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Thu 16 November 2023
Since 2021, our team at Ambition In Motion has been implementing our AIM Insights program within many companies to help their managers better understand the perception between themselves and their direct reports and provide coaching to help those managers have more effective 1:1 meetings between themselves and their teams.
One area of measurement we focus on is Work Orientation. Simply put, Work Orientation is how a person views work as part of their life. This quick 15-question assessment helps people understand their why for work. Some people view their work as a Job (motivated by work/life balance), while others as a Career (motivated by professional growth), and others as a Calling (motivated by professional and personal mission alignment). We repeatedly measure the work orientation of our participants, and this has revealed a few fascinating insights. 
One finding is that Work Orientation is fluid, meaning it can change overtime. When originally completing the Work Orientation Assessment, 64% of direct reports’ results showed that they were mostly Career Oriented, 20% of direct reports’ results showed that they were Calling Oriented, and 22% of direct reports’ results showed that they were Job Oriented. 
After assessing a sample set of 164 direct reports that completed monthly surveys for at least a year, we have discovered some interesting results. After one year working under a manager using AIM Insights, the results showed that Calling Orientation increased by about +5%, Career Orientation increased by +6%, and results that showed Job Orientation decreased by -12.5%. As people work with AIM Insights managers, we see that their motivation for work changes. 
We have also analyzed over 4,000 individuals’ Work Orientations - observing changes to peoples Work Orientation over the span of year that are not in our AIM Insights program. The results are that Work Orientation is changing for those individuals, but not nearly all in the same direction as direct reports in our AIM Insights program (i.e., increased focus on Career and Calling Orientations).
What does this mean?
The employees who are using AIM Insights and receiving feedback from their managers using AIM Insights are more likely to find their motivation as work to be from a career or calling orientation. This means that employees are more interested in promotions, more interested in the mission/vision/core values of the company, and are more likely to recommend the company to their friends and family for employment or for referring business. This helps them view their work as a career or calling instead of a job. They want to step up and do more than the bare minimum to get by. They are more eager to take on responsibilities and roles for the opportunity to learn. And they are more likely to put more into their work because they see the work contributing to something greater than themselves. 
What could be the cause of these results?
We believe these changes are caused by the training and support that managers receive when using AIM Insights. We know it takes more than luck to build a great team, and these managers are clearly building great teams. Here’s how it works:
AIM Insights has a few important components:
• Direct reports of a manager complete brief monthly surveys assessing how they feel about their performance and their manager’s performance, and then they set monthly SMART goals.
• Managers use the AIM Insights dashboard to review their monthly report and analyze their own perspective on the team’s performance and the individual performance. 
• An executive coach, assigned to each manager for monthly 1-hour 1:1 coaching sessions, helps each manager:
• Understand the perception gaps between themselves and their teams.
• Create an action plan with the manager on how they can approach each direct report to better understand their perspective and communicate their own.
• Oftentimes role play or practice how that 1:1 could go from a best, moderate, and worst-case scenario with the manager.
• Discuss other challenges that manager may be facing from an executive coaching perspective.
Across all the teams we assessed, the only meaningful change to the way the direct reports of a manager experienced their work was how their manager treated them after starting AIM Insights. Here are a few findings that we’ve identified by working with our executive coaches. 
• As opposed to avoiding conflict because managers are uncomfortable with difficult conversations, managers are now embracing those conversations leading to better resolutions.
• As opposed to fumbling through an attempt at having a hard conversation because the manager didn’t practice nor received feedback from anyone, managers are now coming prepared for their 1:1 meetings with their direct reports.
• As opposed to waiting to see if a subtle behavior that irritated the manager turns into a larger problem because the manager doesn’t know how to approach a direct report with constructive criticism, managers are now targeting these conversations head-on and coming into those meetings prepared.
• As opposed to having performance reviews rife with subjectivity and recency bias (e.g. the “what have you done for me lately” effect) managers are now coming into performance reviews prepared with full understanding as to what each employee has been working on over entire period being reviewed.
• As opposed to the dreaded “surprise performance review” where direct reports feel blindsided by their manager, managers are now being proactive and helping each direct report emphasize their strengths and work on their weaknesses. Immediately discussing feedback ensures that managers and direct reports are completely on the same page and nobody is surprised by any feedback given in the performance review because that feedback has been given consistently throughout the year.
• As opposed to managers setting goals for their employees and being a “tactical firefighter” (e.g., “I don’t need to explain why this is important, just do it!”), managers now have their direct reports set goals and give their direct reports feedback on why those goals are impactful or not impactful and why. This empowers employees to have a clearer vision as to how their work contributes to the greater picture of the company.
• As opposed to managers attempting to “read the tea leaves” and going to their local soothsayer to attempt to understand how their employees are feeling about them as a leader, they can directly look at the data and observe how their team feels about them and where there might be perception gaps.
Essentially, managers who use AIM Insights with their teams drive greater feelings of Career and Calling Orientation over the span of year compared to managers who don’t use AIM Insights. 

Fri 3 November 2023
Let's talk about bosses. You know, the ones who command, "Do this now!" without even asking how you're doing. Or the ones who pretend to care but secretly just want you to work harder without considering your feelings. Yeah, those bosses. They might get stuff done, but they're not making the office a fun place to be.

Then there's the idea of Radical Candor. It's about being honest with your team while still being kind. It's like telling your coworker, "Hey, your idea is great, but it might need a little more work." It's not sugar-coating things, but it's also not being mean about it. This approach makes the office a much nicer place to be.

What is Radical Candor?
 
Kim Scott, a former executive for Google and Apple, developed a strategic plan for presenting the radical candor framework with leaders, executives and CEOs in mind. Scott describes the meaning of radical candor as having the ability to care personally while challenging directly at the same time.

