be scratching our heads as
we think back on some illogical and inane practices, unwritten rules and
beliefs we worked by.
are my top 5 head scratchers on the workforce and why they’ll seem absurd in
the near future:
1. Why was there an invisible barrier between employees and leaders?
I get it – executives are busy people. In
the past they opted to put their faith and time into a tight circle of people
surrounding them. So how could they
possibly tap into the ingenuity lying below them? They often didn’t.
Conversely frustrated experts and
innovators weren’t able to affect the value chain without ruffling feathers
trying to leap over their manager to access senior leadership.
There’s a reckoning now with Millenials
and Gen Zs; they’re unimpressed with hierarchies and prefer cross-functional
relationships within an organization. They expect access to whomever they need
in order to work collaboratively and achieve results.
We’re more comfortable now with flatter organizations and less hierarchy with glass ceilings in between.
2. Why did we believe high performers automatically made good managers?
It’s an easy assumption to make. If an
employee proves to be a superstar in their role as a subject matter expert and
sole contributor, why wouldn’t they make a superstar manager?
Did we ever get
that wrong. Finally we realize that leading and inspiring others requires it’s
own unique expertise. And, most people don’t come with the natural aptitude to
be successful managing others.
Companies invest in
their managers, ensuring they have the critical people skills to guide and
nurture their teams to success.
figured out the path to healthy employee engagement: having a specialized
stream of people managers, whose only or primary role is the responsibility to
develop, lead and motivate teams of people.
This also enables experts to become functional managers focusing on what they’re good at, without the added stress of human resource related issues.
3. Why did we believe employees be required to manage people to get a promotion?
This organizational policy always baffled
me. Sure, in theory it may have seemed
like a good idea as a way to build soft skills and get a different perspective
on leadership. But like head scratcher #2 above, it ran the risk of
demoralizing both the manager and their direct reports.
survey revealed that more than a quarter (26%) of new managers felt
underprepared for their new responsibilities and a staggering 58(%) reported
receiving no management training.
The result? Gallup’s recent workplace survey found that almost half of all employees left their jobs because of their manager. This begs the question: why have this policy when the potential for failure is 50%?
4. Why did we believe there was only one way to solve a problem?
For years we
followed tradition. When success followed a certain approach to our work, we
continued to rely on that method. Sure it may have moved us forward, but the
kinds of challenges that are emerging don’t always lend themselves to “old
I remember being
referred to as a “maverick” by my supervisor because I challenged the status
quo. I was always looking at new ways of
getting buy-in to change and looking at possibilities rather than “tried and
globalization, complexity and ambiguity, we’re in a time of disruption:
everything we know to be predictable is on the chopping block.
This means addressing challenges in new ways. Whether it’s how we work, how we developing new insights to inform decision-making or shifting our focus on new technologies.
5. Why did the 9 to 5 work schedule ever last so long?
Just ask Camilla Kring why this was never
a good idea. Founder of Denmark’s Super
she’s on a mission transform
the industrial work culture towards one that’s more flexible.
Her research on our personal circadian rhythms
debunks the long held beliefs that to be successful we need to be an early
bird. That’s great for certain people, but the rest of us may have family
dynamics, work methods and biological rhythms best suited to working later in
the day or evening.
Think about it. Are companies supporting
flexibility more likely to have engaged and happy employees? Apparently yes
according to Kring.
But that’s not the only reason for
workday flexibility. With globalization, many of us need to be available to
work with clients and colleagues in other time zones. It’s a 24-hour world;
being able to adjust our schedules is now a necessity.
The Future is Now
As we move ahead in this VUCA
(volatile, uncertain, complexity, ambiguity) world, questioning the status quo
is required. Being open to possibilities, collaboration and asking “what if?”
will become the norm in order to solve challenges and ignite new approaches.
If you’re thinking I’m asking about your personal self-development plan, you’d be only half right. So often we segregate our lives into personal and professional. But I’m in disagreement with this view.
We aren’t made up of compartments – we live whole lives. That means, when we think about goals and aspirations regarding our career, family, health and finances we need to look at our own big life picture.
