How to Help Leaders Help Others Grow

How to help leaders help others grow

I was excited to read about my friend and colleague Bill Treasurer’s upcoming webinar for NetSpeed Learning’s 2015 Thought Leader Webinar Series, Open Door Leadership: A Radically Simple Way to Lift People, Profits and Performance. Bill’s session will focus on how leaders can “create meaningful opportunities for challenge and growth.”

Of course, you don’t have to look far in this environment to find a challenge. There’s a reason VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) has become the acronym du jour for describing today’s business world. But too often I’ve seen high potential programs and similar initiatives designed to help people stretch beyond their comfort zones so they can further their growth and careers actually backfire because the people involved weren’t set up for success.

The point is to get them to stretch, not to snap! Read more

Managers, You Aren’t Responsible for An Employee’s Motivation

With all the chatter about employee engagement and its impact on productivity and retention, we know that employee motivation is a key issue at all levels of leadership.

But people who lead continue to make a fundamental mistake in this area: They believe and behave as if they are responsible for an employee’s motivation.

Here’s a news flash: Motivation of an employee doesn’t come from the manager; it comes from within the employee.

Why is this so hard to grasp? One possible reason is we’ve established a cadre of leaders who think that visible action on their part is the primary way to lead—that you must do something or you won’t be viewed as a leader by those who are led.

The fact is we all motivate ourselves. The more important and useful function managers and leaders can serve is to encourage this inner self-motivation, and there are a number of ways to do this:

  1. Provide employees with work they find stimulating. When people aren’t stimulated by the work, they drop out of the game. Look for clues in their thinking preferences, paying attention to both their primary preferences, which typically are associated with the work they’ll most enjoy, and their areas of avoidance or lack of preference.
  2. Provide a work climate that allows this stimulating work to be performed in ways that satisfy and fulfill the employee. Don’t assume the way you would tackle the work is the best way for the employee. Create an environment where employees have a say and a stake in their own productivity and engagement.
  3. Provide incentives and rewards that supplement the self-actualization the employee is already experiencing. But remember, when it comes to rewards and incentives, one size doesn’t fit all.
  4. Provide the necessary tools, materials and support that allow the employee to optimize quality performance. Employees frequently have a better sense of how to get the tasks done in the most efficient, effective way. Give them the tools they need, and then…
  5. Get out of the way!

This surprisingly direct and simple process is founded on two human resource basics:

  1.  Know your employees. Understand their thinking preferences, their expectations and their job needs.
  2. Understand the mental requirements of the work being done. This requires an investment in time, energy and skill to diagnose the work elements of the tasks to be performed and then construct a thinking profile of the job.

The next step in this process is exceedingly elementary in concept, but impossible to carry out if the preceding steps have not been rigorously performed. This next step is bringing the employee into alignment with the work. When the employee’s thinking preferences are well aligned with the mental demands of the job, they’ll be more productive and engaged, and their companies will benefit as a result. It’s a win-win all around.

Want to fuel your own inner self-motivation? Read more about job fit and alignment for greater work satisfaction in our post, Commencement Advice for Everyone.


Commencement Advice for Everyone: How to Really Use Your Brain to Get Ahead

Whether you’re just entering the workforce, looking to get ahead or simply feel stuck in a rut, here’s some advice for using your brain—all of it—to make the most of what you do, day in and day out.

1.   Where do you fit? Find the clues in your thinking.

Think about the subject you did best in—the one you really excelled in, that was easy and fun, and always held your attention. Now think about the subject you did the worst in, the one you dreaded.

Now contemplate trying to get a PhD in both.

It isn’t that you couldn’t, but you would obviously get your doctorate in one of them sooner, more easily, and at a higher level of academic achievement.

Because thinking preferences impact what you’re most interested in—the kinds of activities you enjoy the most—people tend to gravitate towards and excel in occupations that allow them to exercise those preferences.

And although we’re talking about preferences, not competencies, there is usually a correlation between the two. After all, if you find these activities highly stimulating, you’ll likely look for every opportunity to spend your time and focus on them, and as a result, you’ll build up strong competencies in these areas.

The fields and functions that align most closely with your preferences will ultimately be the most fulfilling, and you’ll be well equipped to succeed in them. They’ll make you feel energized, engaged and motivated. They won’t necessarily be easy, but you’ll be up for the challenge.

 2.   Align when you can, but realize perfect alignment is rare.

Particularly if you’re just starting out, you may not be able to find work that fits within the “sweet spot” of your preferences. And even if you do, it’s almost certain there will be some tasks that require you to engage in the kinds of thinking you actively avoid.

The good news is, you have access to your entire brain, not just the areas you prefer. It’s going to take more energy and skill to get through those tasks, but with effort and motivation, you can stretch your thinking and succeed outside your comfort zone.

If possible, work with your manager on ways to rethink the tasks or come up with potential job aids, training and coaching to help. You might even find you’re pretty good at some of the tasks you hate!

3.   Look for the gift in the stretch.

Career progression and work opportunities bring a full range of competency options into view, and as part of this process, many people realize that though they have performed well at certain tasks and jobs, they didn’t really like them.

That discovery can have a profound impact on the direction you take in your career and life—if you pay conscious attention to it. Misalignment early in your career can be a gift that helps you figure out what your fit really is.