The Radical Candor Matrix

  • The matrix categorizes different managerial approaches based on their level of care and directness.
  • Radical candor operates on two axes. One axis stretches from caring personally to not caring at all, while the other axis extends from challenging directly to silence. They each work on a sliding scale.
  • It consists of four quadrants: 
    • Radical Candor: the ideal balance between care and directness (caring personally).
    • Ruinous Empathy: excessive focus on empathy at the expense of honest feedback.
    • Manipulative Insincerity:manipulative approach lacking in both care and directness.
    • Obnoxious Aggression: direct but uncaring and often abrasive communication style. 

Scott’s radical candor model is designed to guide your professional interactions and conversations. The goal is becoming a better communicator while also transforming yourself into a powerful instrument for growth in the teams you lead and the organizations you manage. When explaining the idea behind radical candor, Scott asks you to consider the adage, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Consider that radical candor goes against this long-standing social teaching and emphasizes open and honest feedback for the benefit of everyone involved. Ultimately, radical candor is best defined as the ability to challenge directly while showing that you care personally at the same time.

In general, radical candor impacts your daily conversations and interactions by changing the way you think about the people around you. The result is a shift in your mindset and behaviors.

The Difference Between Candor and Honesty
How do you show candor within your team? The definition of candor is “the quality of being open in expression, or frankness.” Most executive leaders understand the value of candor in communicating and interacting with their team.

The difference between candor and honesty becomes easily clouded at times. While honesty refers to truthfulness, candor is a quality in people that refers specifically to how openly they express themselves. While candor is often a good thing, it isn’t inherently truthful.

Caring Personally
Using radical candor helps you embrace your leadership traits and empowers you to use them to their highest potential. Often, leaders aren’t afforded the luxury of separating their professional and personal lives.

Having empathy is a valuable trait for any leader, and your ability to identify with your team members is vital to your organization’s success. The success of both the company and the individual is something you care about deeply as a leader, and radical candor offers you a way to showcase that.

Caring personally means you’d feel like you failed someone around you by silencing your true thoughts or withholding your criticisms. Because you care deeply enough about them, you’re doing them a disservice by staying quiet and reserved.

Challenging Directly & Holding Accountability

Offering your most constructive feedback as a way to help others grow is a challenging aspect of great leadership. After all, your ability to teach others, guide their decisions and communicate your expectations of them all go into making you a successful leader. These are the ideas behind challenging directly.

How is radical candor a type of informal accountability? 

Though challenging directly sounds like a negative behavior, it only creates positive outcomes. Challenging directly is taking an active role in the growth and development of your team members and offering your guidance for ways they can improve.

By encouraging open discussions and welcoming diverse viewpoints, leaders create an environment where innovation thrives and new ideas flourish. Team members feel valued and respected, leading to increased morale, heightened engagement, and a stronger sense of belonging within the organization.

However, implementing radical candor necessitates a deep understanding of the nuances of effective communication. Leaders must strike a delicate balance between being honest and providing feedback in a manner that is respectful and considerate. They must be mindful of the emotional impact of their words and actions, ensuring that feedback is delivered in a way that encourages growth and development rather than discouragement or resentment.

Ultimately, the successful integration of radical candor into a leadership style requires commitment and dedication. It calls for a genuine investment in understanding the needs and aspirations of each team member, as well as a willingness to foster a culture of open communication and mutual respect.

And you know those bosses who just yell all the time? Yeah, not great. That's the opposite of Radical Candor. It's like they think they know everything and everyone else is just there to do what they say. No fun, right?

Being honest and kind at work, giving people some say in what they do, and creating a positive vibe in the office can make a huge difference. It's not about being the boss everyone's scared of; it's about being the boss everyone wants to work with. Radical Candor is like the secret sauce that makes it all happen.


Fri 3 November 2023
Jonathan recently got promoted at a Fortune 500 company and will be supervising the team he was previously a member of. The promotion was achieved through Jonathan’s consistent hard work and his dedication to improving his skills. However, many other members of the firm, including some of Jonathan’s team members who were also qualified for the position also applied. Mary, one of Jonathan's teammates, also applied for the role. She and Jonathan have had a poor work relationship for a while - even before Jonathan was promoted - essentially, both Jonathan and Mary are in sales and Jonathan was working on an account that he was assigned to and had been working on for months. Mary connected with an employee of that company at a networking event, didn’t notify the team, and ended up closing the deal. She essentially stole the business that Jonathan had already laid the groundwork for.

Although Jonathan is excited to take on this new role, he has some reservations about how Mary will treat him now that he oversees her. Mary has already made several comments indicating she doesn’t believe Jonathan is deserving of the promotion and that she would be better suited. 

When managers are placed in a situation similar to Jonathan’s several actions can be taken to set them up for success: 

  • Mitigate Problematic Behavior 
Articulate expectations for team conduct specifically as it pertains to supporting one another and working together. Emphasizing to team members that they should direct any concerns they have to their manager can help to prevent gossip from being spread and allow actionable steps to satisfy tangible concerns. Failure to mitigate problematic behavior early on may only lead to continued disrespect and issues in the future. 

  • Consider a One-on-One Conversation 
If any team member is similar to Mary, arranging an individual meeting with said team member can directly address the issue. During this conversation, it is important to ensure it is an honest discussion about the situation and emphasizes the importance of working towards a common goal. Although an open discussion is best, being straightforward when explaining that unprofessional behavior is not welcome will best communicate the severity of their actions. Be transparent about expectations and don’t hesitate to directly address the underlying issues from the past. When doing so, be sure to base this portion of the discussion on direct observations of their actions and remain as objective as possible. 

This change in dynamic can serve as a fresh start for any previously poor relationships with peers who are now direct reports. Articulating hope for a more positive relationship going forward can encourage a better attitude as well as remind them that a manager's goal is to support the development of their direct reports. 

  • Create a Growth Plan 
When dealing with a direct report whose problematic behavior is relatively mild, offering to develop a growth plan can shift the relationship in a more positive direction. Developing a plan to continue to build skills and allow the direct report to be a stronger candidate for promotion in the future will demonstrate faith in the direct report's abilities. Dedicating time to help a direct report fulfill their professional goals also serves as an opportunity to build a foundation of trust. 

