leading by example

Wed 21 December 2022
“Work Hard, Play Hard.” We’ve all heard this term countless times. Oftentimes, it’s plastered on core value statements and repeated by colleagues as a badge of honor, supposedly as motivation for balancing work and play.  
 
There is no argument with working hard - it’s vital for any company to succeed. Without unwavering determination and an auspicious work ethic, your competition will out shadow you in a moment's notice.
 
But employees today aren’t interested in playing hard. They are interested in balance and work/life integration. The concept of play hard can have many connotations. By saying work hard, play hard, we are directly or indirectly communicating that all of our time must be at work or with work colleagues. Essentially, if we are working hard and then spending our free time playing hard with our colleagues, we are not allocating any time for ourselves to reset and recharge. On top of that, the notion of “play hard” also has many connections to partying and drug use/abuse which is not conducive to a balanced culture. 
 
The term “work hard, play hard” is a major red flag when being stated as a part of a company’s values or mission statement. 
 
“Play hard” glorifies a degenerate culture. Picture a group of suited bankers wearing loose ties, in a loud nightclub, spending a lot of money on bottle service, and making morally questionable decisions; then, showing up to work the next day hungover and reveling in party stories while “working.” These actions only work against the employees, owners and investors of the company. 
 
“I have nothing against drinking and do my share. And there are plenty of TaskUs events where we serve alcohol. However, I do not want to promote constant partying as an important part of our company’s culture, whether intended or implied,” Jaspar Weir, President of TaskUs, said. 
 
It creates social pressure to drink with your colleagues or be left out. Not to mention that being hungover and tired at work is unproductive. In general, getting wasted around your colleagues just isn’t a great idea. 
 
It perpetuates the tech-bro stereotype that startups, and even well-established companies, desperately need to change. Companies fostering toxic work environments, especially poor treatment of women, and fraternity-like cultures of heavy drinking and partying play a role in this stereotype. Employees, amplified by media cycles, are screaming that this behavior will not be tolerated. 
 
So, no more play?
 
No, we should all have fun!
 
Work Hard, Play Hard connotes that work itself is not fun, and all play happens outside of the office as a way of evening the scales between the doldrum of work and the excitement of what play can entail. We spend way too much of our waking adult lives in an office. Therefore, it’s in every company’s best interest to focus more on creating fun work environments that people enjoy, and ultimately promote employee engagement and better business results. 
 
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Americans spend nearly 40% of their day working - more than any other single activity in their day. Happiness makes people more productive at work, according to the latest research from the University of Warwick. Economists carried out several experiments to test the idea that happy employees work harder. In the laboratory, they found happiness made people around 12% more productive.
 
Employers must provide meaningful, quality interactions with employees where they can relate to one another on a personal level. This gives managers insight into why a normally productive teammate is falling behind due to underlying personal life stressors. It allows us to all be human together and enjoy time together at work.
 
Here are a few ideas for how to create a fun work environment: 
 
  1. Celebrate Small Wins
An essential aspect of a fun workplace culture is where people feel good about themselves and their work. While appreciating major accomplishments is necessary to increase employee morale, celebrating the small wins can be just as effective.
An employee has always been helpful to his team members. When an employee stayed late to cover a sick colleague’s work. When someone always comes to work on time. Or keeps his workplace immaculately clean. The tool AIM Insights measures this metric and calls it organizational citizenship.
Such day-to-day acts should not go under the radar and be appreciated as such.
It will indeed impart some positive vibes, laughter, team bonding and establish an overall fun working environment.
 
2. Ask employees what they want 
The best way to create a fun working environment is to ask your employees about what they want. There is usually a generational and positional gap seen between the manager and the team members.
Thus, what you may consider fun at work might not necessarily be so for the employees.
Therefore, consider it an excellent practice to ask or gather feedback from the team about what you should do to make the working environment more fun.
More often, you’ll find that they’ll be more than happy to help you since it benefits them as well. Also, it will provide an excellent bonding opportunity between the manager and the team members.
 
3. Team Building Fun Activities
Team building activities that involve some strategy, skills, and team members working together can be incredibly effective in creating a fun work environment.
Such fun activities provide a plethora of benefits, including:
 
●       Aids the team members into honing their strategic skillset.
●       Promotes team bonding through activities such as icebreaker questions.
●       Helping combat work pressure and stress.
●       Increase in creativity and confidence levels.
●       Inspires better communication between team members.
●       Such fun activities help to bring team members together and actually bond over something that all enjoy.
 
This creates a sense of camaraderie and that their colleagues can be friends. Perhaps, the most crucial benefit is that the learning and collaboration developed during such team-building fun games can help in the actual working environment.
 
Having fun without hard work does not promote good business. Ditching the “work hard, play hard” mantra and focusing more on creating a fun work environment doesn’t mean people are happy, but it is a step in the right direction to allowing employees a fun expression of their job, in a safe and responsible manner. 
Fri 23 December 2022
With changes occurring in the economy, many companies are laying people off, many times in waves. This can impact the morale of those that are left.
 