Think of your life as a spider’s web. All parts are held in balance with each other, albeit sometimes tenuous. Whatever happens in one aspect of our life has impact on others.
As an executive leadership coach, I work with clients wanting to develop their professional competencies. In order to do that, it’s critical that we also look at how other aspects of their lives intersect with their learning.
Having a self-development plan is critical to your success. Being complacent and letting life happen is fine but won’t ensure you’re learning, reflecting and moving forward with intention.
At times your plan’s emphasis will be on health and other times career. But keeping the big picture in mind will help you achieve your goals. For example, if you’re planning to start a family, how will you realistically continue to meet your career objectives? Or if work is taking over your life, how is that supporting your health?
Consider approaching your self-development plan with these questions:
What are the priorities in your life right now? This can change from time to time and that’s okay. Base your plan on what’s important to you now.
What is your Why? How might you focus on what your purpose is to help build your self-development plan?
What aspect of your life has room to give in order to put more emphasis into other parts of your life?
What is the learning you want to put in your plan and how does that relate to the various aspects of your life? (Hint: it should support more than one goal)
What do you want to have achieved in 2, 5 and 10 years? (Knowing of course that life changes along the way)
What if you were to make this plan about you and what you want? As opposed to what you think others want of you? How will that affect your plan?
What will you need to ensure you’re accountable in following your plan?
There are multitudes of templates, tools and approaches you can use to support your plan. MindTools offers some great tools for free. The important thing is that you set it up to work for you.
The key to a successful plan and the ability to see it through rests with its simplicity and detail.
That’s right. The challenge is to not make it more than you can possibly achieve. But it does require putting in both where you want to get to and how you are going to do it. The “how” requires specific activities that will help to move you forward.
As you create these activities look for the links and impacts to each part of your life. If furthering your education will take up the majority of your time, how will that impact your family life? How might you reorganize your time to meet your family commitments? Are there opportunities to combine your goals or use the space in between work or education to do healthy activities?
Finally, keep it simple by chunking your goals into time frames. Life shifts and being able to keep to your goals and activities is easier if you put them in 1-3 month periods.
Creating your self-development plan is your responsibility. Make it work for you. The results will follow!
Lately I’ve had a spate of clients who struggle with understanding why their current position isn’t satisfying them anymore. They know something isn’t right but are caught in the “can’t see the forest for the trees”. They may even know something needs to change but through fear, stress or loyalty, they are stuck.
I know the feeling – I’ve been there. I never aspired to work in the public sector, but there I found myself. We had two young children and my husband starting his own business. Pension, benefits and a regular paycheck were my WHY.
It worked brilliantly for a long time – until it didn’t. This didn’t happen overnight. As my children got older I started to question my values and aspirations. My values weren’t lining up with the company’s culture.
In retrospect I can see that my original WHY was no longer working for me. But at the time I was caught up with the stress, the loyalty and no idea for my future.
My story isn’t unique. What I’ve learned is that as we move through life, our context changes and for many of us, we don’t recognize the need to change with it. Simply put, as we change, so too might our WHY.
Let’s take a closer look at what your WHY really means.
Basically your WHY is your motivation. It’s your purpose. For many of us it can be strongly influenced by our external context at a point in time.
I researched articles and studies on how motivation (your WHY) impacts your work and job choices. I’m intrigued by the work of Lisa A. Mainiero and Sherry E. Sullivan, whose research focused on a five-year study examining women and men’s career patterns. Their term Kaleidoscope Career describes:
“…a career created on your own terms, defined not by a corporation but by your own values, life choices, and parameters. Like a kaleidoscope, your career is dynamic and in motion; as your life changes, you can alter your career to adjust to these changes.”
Their work found that a complex interplay among issues of authenticity, balance, and challenge are behind why we shift careers through our life course. It’s about taking stock of career decisions and making changes to meet:
1. An individual’s needs for challenge, career advancement, and self-worth juxtaposed against
2. A family’s need for balance, relationships, and caregiving, intersected by
the person’s need to say,
3. “What about me?” “How can I be authentic, true to myself and make genuine decisions for myself in my life?”