  • Recognize that it Takes Time 
It can be very difficult to change someone’s perception, so remember that it may take time for a direct report to build trust and respect. Forcing a relationship with a colleague that there were previous issues, may only harm the relationship more. Allowing time for everyone on the team to be accustomed to their new manager is valuable, however, time is not an excuse for someone to blatantly disrespect their manager. 

Navigating relationships with difficult colleagues and treating them objectively can take time and consistent personal evaluation. Adjusting to different relationship dynamics with friends and work and previous team members can also be difficult because the lines between peer and manager may appear to be blurred. 

Here are five strategies to ease the transition from peer to manager while establishing an authoritative presence: 

  1. Develop a Servant Mentality
Promotion to leadership status is largely based on credibility and demonstrated performance and continuing to build upon this established credibility is extremely valuable when overseeing peers. Adopting a servant mentality recognizes that employees don’t work for their manager, managers work for their employees. Managers shouldn’t operate solely as someone giving orders, they should ensure the success of every member of the team for them to produce the best results. Continuous efforts to support all team members over time will build respect and expand existing credibility. 

2. Hold Individual Meetings 
Dedicate time after being appointed to the new role speaking individually with each member of the team. These conversations can be used to discuss any questions or concerns direct reports may have about the change in leadership. This can be used as a time for team members to communicate any frustrations they have and even specific improvements they wish to see in the team environment. Additionally, these conversations will be beneficial to discuss goals and build trust with members of the team. 

3. Set Boundaries 
After working together as peers, it can be incredibly difficult to encourage direct reports to see their leader as an authority figure. It is necessary to communicate boundaries with team members to ensure that they demonstrate respect going forward. While gossiping or attending happy hours together may have been frequent occurrences, it is important to recognize that a new role requires a new set of behaviors. Leaders should strive to remain approachable without having the notion that direct reports should treat them like a friend. 

Failure to set clear boundaries early on can lead direct reports to act disrespectfully and may encourage them to disregard directions received from their team leader. Implementing these boundaries later on may be difficult to enforce now that team members have gotten acquainted with treating their manager as a peer despite the differing titles. 

4. Establish Open Communication 
There may be a lot of uncertainty for direct reports on how to navigate this new dynamic reporting to a previous peer. To prevent any discomfort or stress for direct reports, new managers must develop systems of open communication. Ensuring that direct reports feel comfortable reaching out to their manager will help build relationships and encourage feedback loops. 

5. Manage Perceptions 
When managing a team of previous peers, managing perceptions can help prevent issues of favoritism from presenting in the future. While it may seem harmless to continue grabbing lunch every day with close friends at work, when a manager consistently gets lunch with certain direct reports it can demonstrate unequal treatment. These special privileges may not be brought to attention by other direct reports, but the unspoken perception of favoritism can be detrimental to team performance. Consider developing habits that are more inclusive to all team members, such as a rotating lunch schedule.  

While it may not seem valuable to adjust habits to change perceptions of direct reports, managers' actions can directly influence if direct reports buy into their manager's vision. Making changes to daily actions to reinforce this promotion to the leadership level can help promote respect and increase team members' trust. 

Adjusting to a new position takes time, but spending time to develop an approach to handling previous colleague relationships can help to ease that transition. When assuming a management role, keep in mind that it is a manager's job to support their team and continue to strive for the development of each individual, regardless of any prior issues. 



Fri 27 October 2023
The rapid evolution of digital technology is making digital literacy a necessity for managers. To effectively direct their organizations through these digital transformations, managers must be well-versed in a multitude of technologies and encourage their teams to adapt as well. Digital literacy is effective in remaining competitive, making informed decisions, and innovating. 

Digital literacy is the ability to understand several digital mediums and effectively communicate ideas through them. To benefit from digital literacy, it is important for managers to not only be able to understand, navigate, and communicate information digitally, but they must also be familiar with advanced technologies and recognize important digital trends that are applicable to their organization. 

Here are some key components of digital literacy that are applicable to managers:

  1. Technology Proficiency
Managers need to be comfortable navigating basic computer applications as well as more advanced software. Utilizing software such as Microsoft Office, data analytics software, and communication software is beneficial for all executives to use their time effectively. Familiarity with more industry-specific software is crucial for managers as well because they can have a better understanding of the resources their reports are using. 

2. Information Management 
When considering digital literacy, information management is a priority because it focuses on the ability to manage, organize, and access digital information. Executives handle copious amounts of information so the ability to manage the information can help reduce inefficiencies. A strong understanding of cloud storage and file management systems can assist in best-managing information.

3. Cybersecurity Awareness 
It is specifically important for executives to prioritize digital literacy for its cybersecurity implications. Being conscious of potential security threats and ways to reduce them can protect sensitive company and customer data. Cybersecurity isn’t solely comprised of security software, it can also be practiced through developing habits such as updating passwords and avoiding suspicious online activity. 

4. Digital Adaptability 
The digital landscape is constantly evolving, so managers need to be adaptable and willing to learn. New technologies and innovations emerge rapidly and can serve as beneficial tools to improve company practices. Executives should be aware of developments and consider the technological applications to the company. 

5. Data Analysis 
Managers must possess abilities to interpret data effectively. When approached with information, executives must have strong analytical skills to examine information and make informed decisions. To develop a complete understanding of data and develop meaningful insights, executives must be familiar with data analytics tools and statistical analysis. 

6. Social Media Understanding
Social media has become a significant part of the digital space and can serve a variety of purposes for businesses. Marketing and networking are great uses of social media in the business world and it is important for executives to understand how to leverage these different platforms. The use of social media can enhance an organization's brand and customer reach. It is also important for executives to be aware of issues that arise within social media when considering interactions with customers and the public as a whole. 

Developing these components of digital literacy can enhance productivity, create more effective communication, improve decision-making, and create a competitive advantage. Through more efficient uses of time, companies may experience cost reductions as well. 