When employees are spared, they feel relieved for a little bit before they start thinking and worrying about the next wave: “Will I be next? I better start looking for a job elsewhere; What am I going to do?”
 
Thoughts like these are the symptoms of a syndrome, the survivor syndrome. The effects of this syndrome will cause a sharp decrease in employee engagement and productivity. Recent research through Velas Coaching has shown that after layoffs, employees often report reduced commitment and performance.
 
While some may feel lucky to still be employed, others may experience mixed feelings. They may be relieved to still have a job but simultaneously guilt-ridden about the suffering of former colleagues who were let go. 
 
This type of “survivor guilt” is normally associated with the emotions people experience after facing a traumatic event or accident that looks at the lives of others, but it can also happen after corporate layoffs. 
 
It’s not uncommon for the employees left standing to wonder, “Why did I make it, but they didn’t? or “How am I going to face my friends who were released knowing that they’re in a bad financial situation while I’m still employed?” Survivor guilt may be made worse by a perception that the company failed to recognize or reward trusted colleagues and friends and instead eliminated them.
 
Studies by the Harvard Business Review show that nearly three-quarters (74%) of employees retained after a layoff saw their productivity decline after it, while 69% said that the quality of their company’s product or service deteriorated. When these respondents were asked why they felt that way, they expressed feelings of guilt, anxiety, and anger. 
 
The good news is that workers who felt that their managers were visible, approachable, and open were more than 70% less likely to report a productivity drop, and 65% less likely to report a decline in the quality of their organization’s offerings. These numbers show that leaders can make a big difference in helping retained employees deal with their survivor guilt.
 
As a leader you probably are asking yourself: “what can I do to help my team go through that dreadful layoff cycle?” Here are three suggestions:
 
1- Before the layoff cycle starts – Fight for your team
 
You may have heard the story of Bob Chapman, the former CEO of Barry-Wehmiller, a family owned company. In 2008 at the bottom of the recession, the company was hit very hard, and they lost 30% of their orders very fast. The board decided that they needed to save money and pushed for layoffs. Bob refused, so he came up with an idea, a furloughs program. Everyone was going to take an unpaid vacation so everybody will suffer a little as opposed to a few who suffer a lot. Guess what happened to the morale of the employees? It went through the roof. If you have the chance, protect your team at all costs and make sure they know you are doing it.  
 
2- During the layoff cycle – Conduct them with empathy
 
As employees process the layoff cycle, they start to believe that the company they work for does not care about them, that they are pawns, merely a piece that can be easily sacrificed for the company’s sake. But it doesn’t have to be this way. As a leader, your ability to communicate effectively and regularly with your employees is invaluable in the long term. Much of how employees perceive a layoff depends on how much information is shared, and where it is coming from; it should come from you.
 
●       Listen and acknowledge their fears
●       Ask how your employees are doing and respond with empathy
●       Make sure you validate or dispel the “rumors” out there, fast
●       Make sure you are available, open-door policy
●       Don’t hide the truth
 
3- After the layoff – Lead by example
 
When you perform a layoff, you’ve probably harbored feelings of regret for having to lose members of your team and feel anxious about the light in which survivors see you. Now you are managing a team of survivors, the lucky ones who didn’t get laid off. Therefore, you need to set a positive tone but also be realistic. Good fortune doesn’t make good performance. 
 
Kick your leadership skills into high gear and focus on transitioning your surviving employees toward a new brighter future. Make employee engagement your number one priority, creating a safe space for your employees to succeed.
 
Organizations that invest time, money, and attention helping the remaining employees stay engaged are much more likely to succeed after a layoff than see diminished productivity. How your remaining employees perceive you are handling the process will set the tone for renewed trust in the relationship. If you handle it with integrity and empathy, you will minimize and perhaps eliminate adverse impacts of the survivor syndrome on your team.
Thu 5 January 2023
Have your team members been acting differently or producing lower-quality work? Maybe there's an increase in requests for sick days or your direct reports seem disengaged during meetings? Unfortunately, all of these could be the early signs of team burnout. 
 
Burnout is quite common in today’s workplace. Two-thirds of full-time workers report experiencing burnout on the job, and it’s a phenomenon that impacts employees across all industries and roles, not just people in senior positions or traditionally high-stress jobs.
 
However, there’s hope: as a manager, there are several ways you can mitigate the impact of burnout on your team.
 
How do you identify team burnout? 
 
It’s critical that managers identify the signs of burnout early on. However, it’s important to note that they aren’t always easy to identify. 
 
You may assume that an employee has been missing deadlines or coming into work late because they are simply lazy. Or that the unusually negative, critical team member is simply in a “bad mood.” But these actions can be signs of burnout.
 
It’s also important to keep in mind that employees can experience burnout in their personal lives, which can carry over into their work. Managers shouldn’t assume that an employee is immune from burnout just because things at work aren’t busy.
 