4.   Don’t look just to your job to fulfill your sense of satisfaction.

When you align your passion with what you do, you’ll have more energy and feel more fulfilled in your life. That doesn’t mean your only option is to find it in your work. If today’s job doesn’t make your heart sing, find a way to bring more of those activities into your life and to guide your thinking about the future.

The learning process doesn’t end after graduation. Fortunately, the best tool to help you continually grow and succeed is always with you: your whole brain. Don’t waste a bit of it!

Looking for more? In this brief video learning segment, Ann Herrmann-Nehdi shares some tips for anyone who is looking to use their head to get ahead.

Mindset Can Keep HR From Having a Seat at the Table

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Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, describes in this recent interview how important HR is to the success of any organization, especially start-ups:

     The discipline I believe so strongly in is H.R., and it’s the last discipline that gets funded. Marketing, manufacturing — all these things are important. But more often than not, the head of H.R. does not have a seat at the table. Big mistake.

So often this is due to a perceived lack of “bottom line” focus and understanding of core business issues. My friend and colleague Pam Scott says it this way: Numbers may drive the business, but people drive the numbers!

Our research has shown that our thinking preferences explain why this phenomenon so often occurs. The mindset of HR is often so focused on their ROI – return on interaction – that they neglect to translate that into terms the rest of the business understands.

By adopting a Whole Brain® approach, HR will be much better positioned and heard. See Whole Brain Thinking: Ignore it at your Peril for ways Human Resources and Talent Management professionals can adopt a more Whole Brain approach.

Get the Whole Brain® Learning You Need in 2010

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What learning topics will help drive your success in 2010?

We’re continuing to build our THINC™ Webinar calendar for the year, and we need your input to make sure we’re covering the topics that will benefit you.

Please take this brief, four-question survey to let us know the issues you would like to see addressed in future THINC™ Webinars. The survey should take less than 5 minutes to complete.

Get a quick pulse of the community… Find out what learning issues will be top-of-mind with your colleagues this year. The results of the survey will be shared in a future issue of our BrainBytes™ e-newsletter.

Thank you for your participation!

5 Ways to Use Your Head to Get Ahead and Accelerate Your Career


Thinking is at the core of everything we do, yet is often taken for granted. If we think of our brain as the hardware, our thinking is the software that allows you to use all of the information and skills you have available to you in your brain. Try these 5 steps to use your head and shift your thinking to accelerate your career in these tough economic times:

1. Be SMART and SAFE: There is an old adage, “If you do not know where you are going, any road will get you there.” You can only move forward if you know what direction you want to go.

Use your analytical left brain to set career goals that are SMART: Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely

Jerry Lopper suggests a great approach that may appeal more to your intuitive right brainSAFE: See the end result, Accept the end result, Feel the end result, Express the end result.

It is critical that you clarify your objectives, ideally communicate them to your manager and then stick to them. This is the best way to get where you want to go as quickly as possible.

2. Star in your Own Movie: Follow Tiger Woods’ example of “seeing” a successful shot before it happens.

Use your visual brain to think about the career future you want, and play the movie of your desired outcome happening in your head, in real time (not in slow motion or fast forward). Here is a video to get you started.

Play the movie until it ends, and play it again when you need a boost. Pay attention to what you are doing that is working and use that to help you stay on track toward your desired future outcome. It is always a good idea to show your employer the growth you are capable of. Use this technique to help you successfully take on new challenges in your current position. Find the visualization techniques that work best for you, and you can develop your own script for success.

3. Network Juice: Tap into your interpersonal brain and work your network and connections well before you need them.

Who can you learn from? Who would be good to know in order to achieve your goals? Who has influence? Make a list of those you can connect with locally. Use LinkedIn or other social networking sites to stay connected with people at a distance and to find personal routes to the contacts you would like to reach. Be authentic, be prepared and be willing to reciprocate! HBDI® practitioner Karlin Sloan shares some great tips for Pursuing the Power of Professional Connections.

4. Become an Addict and Get a Habit: You can think about doing all of the above all day long, but you will not make progress unless you work on it daily.

Repetitive action helps you lock in habits, so use your organized brain and try this for 30 days. Set aside time every day to do this work, and set yourself up for success: schedule it for a productive time of the day, not when you are rushing out of the door in the morning.

Try using time on your lunch break, and devote at least 15 minutes to clarifying your goals, building relationships and visualizing success. Follow these tips for developing new habits, and the activities will become second nature.

5. Cross-Train Your Brain to Jazz up Your Thinking: All employers want flexible thinkers on their teams.

Use your Whole Brain® to stretch your thinking by learning tools and techniques outside of your comfort zone and natural preferences. You can learn more about your thinking preferences in this video.

This fall I was invited to teach with Doug Hall at the University of Maine as part of their exciting Innovation Engineering minor program, designed to give skills to boost and ignite new thinking in any major of study and thus any career. The program teaches you to cross-train your brain, using skills and techniques from your analytical, visual, organized and relational brain to improve the outcome of any challenge you are facing.

What training can you engage in to become more Whole Brained? Just practicing the techniques mentioned above is a good place to start. Use your head and you will get ahead!