Strong digital literacy skills are increasingly important when preparing for future technological advancements. When large changes occur in the technology space, it can be difficult to catch up for users who haven’t remained up to date with other innovations. 

To ensure a wide breadth of knowledge on digital technology, these are some software tools managers can familiarize themselves with: 

  • Microsoft office suite 
Within Microsoft Office Suite, there is a collection of software including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook. Word and PowerPoint are tools for document creation and presentation. A strong familiarity with these softwares is beneficial for effectively communicating information across a variety of formats. Excel is a spreadsheet editor that calculates and computes data. Complex functions such as graphing, pivot tables, and macro programming can help to transform, analyze, and articulate data ultimately to aid in the decision-making process. Outlook is an essential tool for communication and management of personal information. 

  • Project management tools 
Project management tools are helpful for overseeing and coordinating team efforts. These platforms can help managers plan, allocate resources, coordinate efforts, track progress, and prioritize tasks. Project management software is particularly useful for teams collaborating remotely. Some of these tools include Asana, Trello, or Microsoft Project. 

  • Performance Management Software 
Tools to monitor direct reports are incredibly valuable tools to track performance and navigate challenges. Software such as AIM Insights can allow managers to set goals with their direct reports and track progress to ensure continued success. Performance management software can also allow managers to gain insights into the sentiments of their direct reports to help improve team functionality. 

  • Business Intelligence Tools 
Tools like Tableau, Power BI, and QlikView can be used to analyze data and convert it into actionable information. Executives can utilize these tools to compile data and create dashboards, reports, and visualizations. Business intelligence tools are beneficial for creating predictions and analyzing potential outcomes. 

  • Communication Software 
Executives can use platforms such as Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom to facilitate meetings, schedule meetings, share documents, and manage files. These platforms have tools that can automate routine tasks to allow managers to use their time more efficiently. For example, Zoom provides a transcription feature to allow meetings to be documented. 

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) 
AI is rapidly transforming the business landscape and executives should familiarize themselves with it due to its multitude of applications. Natural Language Processing Tools can automate content creation, answer customer inquiries, and assist with analysis through the generation of written content. AI chatbots are another development that can improve the customer service experience for companies by allowing consistent interaction with customers. There are various other applications of AI through predictive analytics, applications to recruitment processes, and even personal schedule management. 

  • Customer Management Software 
Maintaining healthy customer relationships is important for companies and customer management software can help streamline these interactions. Software such as Salesforce, HubSpot, and Zoho helps executives to manage these relationships and gain insights into customer preferences. The utilization of customer relationship management software can allow executives to make informed decisions on their marketing strategies and be effective with their resources.

Depending on their responsibilities, not all executives may need to have in-depth knowledge of these softwares. However, it is important to have a basic understanding of the softwares features and how they can be used to increase productivity and minimize the time required to complete different functions. 

Digital literacy provides a lot of benefits to executives, however, there is some barriers executives experience. Resistance to change is a main contributing factor to executives failing to improve their digital literacy. Resistance to change primarily arises when executives are comfortable with their current practices and see no benefit from spending time learning new software. It is important for these managers to consider the added benefit of the new innovations and potential future time savings from using updated technology.

The digital landscape is constantly evolving and leading to new innovations that can assist executives. Executives should continue to follow new innovations within the digital space and consider the positive implications of implementing new technologies within their companies. 


Fri 27 October 2023
Upon the development of new teams, individuals frequently struggle in finding their roles and establishing a sense of cohesiveness team-wide. In this situation, Managers frequently struggle to advise or guide these groups without micromanaging. The fear of the team underperforming causes these managers to watch over their direct reports too closely and not trust that the work will get done properly.

When attempting to effectively establish team connection, it is critical that the team members are able to self-direct and establish roles, norms and expectations on their own. Establishing these roles can lead to better job performance and job satisfaction along with decreased turnover through value alignment in the development of these team environments. 

Throwing colleagues together to work on a project does not always lead to effective teamwork or belonging in a group. Group belonging, value alignment and devotion to the group all need to step from an intrinsic interest and motivation in the employees which will in turn lead to a better end product and efficiency within the team. The challenging portion of this experience for managers is to allow these members to face roadblocks and navigate troubled waters as a team.

To ensure group development, managers should monitor groups in guidance to follow four stages of group development that encourage a team's growth. Originally developed by Bruce Tuckman in 1965, here are the four steps of team development and how managers may use them to improve.

  1. Form
First is the Forming stage. In this stage, the team is assembled, objectives are identified and, frequently this stage will consist of relationship oriented discussion. For managers, it is crucial to allow new teams this stage of conversation and, although it may not be directly related to the task at hand, this stage heavily contributes to the team dynamic and therefore, the final outcome. Frequently in this stage, members may seem shy or withdrawn, a strong manager will focus on encouraging relationship building, team bonding and conversation within this group in order to prepare for the next stage while allowing team autonomy. 

2. Storm
Immediately following the forming stage of team development is the storming phase. Within this phase, teams may see first signs of conflict, disagreement or arguments. In this stage, a stable leader should allow groups to challenge each other's ideas and opinions from a hands-off role. Allowing teams to navigate the conflicts that arise will result in team unity and cohesiveness in following stages. Through disagreement and resolution of issues, the team is now experiencing alignment and goal clarity, and ready to move onto the Norming stage.

3. Norm 
After growth and re-alignment in the storming phase, the norming stage grants room to establish coherence and harmony within the team. Within this phase, managers should expect team members to find specific roles within the group and take on responsibilities to move forward with the specific task. Teams will now exhibit self-governance and cohesiveness in completing tasks. Through the norming phase, members will now have an accurate grasp on strengths and weaknesses of their teammates that enables efficiency and agility in problem solving. Development in previous stages will allow teams to experience rapid productivity, efficiency and satisfaction as a unified group in the norming stage. 