To help you better identify the signs of burnout, look at the common physical, mental, and emotional symptoms below:
 
Physical symptoms of burnout
●       Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
●       Loss of productivity 
●       Fatigue
●       Loss of appetite or change in eating habits
●       Lack of sleep 
 
Mental symptoms of burnout
●       Constant worry and anxiety
●       Inability to focus clearly
●       Increased mental distance or apathy
 
Emotional symptoms of burnout
●       Feelings of negativity or cynicism 
●       Irritability
●       Emotional fragility or heightened sensitivity
●       An increased tendency to start arguments or make harsh comments
 
While these signs can be used to identify burnout in individuals, the same evaluation can also be used to assess teams. If multiple team members seem to be suffering from any of these symptoms, or if your team seems to be experiencing a general loss in productivity, there’s a chance that they may be experiencing burnout. 
 
How to help your team deal with burnout
 
Once you think you’ve identified burnout on your team, how do you manage it before it becomes problematic or long-term? 
 
1. Understand the root cause 
Before you take any action, take the time to understand the root cause of your team’s burnout. This will not only help you identify how to best help your team, but it’ll also demonstrate that you’ve noticed they’re not being themselves and want to help them overcome this obstacle.  
 
There are many potential contributing factors: a heavy workload, lack of leadership, no clarity around roles or expectations, and unfair treatment are common work-related causes of burnout. Of course, there could also be other factors outside of work that contribute to your team’s burnout such as financial or family-related stress.
 
Here are a few tips to help you identify the root cause: 
 
●       Have in-person conversations. Even though your entire team may be experiencing burnout, have conversations on an individual basis. 1-on-1 conversations are a good opportunity to address your direct reports' wellbeing. Addressing the entire group can be intimidating and make it difficult for members to open up. So schedule time for every employee and try to understand what they’re going through. Each person may also be able to share their perspective as to what’s happening at a team level.
●       Ask questions. Keep in mind that it may feel scary for employees to open up about their struggles in the workplace, especially to their managers. They may fear repercussions or worry about being perceived as less hardworking than other team members. If your employee seems to have a hard time starting the conversation, approach them with empathetic questions, such as, “What’s on your plate right now that’s overwhelming?” or “Where are you feeling the most stress?”
 
Other strategies can make it easier for people to open up about their experiences, too, such as ensuring confidentiality or connecting the employee to a third-party expert (such as a coach or therapist) that they may feel more comfortable working with. Sometimes, your employee may not feel ready to open up, and that’s okay too. Don’t force them to talk if they don’t want to but let them know you’re always available whenever they’re ready. Tools like AIM Insights can help leaders accomplish this goal.
 
2. Be an advocate 
As a manager, one of your most important roles is to serve as an advocate for your team. This means making sure your direct reports are well taken care of and supported. This is especially true when it comes to burnout. Depending on the reason for the burnout, the way you advocate for your employees can take on different forms. Here are a few examples to inspire ideas: 
 
●       Protect their time. If your team suffers from a heavy workload, one of the best things you can do is protect their time. What does this look like in practice? If someone approaches you to see if your team can take on a project, push back or say no. Also, let your team know that it’s okay to turn down work themselves if they feel overworked – this will empower them to regulate their own workloads.
●       Provide access to relevant resources. Regardless of the root cause, burnout can have very serious mental health consequences. Connecting employees with resources, such as information about wellness programs or wellbeing guides can be helpful. However, as a manager, you should also know that you’re not expected to be a mental health professional. So don’t hesitate to point your employees to an external source of mental and physical health support, whether that’s in the form of a healthcare professional or therapist. 
 
3. Demonstrate compassion and empathy
Compassion and empathy are useful tools for the workplace – especially when dealing with issues like burnout. There may be times you get frustrated with your team, or they get frustrated with you as you overcome this obstacle together. This is totally normal, so remind yourself to view the situation through a compassionate and empathetic lens. This will make it easier to get through the challenging times together. Below are ideas for how to demonstrate compassion and empathy: 
 
●       Don’t take it personally. It may be tempting to view your team’s burnout as a personal failing, but that’s not the case. At the end of the day, many factors can lead to burnout, no matter how hard you try to prevent it. So, when practicing empathy and compassion on your team, make sure you’re applying it inwardly, as well.
●       Think about what’s best for the team. A useful way to practice empathy is to ask yourself: what’s best for the team? The answer may vary by individual. What’s best for some employees is to take a vacation or personal leave and unplug for a bit. Others might need to clarify work priorities or have something taken off their plate. For some, it may be to support them if they decide to quit their job. This option can be challenging, but sometimes leaving an unhealthy work environment is the best thing employees can do for themselves and making sure that you’re supportive about their decision is the best thing that you can do for them. 
Tue 17 January 2023
What is Executive Branding?
 