While Mainiero and Sullivan found subtle differences between how men and women approached their career shifts, ultimately it’s the shifting context of their lives that impacts their need to change course.
So what does this mean for your career? And even more important – what does it mean for YOU?
If you’re like many of my clients who come to me disenchanted with their current work, it’s time to assess what’s beneath this feeling. It takes a bit of inner work and reflection, coupled with honestly assessing your current life context.
Here are steps to help you discover what exactly is going on and how to move forward:
1. Get clear on how you’re feeling and behaving – are you irritable, bored, stuck or blaming your discomfort on your workplace? These are key signs something’s up.
2. Make a list of your top 10 values. Ask yourself if these align with your work and your workplace. A strong misalignment is a sure sign it’s time to move on.
3. Reflect back on why you started on this career or took your current position. What were your reasons?
4. Consider what’s different in your current life stage and context?
With this data, you can look at your situation from the outside in. Has your original motivation for career or job choice become stale? Is your passion to excel and deliver still ignited?
Next is the critical question – what exactly is your WHY now?
If it’s the same reason it’s always been, then great. This may mean it’s time to shift companies or reach forward to a new level.
But if your WHY has shifted, it’s time to make a plan toward aligning your WHY with a career change. I can’t tell you what that would be. It’s yours to discover. What I can do is suggest next steps.
Google has pages of blogs, how-to’s and articles on mid career changes. I’d highly recommend working with a career coach. They have tools and roadmaps to help you uncover potential opportunities and plan next steps. Talk with family to understand how this will impact your status quo (i.e. financial, location, time etc.) will help solidify your plan.
We’ve all heard the saying, “you only live once”. But that one life shifts and changes over time. What worked well in our twenties and thirties won’t necessarily fulfill us in our late forties and fifties. Being aware of your WHY and assessing that against your current reality means taking responsibility for you, your career and your future. If this article describes you, it’s time to discover your next chapter!
Influencer is one of those words that we often hear bandied about these days. “She’s a Huff Post influencer.” Or “In fashion circles, he’s THE influencer.” These are the people who capture attention and move ideas across broader audiences.
But there’s another type of influencer: one that requires critical skills for anyone aiming to provide executive level value or get ahead in the workplace. This influencer has a keen sense of business acumen, excellent communication skills and is known as “the go-to person” for pushing innovation.
When I was a senior leader in a large organization, the HR Director told me I had a lot of power in the organization. I didn’t understand what she meant at first. I watched myself over the next few weeks and realized I have the gift of influence.
In my coaching practice, the idea of being able to sway or inspire others is a recurring theme. With flatter organizations and dotted-line authority for other employees, having the ability to engage and lead others with influence may be the only way to get the project or work done effectively.
I have an idea of what being an influencer means, but I wanted to find out what the “experts” say makes an effective influencer. For me it’s intuitive; so how can I coach others in developing this skill?
Naturally I started with Dale Carnegie’s seminal How to Win Friends and Influence People, arguably the most popular self-help book ever published! Along with common communication behaviors such as listening and engaging with honey rather than sour lemons, here’s a couple of Carnegie’s gems:
Let the other person do a great deal of the talking
Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers
Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view
Talk in terms of the other person’s interest
Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely
Suzanne Bates, author of numerous books on leadership, believes that to influence, a leader must have “executive presence” or gravitas. She defines executive presence as having three distinct dimensions – Style, Substance, and Character. She further explains that influence is who you are and how others perceive you.
Let’s take that one step further. The art of influence is about the interplay between two concepts:
1. There’s an “I” in influencer. And, of course the degree to which you step up to your “I” depends on how self aware you are and your ability to see how others see you.
2. An idea or solution is just that. Nothing more. Unless you embed and describe it within a context. It’s conveying the “WHY” behind the idea. That ‘s when people pay attention.
Let’s break these two concepts down even more.
The first concept is about you’re internal self and how it manifests in your style and behavior. Your strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. For example, if you’re someone who needs to be right, chances are your ability to influence is low. If your motivation is to support others in their success, your influence quotient will be higher. It’s about engaging in active listening, sharing information openly and being curious. Not to mention understanding your potential impacts on others from their point of view. Think of this concept as the “HOW” you persuade or influence.