4. Perform
Finally comes the performance stage where previous conflict has been resolved, members are experiencing role clarity and the project is given full attention and focus from all members working toward a common objective. The performance stage of Tuckman's model can be classified by motivation and trust within teams in addition to self-management and interdependence. Although leadership styles may vary, managers should consider using servant leadership in this situation, allowing the team to take charge and serving as a resource for the group. This phase will see the conclusion of the project after ebbs and flows throughout the progression of the team. 

A bonus step of this process is the adjourning experience. Once a specified team's objective has been completed, team members are commonly saddened or may experience a feeling of bittersweetness that they will no longer be a part of this group and frequently interact with each other. This is an unavoidable ending to every team yet, managers should find faith in the fact that these team members were able to follow through with a project and this experience can improve camaraderie and belonging in an organization. 

Managers should have a relatively limited role in the evolution of teams yet, they should enable circumstances to provide feedback and address concerns in these teams. Collecting feedback on members allows managers to monitor the progress of these teams and intervene in times of trouble. Managers should be very sensitive to issues of inclusion and equity in these teams, ensuring that even the quietest members feel a sense of belonging and all members feel they are treated with fairness throughout the team and its processes. 

Although challenging, the importance of autonomy in a new team can be a significant differentiator in the success of a team. The roadmap to team development is demanding and requires patience yet rewarding. The development of a trusting team that embraces mistakes, encourages a positive work-life balance and builds a productive culture for its members will yield positive effects across the group and lead to improved organizational and team commitment in individuals. 

Encouraging growth in these teams allows for leadership experience and success and enables teams to face challenges in an adaptable manner with flexibility and teamwork. Through the course of time, these experiences will strengthen team members' ability to lead in effective teams across a variety of circumstances, both personal and professional.  Nevertheless, feedback is the most important additive to this experience, empowering advancement and opportunities for team members to fail in a comfortable environment and establish a productive team culture. 


Fri 27 October 2023
Leadership "happy talk" is a term that refers to the practice of leaders sugarcoating the truth to their teams. They paint a rosy picture, reassuring their employees that everything is going well when, in reality, it might not be. While this approach may seem like a way to protect and motivate the team, it often leads to more harm than good.

Meet Sarah and Mark, both seasoned leaders in the tech industry. They're in charge of two different teams within the same organization, and they face a similar challenge—an impending product launch with multiple technical glitches.

Sarah, a proponent of leadership happy talk, decides to downplay the issues. She gathers her team and confidently declares, "Team, our product launch is on track, and everything is going smoothly. There are a few minor hiccups, but nothing to worry about. We've got this!" She avoids discussing the specific technical challenges, fearing it might demoralize her team.

Mark, on the other hand, chooses a different path. He believes in transparency as a fundamental leadership principle. He calls his team for a meeting and says, "Team, I want to talk about our product launch. We've encountered some technical challenges that are causing delays. It's important that we address these issues head-on. We're working on solutions, and your input is crucial in finding the best way forward."

The Happy Talk Dilemma

Leadership happy talk is a common dilemma faced by leaders across various industries. It stems from the belief that team members may not be able to handle the harsh realities or challenges the organization is facing. Leaders may feel compelled to shield their employees from negativity, thinking that a more optimistic outlook will boost morale and productivity.

The Problems with Leadership Happy Talk
  • Missed Opportunities for Improvement: By glossing over problems or challenges, leaders miss out on opportunities for improvement. Honest discussions about issues within the organization can lead to innovative solutions and better decision-making. Without acknowledging these issues, problems persist and can worsen over time.
  • Disengagement: Employees who sense that their leaders are not being forthright with them may become disengaged. When they feel they are not part of the decision-making process or are unaware of the organization's true state, they may lose motivation and become disconnected from their work.
  • Loss of Credibility: Leaders who consistently engage in happy talk risk losing their credibility. When employees realize that what they are being told doesn't align with reality, they may question the competence and integrity of their leaders.
  • Impact on Morale: Contrary to the intended effect, leadership happy talk can negatively affect morale in the long run. Employees may become frustrated or demotivated when they sense that their leaders are not being honest about challenges.

Sarah's Approach: In the short term, Sarah's team is relieved. They believe that everything is under control. However, as the launch date approaches, the technical glitches become apparent. Team members start to feel that their concerns were not taken seriously, and they become increasingly anxious. Morale drops, and some employees begin to disengage, feeling disconnected from the reality of the situation.

Mark's Approach: Mark's team, while initially concerned, appreciates his honesty. They recognize that their leader trusts them enough to share the challenges openly. Team members start brainstorming solutions together, and a sense of collective ownership emerges. While the product launch still faces hurdles, the team is more motivated, engaged, and determined to overcome them.

While leadership happy talk may offer short-term relief, it often leads to long-term problems, including mistrust and disengagement. On the other hand, embracing transparency, as Mark did, fosters trust, encourages problem-solving, and enhances team adaptability.

Transparency isn't about dwelling on problems or creating unnecessary panic. It's about respecting your team's intelligence and their ability to contribute to solutions. As a leader, you can strike a balance between acknowledging challenges and outlining plans for addressing them, just as Mark did. In the end, it's not about telling the team what they want to hear but equipping them with the truth they need to succeed.

Embracing Transparency

Transparency is the antidote to leadership happy talk. Leaders should strive to be open and honest with their teams, even when the news is less than favorable. Here are some reasons why transparency is crucial:
  • Builds Trust: Transparency fosters trust between leaders and team members. When employees know that their leaders are honest about both successes and challenges, they are more likely to trust their judgment and decisions.
  • Encourages Problem Solving: Open discussions about issues encourage problem-solving. When employees are aware of challenges, they can contribute their ideas and solutions to address them effectively.
  • Fosters Accountability: Transparency promotes accountability within the organization. Leaders and team members are more likely to take ownership of their responsibilities and actions when they are aware of the organization's goals and challenges.
  • Supports Informed Decision-Making: Informed decisions are better decisions. When leaders provide their teams with all the relevant information, they enable better decision-making at all levels of the organization.