As an executive of your company, you are the face of the company or business you run. You are the one that everyone first thinks of when they hear or interact with your brand, you are the one they blame if something goes wrong, and you are the one they remember. 
Executive branding is important no matter what kind of business you are in, whether it be retail, construction, manufacturing, healthcare, technology, or any other industry. 
Branding is necessary for all aspects of your business; you want everything to be cohesive and be true to who you are and what you believe. Those values and beliefs should trickle down the pipeline of your employees, and as an entire brand, you should all feel similar in how you see the workplace and the world.
 
According to Forbes, executive Branding drives sales and increases company visibility.
 
Executive branding starts with determining what you want your core message to be. Your message should coincide with what your target audience believes, and you need to use your message to grab their attention. For example, if you are the executive of an environmentally friendly packaging supplies business, your message should relate to the work your company does and how you do it. Your target audience would be business owners of all sizes who want to only use packing supplies that are eco-friendly. If you brand yourself properly and market your message to those people, you’ll have a loyal customer base in no time.
Even though you may not deal with your audience daily as other people within your company do, it’s still extremely important to brand yourself as the executive. Your branding is what helps you make connections in the business world, it helps get your name in front of people’s eyes, and it helps to boost your business more than you probably imagine.
Whether you’re in a new position as executive or you’ve been executive for 10+ years, there is always room for improvement when it comes to branding yourself.
 
 
What are the Benefits of executive Branding?
 
As an executive of a company, you barely have free time as it is. So, do you really need to take the time to brand yourself? Here are 5 reasons why it’s necessary to establish a personal brand for yourself:
 
1.     Show off your uniqueness
Executive branding is your one chance to show your audience what makes you and your business unique. What do you offer that others don’t? Why should they support your business over your competitors? What makes you unique?
These are all things you should answer when defining your brand as executive. People support those they align with, in all aspects. If someone can see who you are as a person and can see you truly care about a cause or believe in a product or service, they’ll see that and come to your business with their credit card ready. Authenticity and uniqueness are what drive people to your brand!
 
2.     Gain more relationships 
The only way to gain new clients or customers and create loyal ones is to get them on your side. Let’s go back to the eco-friendly packing supplies business example. If there is a small business owner that believes in your cause and can tell you truly care about saving and protecting our environment and they like you as a person, they are 10x more likely to continue supporting you even if your prices are higher. 
Relationships are crucial and maintaining them is an essential practice. 
In fact, 71% of consumers say they prefer to support companies that align with their own values. Why is that? Because they like you for you, not for your prices or products. You have similar values and that is what makes people loyal to one brand over another.
 
4.     Show off your beliefs and values
Going back to the stat that 71% of consumers out there prefer to purchase products or services from brands that align with their own values and beliefs, creating an executive brand is one of the best things you can do to show your target audience what you believe in and why you believe it. 
These days, people don’t just type in something online and purchase the first thing that pops up. They take time to research the company, see who runs it, and learn why they started it. If you don’t tell your story well enough or show potential consumers what you believe in and why, or what your values are in life, odds are they have already clicked off your page.
Why is that true? Because people like to see authenticity and they like to know you became an executive of a company for a reason other than to make a new income. Consumers don’t want to feel like you are using them to get a paycheck, they want to feel good about purchasing and investing in your business because your values and beliefs are the same as theirs. 
Make sure to tell the world what you believe in, what your value in both your personal and professional life, and why. If you hit this on the head, your loyal customer base is going to skyrocket.
 
5.     Less negative, more positive
Any high-up executive knows that no one is perfect, and you are bound to make a mistake at some point in your career. When you are in control of your executive branding, you can determine how people see you. Are you the nice boss that allows your employees to dress down on Fridays? Or are you the mean boss that doesn’t want to pay people’s healthcare?
When positioning your brand, you need to think about what you want people to think of you as. If you treat your employees right, you market yourself right, and your brand yourself properly, you can drown out the negative comments made. 
This can be sharing things about yourself, your life, or an experience you had with a customer. It can also be donating to a cause you believe in, or this can be showing off how you treated your employees to a team bonding experience. Whatever kind of boss you want to be, make sure you consider how people are going to see you from that. 
 
As an executive, you only want to be seen in a positive light, so make sure you brand yourself to receive only positive thoughts! Branding is one of the best business tools you can use and guess what? It costs nothing but time and energy! Branding yourself as an executive is something you should take your time 
Tue 17 January 2023
Sometimes, one of the most difficult actions for a manager to take is to understand when to take a leave of absence. 66% of managers suffer from burnout, and according to Gallup, this number is only increasing. After all, managers often are in a unique position between direct reports and executives. Not only are they assisting their team below, but simultaneously assisting a team above. In addition to that, they have their own problems to face as well, including hiring, training, and retaining employees. This quote from Harry Levinson from the Harvard Business Review sums up the quandary faced by managers:

“In my role, I’m the guy who catches it all. I don’t know how much longer I can last in this job.”