Understanding the core of the issue and why it’s important to the business is the second concept. This is conveying why a + b will = c. It’s having business acumen to understand the bigger picture, its inherent complexities and, in turn, helping others get on board. Say your company decides to make a shift in policy affecting staff. There’s a better chance change will happen if you openly discuss WHY it’s in the best interest of the company and what’s behind the decision.
If these two concepts blend together, they become a powerful way to influence others. With innovation and the lightening speed of change, being an influencer can be the growing edge in your career or business.
Want to be a great influencer? Start with developing your self-awareness and communicate exactly the reason why you or (your business) do what you do.
My general rule when writing my posts is to not dip into political waters. And this post is no exception. But every time I read the news or open social media I’m bombarded with political updates that test my belief in political culture – or at least the culture behind it in many countries.
The current election season in America is a case in point. Although I don’t live in the US, my proximity means I’m not immune to the influence it assumes on North America. We share many, but not all values and viewpoints.
My nature is to look beyond rhetoric and mudslinging to what lies underneath as a way of understanding the values and behaviors of society, where we’re lacking and where there’s possibility. When there’s an earthquake of fear and distrust pushing then it is time to pay serious attention.
If there’s one potentially good thing that could come out of the American election, it is this: to shine a light on the shadow women continue to experience despite great gains towards equality.
It’s a shadow of haziness where subtle sexual aggression that is often passed of as “it’s just him”, “he doesn’t mean it” or “it’s nothing” slam up against “it’s because you’re pretty”, “you encourage it” or “keep quiet”. And so we learn early on in our lives to keep such behaviors in the shadows out of fear, confusion and safety.
I’m talking about unwanted advances and unsolicited judgments by men toward women who still believe such behavior is perfectly okay. These are the behaviors that don’t leave a physical mark or make it into the courtroom. These are the everyday actions that women endure, put up with and perhaps pretend didn’t happen. And it still goes on.
I could write a page of examples I’ve experienced in school or workplace during my lifetime, not to mention times I’ve been heckled, groped or harassed socially. I could tell you how dis-empowering it feels being chased around a desk by a boss or be cornered at a family event by a male in-law relative with an unexpected and unwanted tongue kiss.
What I’d rather do is have an open conversation about how this kind of behavior still exists and what we can do about it going forward. The events and behaviors around the US election have given us a huge opportunity to take this can of worms and really examine it for what it truly is.
The truth is the oppression and objectification of women is alive and well and not relegated to a few men in a locker room. It exists in the boardroom, the lunchroom and down the hall by the water cooler.
So what if we all started by suspending judgment on whether or not it exists and start asking each other and ourselves simple questions to help create awareness and understanding of this critical issue:
1. What exists within the shadow of subtle sexual aggression, unwanted advances and unsolicited judgments by men toward women? What does it look like?
2. What do women feel when they experience the shadow?
3. Why do women not call out the perpetrator as an aggression occurs?
4. How have experiences of the shadow gone on to influence women’s lives?
5. What do men feel when they engage in subtle sexual aggression, unwanted advances and unsolicited judgments?
6. What do men feel and do when they witness another man engaging in this behavior?
7. How does the current culture of your workplace support, deny, ignore or disallow shadow behavior?
8. In what ways are we culturally enabling this behavior to perpetuate?
9. In what ways can we let go of blame and collaborate to educate each other of the danger and damage of shadow behavior?
10. What will it take for you to become part of the solution of shedding light on the shadow?
You may be thinking this is a simplistic way of addressing a complex issue of long-held beliefs and behaviors. And that is exactly the point.
Yes it’s shameful treatment of girls and women. Yes it’s unacceptable. And yes it has to end. But until we talk about it and try to understand all the perspectives involved, it will continue unchecked.
Whether it’s at the dinner table or at work, let’s use the opportunity of shedding light on the shadow of sometimes subtle and often upfront sexually intimidating or unwanted behavior that has too long been pervasive in our society.