A Balanced Approach

While transparency is essential, it's important to strike a balance. Leaders should communicate openly without causing unnecessary panic or anxiety among team members. Effective communication involves not only sharing challenges but also outlining plans and strategies for addressing them.

Leadership happy talk, though well-intentioned, is not a sustainable or effective approach to leading a team. It can lead to mistrust, missed opportunities, and disengagement. Instead, leaders should embrace transparency as a guiding principle, recognizing that honesty and openness are essential for building trust, fostering innovation, and ultimately benefiting the team and the organization as a whole. In the end, it's not about telling the team what they want to hear but equipping them with the truth they need to succeed.


Wed 18 October 2023
Leadership happy talk is the propensity for leaders to paint a rosy picture of how the business is performing to their team when the business is struggling. 

Oftentimes, business owners and executives engage in leadership happy talk because they think it is the more mature thing to do. They’d rather hold onto the stress and frustration of business struggles and not put it on other people. 

This might seem like a laudable motivation: why stress out your team? But refusing to share and be vulnerable with team members ultimately creates missed opportunities for the team to tackle problems together. This leads to poor outcomes like surprise layoffs, outbursts from leaders, and misallocated priorities during crucial periods.

This article covers some of the causes of leadership happy talk, how to catch yourself engaging in leadership happy talk, how to overcome it, and why it is critical to not engage in this behavior. 

Leadership happy talk stems from pressures, both real and perceived, to show the world and one’s team that everything is going great. Many startups engage in this behavior because they need to put on a show and generate “buzz” so investors perceive their company to be the next hot business. Many business owners engage in this behavior because they fear their employees will leave if the business isn’t performing well. From a business owner’s perspective, they would rather wait and hope their business turns around. They’d rather risk a surprise layoff than inform their employees that the business is struggling and engage them in a potential solution. Many executives for large companies engage in this behavior because they have shareholders and quarterly goals to meet, and they would rather keep up an obvious charade rather than risk looking ineffectual. But only luck can save these leaders from near-certain failure if they aren’t willing to open up. 

There’s also the egotistical explanation: They want everyone to think they are a success. 

As a leader, you might be reading this and thinking to yourself, “what if the news of our business struggling has nothing to do with my employees’ work? How will that help?”

The answer: if this person is at risk of getting laid off, being asked to work reduced hours or for reduced compensation, or having their work impacted in any way at all, they should know about it.

Why? This initial worry assumes that your team can’t handle the truth or that they may leave upon learning the news. That risk pales in comparison to the possible reward from including them in a solution that saves your business. 

By not sharing the truth of the business’s situation with the entire team, leaders are communicating to their team that they don’t trust them to work together on identifying a solution or that they aren’t smart enough to have any good ideas on how to solve the issue.

No business is going gangbusters all the time every day. Businesses tend to oscillate between up periods and down periods. As a leader, it may be tempting to paint the down periods with a rose hue because things could turn around. However, when leaders find themselves in a position of identifying some negative trends, the best decision is transparency and collaboration. 

By being vulnerable instead of stoic, leaders are communicating that they trust their team and that they value their perspective. Sure, some investors may choose not to invest, some employees may leave at the first sign of bad news, the stock price might go down temporarily, but leaders that engage in openness, transparency, and collaboration lead to healthier more resilient businesses. Strong, resilient businesses are much more likely to succeed long-term compared to businesses run by leaders that engage in leadership happy talk and can’t tell their employees the truth. Next time business is slow, take a chance and open up to your team. The solution could be right in front of your eyes, all you had to do was ask. 

 

Mon 9 October 2023
An increasingly prevalent menace in the workplace, switchtasking ignites a variety of problems for productivity across all levels. Rather than devoting full attention to one task at a time, many jump from one tab to another, attempting to tackle their overload of responsibilities. 

Switchtasking is the rapid change of tasks; toggling from email, to instant messaging, to a presentation and back to the task at hand, which undermines productivity and creates inefficiencies in the workplace. In a managerial or leadership role, it is challenging to reduce switchtasking while still expecting timely responses and completion of tasks. Switchtasking has also been associated with increased mental fatigue, lack of creativity, poor quality work and employees feeling overworked.

In the modern world with technology and the seemingly instant demand of information and collaboration, how do managers regulate switchtasking to optimize their teams productivity and efficiency? 

Tackling each of these negative outcomes begins by understanding the root of the cause. The association between mental fatigue and switchtasking likely stems from individuals feeling as though they have attempted to solve a variety of problems and have worked on a number of tasks throughout the day. Yet, in reality they have worked on the same task in 20 minute increments then, have lost focus and had to re-evaluate the situation once returning to the original task. Which directly explains a lack of creativity in problem solving. Having a stop-go motion does not allow for continuous, devoted and fully developed thoughts on how to address specific situations. Being a large contributor to company success, innovation and productivity, behaviors that halt creative thinking are counter productive to the workplace. 

Switchtasking has also been associated with lower quality work and increased errors. When switchtasking, attention to detail seems to be spread among a number of different tasks `whereas in a traditional focus of one task at a time, all of the attention is devoted to one objective at a time, improving quality and clarity in outputs. Finally, the obstacle of switchtasking seems to heavily impact reports perceptions of their work-life balance. Individuals frequently feel overworked because with switchtasking, the tasks do not end once individuals leave the office. Switchtasking can frequently grow from the feeling that direct reports need to immediately respond to emails, messages and drop whatever they may be doing to address these things which will continue at home. 

Here are some tips to help managers reduce the level of switchtasking within their teams:


1. Create a clear prioritization system for direct reports
Creating a clear prioritization system for direct reports will significantly reduce switchtasking in teams. If direct-reports are able to analyze and determine the importance of tasks, they will be more apt to individually focus on one task at a time and they will be less likely to use time on less-important tasks. A prioritization system will also communicate to direct reports that each task is not urgent and can wait until they have completed their current task. This will also exhibit significant improvements in the quality of work and creativity in the workplace that impact direct reports attitudes, job satisfaction and job performance. 