While we have explained how to manage burnout as a manager, there comes a point that it is important to throw in the towel, even temporarily. However, there are a few steps to take for the sake of professionalism and to help both your team as well as your senior leadership team. After all, a manager’s absence is a phenomenon that will have a drastic impact on the rest of the team. Therefore, planning for before, during, and after the leave will be the manager’s responsibility. 

Before the Leave

Before your actual leave, one of the most important things to do is properly notify all of your coworkers, whether they be your direct reports, your peers, or your superiors. This is extremely important. Plan on assigning a point of contact as a substitute for you in order to make the most out of this break as well. Separation from work can be extremely valuable.

Notifying an executive team or any superior of a leave of absence can be daunting at times. The key here is to provide written documentation in conjunction with the human resources department explaining the following

·       What- Is this a leave of absence? Is this a step down and a break at the same time? Be sure to clarify exactly what steps are being taken during this break.
·       Why- Explain any reasoning as to why this action is being taken. No answer is an incorrect one but explaining the rationale behind mental health reasoning can add credibility to this report.
·       When- Clarify the dates as to when any breaks are being taken, as well as a timeline approximating a return to duties. While it is okay to have an indefinite duration, adding statements such as “no less than” or “no more than” can help senior managers in finding coverage.

Leave transition paperwork behind. While your leave may not necessarily be a permanent one, it is a leave, and staff contacting you should be unnecessary. This break is meant to refresh you and help with your mental health, as opposed to being on-call support. This paperwork should include team goals, some dossiers, and current tasks. A tool like AIM Insights can be a great way to document all of this information in real time. Hopefully, someone within your team is temporarily elevated to a managerial position. However, if senior leadership promotes someone unfamiliar with the team, they need to be well equipped to hit the ground running. Therefore, thorough paperwork will be extremely helpful. In addition to that, it will assist the team chemistry by allowing the substitute manager to understand individual personalities as well as specialties.

During the Leave

Many managers will struggle with the actual leave component of their planned leave. After all, their role is such an active part of the workplace that it ends up being very time consuming. Having this much free time can be somewhat daunting. So, what should a manager do with their time off?

1)      Log out of any work accounts- This break is meant for rehabilitation, as stated before. It is not meant to transfer you to remote work. Express that employees are not to contact you, unless there is an emergency, and only if there is an emergency.
2)     Get help- Taking a leave of absence is a drastic step. Simply taking a break for mental health and not taking further action is unproductive. Reach out to doctors, therapists, and mentors to look at further action.
3)     Take some time for yourself-  During this time, explore interests, and look at activities outside of the scope of the job. The goal of this is to reduce high levels of anxiety and stress. Use this time accordingly.       
4)     Contact superiors- If you are making any changes to your original planned break, let your superiors know, so they can then pass on further instructions to your substitute. In addition to that, keep them appraised on your projected return. This will assist them in reintroducing you to the workplace. In addition to that, let them know if you plan to reduce your duties in any capacity. It is okay to say that a job entails a little too much. Smart delegation can help with this as well.
5)     Prepare yourself to return- This seems a little straightforward, but it is a fairly important aspect of the leave. Work can be stressful, especially coming back off of a break. Imagine missing a few days of school. When you came back, it was a completely different unit being covered in math, a brand new animal to dissect in science, and somehow the school lunches got even worse. Returning to work after a mental health break can be extremely similar to this. Acknowledge that there may be changes, and that you may have a bit of work ahead of you in reacclimatizing to the work environment.

At the end of the day, being a manager is yet another job which will take up time and effort.  While this position is one of support and mentorship, sometimes it is in fact a manager who needs the aforementioned things. It is okay to ask for help, and more than okay to take time off to focus on returning stronger. 

Fri 20 January 2023
Do You Have an Intentional Leadership Development Strategy?
 
As Henry Ford once said, “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”
 
Henry Ford’s words have never been more pertinent as organizations struggle to hang onto their top performers in this economy. And though it’s tempting to instinctively go for that new external hire with a lot of ideas, what if there was already an internal leader poised for the challenge?
 
Leadership development strategies will not only prepare future leaders but improve talent retention across the organization. 
 
When evaluating your own leadership development programs and strategies, there’s only one approach that will set you apart and improve talent performance and retention – and it can be applied to any strategy you already have in place.
 
Why Is Leadership Development Important?
 
Leadership development is important because it helps your employees grow. It teaches them how to lead while developing leadership skills and qualities to become better leaders today - and for the future.
 
Leadership development aims to develop an individual's skills and abilities for leadership. It can be done in many ways, such as through on-the-job training, mentoring or coaching, and self-development.
 
Another reason leadership development is essential is that it helps organizations grow while they develop their employees' skill sets. In addition, it helps businesses better understand what they need to do to succeed in the future.
 
Furthermore, it helps individuals understand how they can advance in their careers, take on more responsibility, and become more successful while earning a higher salary.
 
Employees who can develop their skills and become more effective will be able to serve your organization and its customers better. They will also feel more fulfilled in their jobs, which makes them more likely to stick around longer.
 
