Leadership

Leadership in the Face of Terror

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I’m not here to stand on my soapbox about the mass shooting in Christchurch. The horrific nature of what these individuals did, and the weariness of repeating the cycle of post-shooting events, is enough to put you into a deep depression about the way the world is going.

However, if there has been one bright spot in these incredibly dark days, it has been the confident and powerful response of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Already renowned for being the second world leader to give birth while in office, Ardern’s response to the shooting has been hope-inspiring, and a model for leaders of all kinds to follow during times of crisis.

While what we are talking about here is a global crisis of the worst degree, it’s important to remember that these aspects of leadership response to crisis apply to leaders of all kinds, in all types of organizations.

Composure: As one of the world’s most peaceful countries, New Zealand is often seen as a beacon for safety in an increasingly dangerous and divided world. It’s easy to think that Prime Minister Ardern would have never imagined that her term would include being at the centre of such internationally relevant events. This accentuates the immense composure that she has shown throughout the aftermath, portraying class and strength at every public moment.

While many people see the public outbursts of sports coaches, or the power-through-retaliation of other world leaders under crisis, Ardern’s composure has shown how great leadership can display strength without inflaming a situation.

Compassion: Whatever you want to classify these attacks as, hatred for difference must be mentioned. An alternate timeline, with a less graceful response from Ardern, could have easily let to further alienation of New Zealand’s Muslim community. Instead, she showed compassion towards the Islamic faith, showing up in a hijab to the funerals and prayer services that followed.

That one simple gesture became an inspiration to many women in New Zealand, who followed suit and wore hijabs as a sign of everyone, regardless of faith, coming together in support for the Muslim community.

Immediacy: Ardern’s response was also categorized by its stunning immediacy, and the efficiency with which she moved to prevent any future mass shootings. Just days after the attack, she moved to ban semi-automatics and assault rifles, with great conviction and assertiveness.

This showed forethought in a time when many gun-control opponents often try to redirect the conversation from guns to mental health, and a respect for what is really the ultimate purpose of a leader: keeping the people safe.

Most business leaders will never have to respond to a crisis that involves national security, firearms legislation, and global media coverage. However, we can all take a page out of Jacinda Ardern’s book when it comes to her demeanour during the crisis, and the composure, compassion, and immediacy with which she handled it.

The next time you find yourself in charge of the response to a workplace crisis, reflect on Jacinda Ardern’s response, and the importance of composure, compassion and immediacy.


How to Spot an Uncoachable Employee

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The business world is challenging enough as it is, but what happens when your business depends on employees who might not be that open for cooperation? If you don’t react in time to stop a disaster, you are potentially looking at your business suffering a significant loss, both financially, and concerning your company morale.

If you’re looking to gather the best possible team around you, here are a few things to be on the lookout for when coaching your new employees, to help you avoid getting stuck with an uncoachable group.

They Can’t Take (Negative) Feedback

One of the first clues you are stuck with an employee who’ll give you headaches is that they get defensive in feedback situations. Usually, they’ll become overly emotional, tune out, and try to “explain” and “justify” their poor performance by finding excuses irrelevant to work (e.g., their cat got sick, and they’ve been so stressed lately.)

They Find Blame Elsewhere

Finding blame in everyone and everything outside yourself is usually indicative of a poor performer. They often aren’t interested in doing much for their personal growth, whether individually or as part of your team. They’ll won’t take accountability for their mistakes and, when criticized, they’ll take it as a personal offense, rather than an opportunity for improvement.

They Exploit Personal Relationships

Everyone has been in this situation. A friend’s daughter needed the job, so you were kind enough to let her join your team. After all, you’ve known the kid her whole life, so how could she not be right for the job, right? Ah, the naivete.

If the person you gave this opportunity to keeps ditching responsibilities and shunning the advice you give them, their work should speak louder than existing relationships. Furthermore, if you hear them acting superior with their colleagues because they know you, you’ll have a problem in the long run. If you want to hire someone you know, have a serious talk with them before they start working, and explain they’ll be treated just like any other employee.

They Are Unwilling to Be Vulnerable

To truly progress at work (and in life!) you need to be humble and vulnerable. This requires an openness to admitting your mistakes, asking for help, experiencing discomfort, and having difficult conversations. These are the ingredients that make up your professional and personal relationships. If your employees are too proud to communicate and show their true feelings, they most likely don’t have the potential for growth, and won’t be able to take your coaching seriously.

They Have a Hard Time Changing Their Perspective

As human beings, we are mostly driven by our unconscious mechanisms and “pre-programmed” beliefs. Employees who are open to “re-programming,” i.e., learning new ways of looking at a situation, or being wired for success, are real keepers! In opening up to new perspectives, knowledge, and information, they are expanding their overall understanding of things at work and outside of it, and learning to detect behaviors and beliefs that could potentially sabotage them. Employees who are stubborn in their views are likely the same employees that’ll give you a headache in the long run.