2. Encourage Time Management Planning
Another contributor of switchtasking is direct-reports feeling as though they will not have enough time to address all of their responsibilities. By encouraging segmented days and improved time management with plans of certain assignments, managers can expect improved quality of work and continuous creativity as team members are devoted to specific tasks for specific amounts of time to focus. Direct-reports will be confident that they will eventually address each task they are responsible for. Additionally, direct-reports may heavily benefit from breaks in between these tasks to ensure they do not feel overworked, overwhelmed or that they are experiencing unequal work-life balance. Encouraging transitioning times throughout the day and predetermined plans will significantly decrease switchtasking in the workplace. 

3. Set communication expectations
By setting clear communication expectations, managers can indirectly discourage switchtasking. Creating clarity in expectations will allow teammates to address emails or messages once they get a chance, in a break period or, within the time they are working on that specific task. Do not expect immediate responses from every employee the instant they are contacted, appreciate that they are devoting their time and full attention to produce the best quality work possible. 

4. Lead by example
If managers expect direct-reports to avoid switchtasking and devote full attention to tasks, they should be exhibiting the same standard. When in meetings, managers should focus fully on the topic of discussion, avoid taking phone calls when in meetings with teams and, confidently demonstrate the expectation of complete attention, effort and persistence when working on tasks that will overall create better results team-wide. 

5- Be flexible!
A great deal of managers struggle to embrace mistakes. In implementing these new ideas to improve productivity, managers should focus on building a culture that embraces mistakes and allows collective learning and improvement for an entire team. Being a flexible and innovative role model will heavily improve the effectiveness of these steps. Effective leaders focus on understanding others and the best practices for specific teams. Know that sometimes switchtasking is necessary but, that does not undermine the effectiveness of these tips in a team setting that will overall contribute to the betterment of the team both in the output of work and, the well-being of the team's members. 

Reducing switchastking requires time, effort and clear explanation of the new programs for effective implementation. Managers who promote the above efforts and prioritize their employees will see results in attitude and work product. 

Although difficult, managers should remember that it may take time to see results and feedback is crucial for growth. To view metrics on the implementation of new programs, consider utilizing AIM insights to view data at any given point throughout the year. Additionally, take time to focus on relationships within teams that lead to productive and cooperative dynamics that will improve the overall efficiency in the workplace. 


Mon 9 October 2023
Conflicting interests are unavoidable within an organization. Although challenging, aligning conflicting interests is necessary for effective decision-making. Executives and shareholders all tend to have the common objective of company success, however, each individual may have a different set of criteria and incentives that determine what constitutes success. Recognizing these differences in interests to promote success, is important when navigating a situation in which there are many conflicting interests at hand.

Examples of conflicts that arise from parties with competing incentives include: 
  • Sales teams only receiving their commission checks once a client has been onboarded by the onboarding team and the onboarding team wanting to be thorough in the client onboarding processes. The onboarding team is incentivized to be thorough while the sales team wants to get their commission as quickly as possible. 
  • Customer success teams receiving feedback from clients in terms of what technological features need to be created to best support the client and then disseminating that information to the technology team and ask the technology team to prioritize this feedback. The tech team is incentivized to complete the tasks on their roadmap and the customer success team is incentivized to keep the client. By adding a new task on the tech team’s plate, they now have to figure out where this goes in priority order compared to their other tasks while the customer success team thinks it should be their number one priority.

Steps to approach conversations when parties have conflicting interests include: 

  1. Create a flexible strategy 
It is important to recognize personal company goals and strategies that will be used to achieve them prior to meeting with others to discuss future initiatives. This self-reflection period ensures that all ideas are articulated clearly in this environment with differing interests. After developing goals and implementation strategies,  it is important to identify areas of flexibility within these strategies. Even when plans are thoroughly suited to achieve personal goals for the company, it is likely that there will be areas that require adaptation to best incorporate the perspectives of others. 

2. Define and understand each party's interest 
Prior to or at the beginning of a meeting it is important for each party to articulate their interests. Creating this understanding early on will allow everyone to have some common ground and know why others' interests are a certain way. Certain factors may contribute to these interests, such as organizational policies, deadlines, or resources that are applicable specifically to an individual's role. Being conscious of these different parameters for other's decision-making will encourage a more empathetic environment. 

3. Develop open communication and active listening
Respectful communication is pivotal when managing conflicting viewpoints. Creating open communication will allow for clarification of ideas, voicing concerns, and considering other perspectives in order to formulate the most effective solutions. Open communication also consists of encouraging everyone to contribute. If someone hasn’t contributed much to the group discussion, invite them to share their ideas to ensure everyone is on the same page. 

During the discussion, be mindful of utilizing active listening habits. Taking notes (if appropriate), providing nonverbal cues, and maintaining eye contact is incredibly important in signaling to others that their contributions to the conversation are valued. Failure to actively listen to others may prevent them from being receptive to ideas later shared. 
 
4. Identify shared goals 
To unify a group, it is helpful to recognize what commonalities exist. Within an organization, everyone tends to have similar hopes for future success for the organization as a whole. While the methods to achieve this success may vary, articulating this common goal can help emphasize that everyone is doing their best to fulfill this shared purpose. 

5. Compromise 
Being willing to be flexible and negotiate can help to manage these differing interests. Sticking to a rigid predetermined set of demands will only lead to a stand-still. Compromising on aspects of a plan demonstrates to others that collaboration can help achieve the best possible solutions for all parties. 

Developing innovative solutions may also be a way to best fulfill everyone's needs. It may be possible that all presented solutions aren’t able to properly achieve the best outcome for the group. In that case, brainstorming and innovating can help create a brand-new plan that wouldn’t have been achievable without the input of the whole group. 

6. Finalize and implement solutions 
When determining the final solution, reiterate the conclusions made to double-check that everyone has reached a similar understanding of the future steps. Ensure that these final plans are in writing and shared with everyone involved in the conversation so they can be referred back to it. Having a finalized document with this consensus will make the implementation of the solution more efficient because it can help to ensure everyone is taking action in the appropriate manner. 