Leadership development helps employees learn new skills and become more effective, which improves their performance as well as the performance of those around them. This can positively impact the bottom line if it leads to increased sales or improved customer satisfaction scores.
 
After all, high salaries are not the only thing that make employees want to stay. Top-performing employees want to be valued and appreciated for their hard work; relationships and continuous opportunities in the workplace to let their talent shine will motivate them to stay at a company, rather than to leave. 
 
Investing more time to tailor your leadership development strategy though is necessary to stay competitive and increase retention rates. The generic classes and training programs that have been a product of traditional leadership development strategies are not going to cut it. You must intentionally invest in each leader you’ve identified as a top talent. One way you can do that is provide them with executive coaching and metrics via AIM Insights.
 
Take the 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development. The learning and development model corresponds to a proportional breakdown of how people learn effectively, based on a survey asking nearly 200 executives to self-report how they believed they learned:
 
●       70% from challenging assignments
●       20% from developmental relationships
●       10% from coursework and training
 
This illustrates that every leader learns differently. It’s important to customize your leadership development strategy based on how a top performer processes information. Not only will this better prepare your internal leaders for their career trajectory within the organization, but it’s also a unique benefit that will improve your organizational retention and offer them an incentive to refuse external offers.
 
Customize your Leadership Development Strategy to Fit Your Organization
 
Customizing your strategy should build on what you already have in place. For example, pair your top performers with a leadership consultant who can give real-time executive coaching in the moment, whether for general leadership development or while integrating into a new leadership role.
 
Companies often spend a lot of time, effort, and money investing into their technology, operations, and facilities. While these areas are important places to invest, these companies often end up ignoring the best investment opportunity: leadership development. 
 
Businesses that invest in their employees achieve more success more often than those businesses that do not invest consistently in their people. Studies have shown that employees who went through leadership training programs increased their capability by 25% and their performance by 20%. 
 
During the age of the “Great Resignation,” initiatives that focused on retaining employees were more important than ever. As referenced in this Cornell post, 94% of employees say they would stay at a company longer if it invested in their learning and development. 
 
Having effective leaders who invest in their people’s development is one of the best ways to reduce turnover rates and improve employee satisfaction. Happy employees are more productive, and that energy will resonate throughout the rest of the company. 
 
By training employees in best leadership practices throughout the organization, you create a culture that shows you are invested in the success of employees. 
 
Hayden Brown, CEO of Upwork, who is passionate about “re-engaging and activating the managers in the business,” especially with so many employees working remotely.
 
Upwork holds a monthly Zoom gathering called One Upwork Forum, where managers can share information with each other about changes their driving, DEI initiatives, and anything they’re struggling with. While this is a candid, peer-to-peer gathering, it’s sponsored by a rotating executive, someone “who’s willing to kind of nurture and be the voice and the champion” of the group, Brown told me.
 
As Brown put it: “I think that’s been a really great way to drive that engagement and have that group kind of helping each other as they’ve gone through so much change.”
 
Peer support, as opposed to top-down feedback, offers several benefits, including “insight into diverse perspectives,” “opportunities to practice new skills in a safe space,” and an “enduring support network.” Having managers practice their skills together is also another opportunity for professional development.
Fri 27 January 2023
For many teams and managers, one of the greatest hurdles that they face is what happens in the absence of their current manager. After all, a manager is often able to unify the team, set common goals, and manage morale. However, another responsibility that managers should have is to develop leaders. Managers are often the first reference a direct report has towards promotion, especially if the report is interested in leadership. But how does a manager know who could be a good leader?

Why isn’t the MVP the best leader?

Not every worker is cut out to be a manager. A common fallacy within the professional world is to promote high-performing employees to positions of leadership. This oftentimes has resulted in poorly-performing managers, since they generally lack the skills associated with leadership. What brought them success might not necessarily be able to have the same result for other coworkers. In fact, Google conducted internal research and found that this was the number one overall pitfall with managers.

 Once a member of a team turns into a leader of a team, their selling point- which was the ability to complete their tasks- becomes somewhat irrelevant. They still may be asked to perform previously held duties, but their most important task is now leading and empowering their teams.

What skills does a good manager have?

 The best leaders often have a skillset specializing in soft skills, such as communication, empathy, people skills, and being a team leader. While some individuals happen to have these qualities, there is a difference between utilizing these from a peer-to-peer perspective versus that of a leader to subordinate perspective.  

 In addition to this, good managerial candidates are those who often try to improve circumstances for their peers and clients at the same time. This means that they strive for overall quality, as opposed to just making sure that their own component is satisfactory. A good leader should be able to also adapt with change. Throughout the past ten years, there have been many different phenomena such as COVID, The Great Recession, and a complete overhaul of how mental health is viewed in the workplace.  Managers have been forced to adapt how they handle both their work as well as personnel as a result of this.

 Emotional intelligence is also a quintessential part of a good manager. Professor John D. Mayer of the Harvard Business Review defined it as follows.