They Think They Are Better Than They Are

The job market is beaming with applications of people looking for jobs of all kinds. This means that plenty of “overqualified” employees take a job that pays rent, while hating every single moment of it. Such an attitude will lead to them feeling superior,not only to other employees, but their leaders as well. Letting these attitudes linger can cause uncomfortable situations and an unproductive work environment.

No matter how intelligent, educated, and smart your employee is, they also need to be adaptable to coaching. And for the C-suite leaders and managers reading this - that includes you. It’s important for companies to think twice before hiring a person who believes they are better than the job they are doing.

Building a team that functions like a well-oiled machine can be tough but if you have uncoachable, ego-driven and stubborn people on the team, you’re going to experience constant friction. When you spot the above signs in employees, you need to take a step back and do an honest assessment of the negative impact that this individual can have on the team, and the company’s growth. After all, your team is the foundation of your business, and one bad apple might just ruin the bunch.


ACT OR BE EATEN

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Talk to the 5 most successful entrepreneurs around you. You'll notice something - they keep moving.

When others said the economy is slow, times are tough or people aren't buying, they were focused on action.

Excuses lead to inaction. They take us to our safe place but they also paralyze us. We convince ourself it's ok that we're not bringing in business if others aren't either. That is a scarcity mindset. One that doesn't benefit you.

I'm a firm believer in the adage - CONTROL YOUR MIND OR IT WILL CONTROL YOU.

I asked a good friend how Alberta's economy had impacted his business. He told me the solution for them was simple - to focus their efforts on the U.S. market and on building their brand there. Given the value of the USD, it made sense. Their success in that market allowed them to keep all their staff in Calgary employed. They also spend 2016 focusing on what the next 5 years of their business could look like if they pushed 10 times harder.

They kept moving. Just in a different direction than they anticipated.

Inaction will draw you closer to the red line.

Be on a mission to act - to do something that propels your business towards one more sale, towards more exposure, towards your target. 

Successful people think from a place of possibility, not pessimism. They write their own stories and their internal narratives propel them to take risks and keep trying.

Their thoughts create 10X success in the short and long term.

You're the author of your business. Do everything it takes. Everything.

Move. Act. Push forward. Every single day.

You don't move --> You don't learn --> You don't grow --> You die.

To be an effective leader, you must master this one important trait.

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Your office walls may be filled with degrees and certifications hanging in crisp, gold frames.

You may boast an impressive resume or track record that few can match. You may even have the perfect GPA and might know more about your job than Gordon Ramsay knows about cooking.

These are a few qualities that can support your climb to success, but there is one very vital component to leadership that can either make or break your ability to lead.  

And that is... emotional intelligence (EI). EI is defined as, “the capacity of individuals to recognize their own, and other people's emotions, to discriminate between different feelings and label them appropriately, and to use emotional information to guide thinking and behavior.”

Countless studies have found that those with a high EI possess greater mental health, job performance, and leadership skills. 

Emotional intelligence plays a key role in our daily lives. So, what are some of the characteristic that help you up your EI score?

Here are 11 simple but effective principles that can increase your effectiveness in the EI department:

  1. Be open to change and recognize that the world doesn’t revolve around you, your ways, and your timeline.
  2. Avoid becoming paralyzed when the unknown hits you in the face like a whack of white fluff during a Pie Face Game. 
  3. Respond to people instead of reacting to them. Be mindful of your own values and principles and know how someone with different thoughts might trigger your core.
  4. Be sensitive to the thoughts and viewpoints of others, and listen before jumping in with your opinion and suggestions.
  5. Interact with others to learn more about them - rather than to share more about yourself.
  6. Regardless of someone’s resume and endless list of accomplishments, try to understand behaviors and actions that might be a problem down the line.
  7. Listen to the sound advice from Disney’s Frozen – “let it go.” Holding a grudge creates a greater emotional distance that will manifest into poor performance reviews and unintentional sabotage.
  8. Identify personal differences and make a mental note of your own bias towards someone else’s way of doing, thinking and behaving.
  9. When you feel strongly about a colleague or client, find a word to label that emotion so it becomes more real. If the emotion is hurting you, acknowledge that this state is causing distress and ask yourself what you can do to replace that negative emotion with one that will support you better. 
  10. Ask for permission. If you’re feeling a certain way or observing someone behave, respond or act a certain way, ask them how you can support them or how they can support you to move through things.
  11. Become better at reading body language – yours and those of the people around you.  

The key to developing your EI is to become to be a thermostat rather than a thermometer.

A thermometer reflects the temperature of the environment. It serves one purpose, and that is to react to what is happening around it. A thermostat’s job, on the other hand, is to maintain the temperature in a particular area. It sets the tone and when adjustments are needed, surroundings are signaled to increase or decrease in temperature. 

When situations or people around you are unpredictable, ever-changing, and chaotic, tune in to those unique qualities inside you that allow for self-reflection to correctly handle the environment around you.

In the time of chaos, uncertainty and tension, keep this one simple phrase in mind – “Be a thermostat.”