It can be incredibly difficult to manage conflict without the proper knowledge of personal conflict management habits and other strategies that are suitable for handling conflict. Incorporating conflict management instruments can help to develop optimal strategies for navigating conflicting interests. The Thomas- Kilmann Instrument is an assessment developed to determine ways to improve personal conflict management strategies. After completing the assessment, individuals will receive their evaluation of overall assertiveness and cooperation during conflict scenarios. From this placement, they will be provided with different strategies to improve their conflict-solving skills. Identifying areas of personal improvement can be difficult, so utilizing an assessment tool that is dedicated to identifying areas to develop for handling conflict can be incredibly valuable. 

Joining an Executive Mastermind Group where you can have a group of peers share their feedback on your situation and provide suggestions can be a great opportunity to best prepare to handle these situations.

Managing conflicting interests can also be utilized as an opportunity for growth. If a meeting wasn’t as productive as anticipated, it can be a time to reflect on personal negotiation skills and different approaches to improve upon communication and cooperation in later discussions. 

Aligning conflicting interests can also be achieved through more preventative measures. Building capacities to prevent conflicts of interest can work to ensure leaders are on similar pages. This can be implemented through changing metrics in which different departments are evaluated or even in-depth discussions to develop a shared framework for company growth. Implementing training activities to develop strong cooperation and strategies for compromising can also be beneficial to prevent stagnant conflicting interests going forward.  

It’s important to keep in mind that aligning interests doesn’t mean 100% agreement at all times. Oftentimes, compromising leads to outcomes that fulfill everyone's needs to an extent, but don’t fully achieve what they sought out to. Leaders need to know how to best align these conflicting interests to prevent impasse and achieve organizational success. 


Mon 9 October 2023
When it comes to business cultures, whether it is service-based or product-based, one question that comes up a lot is whether to make the company customer-centric or employee-centric. While Customer-Centric is important, employees are the root of any company. They are the ones who interact with customers; they are the face of the company. Thus employee centricity is critical in a business too. While balancing both employee and customer-centricity is difficult, it’s not impossible. On the other hand, employee-centric businesses prioritize their employees’ experience and development.

Amazon - A Beacon of Customer-Centric Culture:

Amazon, founded by Jeff Bezos, has been a trailblazer in the realm of customer-centricity. Its transformation from a humble online bookstore into the e-commerce behemoth we know today has been marked by a relentless focus on the customer. The most emblematic manifestation of this philosophy is the introduction of Amazon Prime's two-day free shipping; an innovation that redefined online shopping.

Pros of Customer-Centric Culture:

  1. Enhanced Customer Satisfaction: The hallmark of a customer-centric culture is the unwavering commitment to meeting customer needs. Amazon's free two-day shipping, for instance, has not only delighted customers but also raised the bar for competitors.

2. Innovation and Market Dominance: Prioritizing customers drives innovation. Amazon's customer obsession has led to innovations like Kindle, Alexa, and Amazon Web Services (AWS), catapulting the company to market dominance.

3. Brand Loyalty and Repeat Business: Satisfied customers become loyal customers. They return for more, and they recommend the brand to others. Amazon's customer-centric approach has fostered a legion of devoted followers.

Cons of Customer-Centric Culture:

  1. High Employee Expectations: To deliver on the promise of exceptional customer service, employees often face tremendous pressure to perform at breakneck speeds. The demand for efficiency can lead to burnout and attrition.

2. Worker Conditions and Compensation: Amazon has faced criticism over worker conditions and wages. The push for fast delivery times has sometimes come at the expense of worker well-being.

3. Profit Margins: Offering free shipping and investing heavily in customer service can impact profit margins, challenging the sustainability of the business model.

Striking a Balance: Employee-Centric Culture

In contrast to the Amazon way, some companies prioritize an employee-centric culture. These organizations firmly believe that by putting their employees' needs and well-being first, they can create a happier, more productive workforce. Google, for example, is known for its employee-centric culture, and its focus on fostering a vibrant work environment.

Pros of Employee-Centric Culture:

  1. High Employee Morale and Productivity: A contented workforce tends to be more engaged and productive. When employees feel valued, they are more likely to go the extra mile.

2. Reduced Turnover: Employee-centric companies often experience lower turnover rates. Employees are less likely to seek employment elsewhere when they are satisfied with their workplace.

3. Innovation and Creativity: When employees are encouraged to express themselves and contribute to decision-making, it can foster innovation and creative problem-solving.

Cons of Employee-Centric Culture:

  1. Risk of Complacency: Overemphasis on employee well-being might lead to complacency, where employees resist change or fail to meet necessary performance benchmarks.

2. Competitive Disadvantage: In fiercely competitive industries, a myopic focus on employee satisfaction may hamper an organization's ability to respond swiftly to market shifts and customer demands.

3. Profitability Challenges: Prioritizing employees' financial compensation and benefits can strain profit margins, making it challenging for the company to remain competitive.

Cultural Balance

Examples such as Amazon's relentless customer focus and Google's employee-centric philosophy represent two ends of a complex spectrum. Corporate leaders often grapple with the formidable challenge of finding the elusive balance between customer-centric and employee-centric cultures. The ultimate goal is to ensure that both customers and employees feel valued and prioritized.

Hybrid Cultures
Some companies have successfully blended elements of both cultures. They recognize the symbiotic relationship between customer satisfaction and employee well-being. In this approach, businesses strive to maintain high standards of customer service while ensuring their workforce is supported, motivated, and engaged.

The divide between customer-centric and employee-centric cultures persists as an enduring paradox. While each approach carries its own set of merits and pitfalls, the key lies in acknowledging the intricate interplay between these two fundamental pillars. Companies that aspire to long-term success must invest in their employees, value their customers, and continuously evolve their culture to adapt to dynamic market conditions. Striking this equilibrium is the true path to sustainability in a corporate world where customer satisfaction and employee well-being can coexist harmoniously, propelling the organization to unparalleled heights.


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