“From a scientific (rather than a popular) standpoint, emotional intelligence is the ability to accurately perceive your own and others’ emotions; to understand the signals that emotions send about relationships; and to manage your own and others’ emotions. It doesn’t necessarily include the qualities (like optimism, initiative, and self-confidence) that some popular definitions ascribe to it.”

 Managers are in a position of power over other workers, and often hold a significant amount of sway in how they will affect their direct reports. Managers are often the unifying cog within a team as well, and if they are insecure, their team often follows suit. Therefore, they also must be able to recognize how their actions and emotions may affect others, and how they can influence their teammates.

So how does a manager recognize potential managerial candidates?

 The first thing to take note of is how hard a direct report works to ensure that their work is satisfactory. While it is indeed true as mentioned above that the best workers don’t always make the best manager, someone who is personally sloppy or constantly turning in unsatisfactory work may not necessarily be the best manager. Utilize tools such as AIM Insights to determine how their work is in terms of satisfaction and punctuality.

 AIM Insights can also tell you about the results of Direct Report 1:1s. A good manager should be holding regular 1:1s with their staff in addition to performance reviews. During these, you can find out how direct reports feel about each other. Is there a specific individual who all of their peers appear to look up to? Do they serve as a point of contact before the manager is contacted? Is there a sense of mutual respect? If so, consider looking at this person for managerial potential. Their individual 1:1s should also lend a lot of information. Someone who is willing to take credit for their work, but also split credit shows promise. Humility is a good value, since hubris can result in a negative impression with other coworkers.

 Ambition is also a good quality for a manager. Managers are often planning for the future, especially for organization-wide success. However, without the sense of delegation, they may face burnout, so prioritize that as well. 

 In order to help candidates achieve their potential, there are a few things to consider:

  • Educate these candidates- No entry level manager will be able to have every positive trait listed above, especially without prior managerial experience. Work with them and be a positive mentor for them. 
  • Give them gradual increases in responsibilities or temporary promotions- Temporary promotions can expose a direct report to a manager’s chair without anywhere near as much stress. This type of exposure can help pique their interests without overwhelming them. 
  • Regularly communicate with them about what they need to improve their likelihood of promotion- This can be critical in making a good manager. While they might feel that they are doing everything well to be a managerial candidate, only managers are truly aware of what  upper leadership is looking for in a manager. Therefore, take that extra step to help polish off rough edges to create a better manager.

Creating a manager doesn’t happen overnight. It’s a long and tedious process and starts with identifying a good candidate. After that, with some empathy and education, a team can be much better equipped for the future, with both an in-house managerial candidate, and one that knows them very well. 



Fri 27 January 2023
The word “layoff” is a word that sparks unease in any workplace. After all, it’s associated with a loss of income for the worker, as well as a sign that doesn’t bode well for a company. While a layoff is primarily a defensive management move, it is important for a manager to understand how to properly lay a set of workers or an individual worker off. 

Layoffs Vs. Other Forms of Termination

 A layoff is not the same as termination of an employee. It is an involuntary separation from work initiated by an employer or manager. It is through no fault of the employee, and keeps them eligible for unemployment insurance, but losing other benefits. Most of the time, laid-off workers also still get to keep their investments in a company retirement plan such as their 401k. 

  A layoff differs from a furlough as well, in the sense that it is generally permanent. A furlough is when workers are idled for a time as a result of repairs, or another event requiring a temporary work halt, while also continuing to receive their benefits with the expectation that they will eventually return to work. Layoffs are genuinely utilized to remove groups of people at a time, ranging from several individuals, or even thousands. They are generally prompted by bankruptcy, financial hardships, or even being bought out by a larger company. 

 Layoffs often correspond with significant economic events. In the U.S, employers laid off employees en masse due to the drastic downturn in demand during the COVID-19 Pandemic, as many areas closed down travel, dining, and service. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 20 million jobs were cut in April 2020 alone.

 Understanding what makes a layoff is critical to being able to conduct one. But there are a few steps to take before signing the final papers to let go of a series of workers, including a meeting, as well as several other steps.

What to do before the Meeting

Before the meeting, a gameplan needs to be established. To start this gameplan, what positions are slated to be cut? Is there any alternative besides completely laying off these positions? In addition to this, finances of a layoff need to be considered. 

Removing workers with a layoff requires a severance payment, and sometimes also advance notice. It is extremely important to consult human resources or any form of legal department to determine if legal advance notice is required. Violating this can result in serious fines.

Determining if some employees will be needed for a transitional period can be critical for the business. Not every layoff conversation will be identical, since some employees may have information that would be valuable towards the rest of the company. For example, if you are removing about a quarter of an operations team, the remaining three-quarters might not necessarily have had the removed’s responsibilities.  Therefore, keeping that quarter temporarily  to train the remainder of the team, with compensation of course, would be very valuable.   

As stated before, meetings need to be scheduled with any staff members potentially being laid off. The amount of members in a business could qualify it for the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which legally mandates that employees laid off receive at least two months’ notice. Therefore, the date of this meeting may be flexible depending on when the business is obligated to give notice.  

When scheduling the meeting, consider days before a weekend or a holiday to give the employee time to cope afterward. Being laid off is a painful experience, and understanding how to alleviate some of the pain associated with this can be valuable. Remember the following- for the manager, this is just less people to pay, but for the individuals being cut, this means the end of a regular income, no 401k, and no other perks, such as health insurance. All in all, this is a very stressful time. 

During the Actual Meeting

When actually meeting with the employee, there are a few things to consider. Pick a time and place that is both private and neutral, such as a conference room. This time should also allow for an employee to leave the building privately. Layoff meetings might also need to include other people, such as an HR representative, or potentially security as well. 

 Have any paperwork or materials needed for this meeting before the employee gets to the meeting. This allows it to be as concise as possible. This often includes termination letters, COBRA papers, a final paycheck, severance paperwork, and other items related to the severance packet. 

 Remember what the objectives to this meeting are. For the manager, as well as the company, the goals are the following:

  • Have a concise, but compassionate meeting to inform the employee that their position is to be eliminated
  • Protect the employer brand, especially regarding their reputation for future recruitment
  • To be as courteous to the employee as possible
  • Deliver the message to the employee for them to hear clearly while retaining dignity

While keeping these goals in mind, deliver the message as quickly as possible, while still being kind. Have a box of tissues on hand as well. Praising previous accomplishments can help the employee’s ego. If the company has the ability to do so, provide outplacement services and job counseling. Outplacement services can help with job-searching and resume writing, as well as consulting. This shows that the company can truly care about the employee.  

At no point should there be anger or disappointment displayed towards the employee. This is a painful time already for the employee, and it doesn’t need to be further compounded by adding more negative sentiment into the meeting. Be ready to address questions and objections to your statement. Always provide some form of support for the employee. After all, you may be able to hire them in the future, so avoid burning a bridge with them. Finally, don’t hesitate to offer to write a letter of recommendation for their next job, or act as a reference. Being laid off can put someone into a stupor. Understanding how to care for them can really make a difference. 



Fri 27 January 2023
Being a busy person is a challenge in many aspects, especially finding time to develop leadership skills. Such skills are essential to making it to the top of the professional ladder. Whether you’re a business executive, entrepreneur, college student, or stay-at-home parent, having great leadership skills can open up new opportunities. 

Leadership Development

First, it is important to identify a key leadership area you want to develop. You’re already limited on time, so don’t try to tackle too much at once. Review any data or feedback that you have, such as performance reviews or results of a recent 360 survey. Identify no more than two competencies or skills you want to improve.

Second, set yourself a time limit. It’s common for leaders to make critical mistakes by trying to do too much, too fast. You will get excited, watch an hour’s worth of content in one day, get overwhelmed by too many ideas and tips, and either lose your motivation or try to implement and get discouraged by the lack of results. Instead, remember this is a long-term game. Small actions you do every day will be much more effective in the long term, than short bursts of activity. And in every busy leaders’ life, getting help to enhance and encourage leadership development is easy with Ambition in Motion’s executive mastermind groups

Mentorship programs are a great way to continuously invest in leadership development throughout the organization. The program does not have to be complicated, with some basic content it can provide both people in a horizontal mentorship exposure to valuable development content.

One highly-rated professional mentorship program is the AIM Insights Executive Mentorship program. The key part of this program is that your mentor acts as a source of guidance and coaching, customized to your individual needs.

Luckily, this mastermind mentorship program has short videos, meaning that you only need to invest three to five minutes a day. Find a course that matches a developmental area you have identified. Commit to watching one or two short videos a day. And the customized coaches that you’re paired with guide you to make physical and mental notes of key takeaways and ideas for how to implement into your day.

What is executive coaching? 

Executive coaches work with business leaders to enable their rapid development in the workplace. They also assist with specific problems that a board member, or senior manager, wants to work through outside of the normal business framework. 

This coaching focuses very specifically on the issues that an executive wants to work through. Thus it becomes a speedy way to improve skills and to achieve personal and professional objectives.

The executive coach gives the executive feedback and a new perspective that enables them to set goals and work towards them. The coaching sessions use objective feedback to drive the executive's thought processes forward through their issues.

Becoming a Better Leader

Leadership development should be recognized as an ongoing part of professional life. And while dipping in and focusing on it when time allows is great, as we all know, time doesn’t always allow. That doesn’t mean that you can’t develop your skills. All it takes to become a better leader is dedication and a small investment of time.

If this still feels overwhelming, remember this: We mistakenly think that leadership development only occurs in the workplace. However, research suggests that most effective leaders learn all the time and everywhere. 

As a manager or executive, having a support system such as an executive mentor is crucial. But be aware of your own need for support and friendship in the work environment and make a conscious effort to seek them out in the appropriate places. 


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