high performance

High-Performing vs. Mediocre Leaders: 5 Key Characteristics That Separate Them

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"The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor but without folly." - Jim Rohn

For decades organizations have been suffocated by mediocre, personal-interest-driven, questionably competent leaders, creating unhealthy work environments and leaving employees frustrated and unmotivated, and the workplace unimpressive.

For everyone who values an inspiring workplace, the 21st-century brought about a change in the overall business culture and attitudes towards all things work. Today’s high-performing leader empowers employees, and values healthy personal relationships, inclusion, and diversity. Respect and kindness matter to her, and they trump arrogance, ego and superiority.

If you are an aspiring leader, or are already one, here are some things to keep in mind if you want to avoid being a mediocre leader.

Drop the ‘My-Way-Or-The-Highway’ Manner

No one likes a smart a$$, especially not at the office. Instead of adopting the last-century-favored “I know this” attitude, try  something more powerful like “do we know this?” when talking to your team.

Take your employees’ suggestions, start a two-way conversation, and engage with the people you work with, instead of making them work for you. Everyone loves to be included in brainstorming and decision-making, and when your team starts feeling inspired by your knowledge, approach, and respect, you’ll get a team that functions like a well-oiled machine.

As Kevin Kruse, the bestselling co-author of WeHow to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement put it - “...it takes both the employee and the manager to create a thriving culture that fosters feelings of full engagement.”

Stay Grounded

The fact that you are a leader could mean you did something better than someone else. However, it could also mean someone in your team who hasn’t applied for the position is currently doing it better than you.

One of the crucial elements of being a high-performing leader is staying modest and grounded. You want to observe your team as a chance to build something together, challenge and inspire each other, and learn to work as one.

The more approachable and grounded you are, the more human you appear. And that means one thing: your people will treat you as a trusted leader instead of an annoying boss they hate.

Don’t Ever Stop Learning

Take a lesson from John F.Kennedy and understand that "leadership and learning are indispensable to each other."

The moment you stop learning is the time you consciously decide to end your journey to personal development, knowledge, and satisfaction.

To be the best in your field, and a leader whose judgment, advice and decision employees trust, you need to have experience that backs up your decisions. Keep learning things relevant to the technical aspects of your role, and the leadership end of the stick. Becoming better never hurt anyone.

Be Your Employees’ Support System

Employees everywhere are fed up with bully bosses who conveniently take out their frustrations on them by exercising the weird amount of power they’ve been granted by their positions. A mindful, respectful and understanding approach to handling your employees will go a long way. Give them a reason to trust you and come to you, no matter how delicate  the subject they want to initiate.

Employees who are not afraid of their bosses are the employees that build the foundation of a thriving business.

Encourage Growth

The most significant resource you’ll ever have are your people. Encourage their dreams, listen to their feedback, and be there to help them find a way (not necessarily your way). Empower everyone to give the best they can, and embrace innovation and freedom of expression as their primary business tools.

Growth happens outside the comfort zone, and it requires leaders to practice before they preach. Push yourself to grow from your successes and your mistakes.

If your actions inspire others to learn more, do more, dream more, and become more, consider yourself a great leader.

Being a high-performing leader means being there for your people through the big stuff and the everyday challenges. Mediocre leaders pretend to have the answers and end up with bruised egos when they’re challenged. Superstars find comfort in not knowing it all but in surrounding themselves with great people who do.

If you’re a superstar, you’ll accept that there will be times when you’ll be wrong or challenged, and learn how to navigate the roads on which you might not know the answers. Find inspiration in every team discussion, and respect varying perspectives.

Be the type of leader your employees would want to work for if you ever decide to move.




Simone Brown is a performance coach who helps leaders and teams increase productivity. Her approach is grounded in  behavioural and brain-based strategies. She believes success isn’t just about talents and smarts, it’s about the development of emotional intelligence. Simone is also a speaker, and talks about topics such as emotional intelligence, millennials, and the importance of purpose.

7 Simple Ways to Improve Your Focus

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One of the most common problems that working people face worldwide is the chronic lack of focus.

In a world where we are bombarded with stimuli from social media, apps, and our computers, it’s no wonder we suck at being efficient.

Research indicates that employees on average waste as much as 60 hours every month on various distractions. That’s a significant amount of wasted time.

According to various studies, once your brain is distracted, it takes between 5 and 15 minutes for the brain to recalibrate and get back on track.

In the interest of being focused, let’s jump in and talk about some common focus-killers and effective strategies to tackle this elephant – one bite at a time.

Common Workplace Distractions

  • Phones - Since accessing your social media profiles is a couple of clicks away, it's easy to fall into the temptation to glance at your iPhone every couple of minutes.
  • E-mails - Another time waster is constantly checking emails.
  • Hunger - This one may sound like a no-brainer, but hunger is one of the primary culprits for lack of concentration in the workplace.
  • Multitasking - Often seen as valuable skill, multitasking is actually a nasty vice that's bound to drain your energy and leave you disoriented and disorganized.
  • Idle Chatter - Even though having regular conversations with your colleagues are vital to a healthy corporate culture, too many random interruptions are detrimental to productivity.

Who’s the culprit?

The part of your brain that is the most responsible for managing focus, is the prefrontal cortex.

It is closely connected to key functions such as decision so it’s calling the shots when it comes to managing your thoughts and actions. It also plays a major part in regulating our attention span. Essentially – the part of the brain that is responsible for concentrating on a task, is also the most susceptible to getting distracted.

The good news is that neuroscience research has revealed that our brains are plastic, and they can be trained to become more focused.

So, how do you train your brain? I’ve listed seven ways to do this.

Seven Ways to Improve Your Focus

1. Be Mindful – Mindfulness comes in two forms but I’ll focus on just one of them here – informal mindfulness. This involves paying close attention to the little things we do every day – something we often miss because of the busyness of our work days.

Cultivating it fair fairly simple, but it requires consistency. It also requires you to have an open mind because this stuff may seem a little bizarre. I work with engineers and technical leaders who think initially think this these techniques are silly – until they try it!  

A couple daily practices where you can apply this:

  • The next time you wash your hands, pay close attention to the temperature of the water, watch how your hands interact with the water and soap, Watch closely and be fully immersed in the experience.
  • When you drink your next cup of coffee or tea, observe the smell, taste and even the sound of you sipping that beverage. Again, be in the moment and avoid gulping it down with a phone in one hand and the computer in front of you.

2. Switch It Off – Way too many people check their phones every few minutes. Research indicates that employees tend to spend an average of 56 minutes on their cellphones every day (and that’s just while they’re at work).

We live in a world, where people feel deprived if they don’t have their phones on them. Resisting this device is perhaps one of the most challenging battles of the 21st century. Discipline will help you train your brain to focus on what matters.

Turn your phone off when you’re working on specific projects. And don’t stop there. Put it away -in a drawer or some place you can’t easily access. Seeing it infront of you is enough of a temptation.

Remind yourself that the only time you can take a look at it, is once you’ve completed the piece of work that you were focused on. Sometimes that means putting it away for 30 minutes, sometimes it means 5 hours.

3. Stop The Dinging - If you’re notorious for turning on notifications on your phone or computer, know this - you’re feeding your brain crack. Not literally but close. Research has proven that we get a high from being notified that someone liked our post or sent us a message. Turn those notifications off if it causes you to check your phone every time it findings.

4. Breathe - Engage in the practice of steady breathing by setting aside two minutes each day to notice your breath. Find a comfy spot with little distraction. Breathe in through your nose, breathe out through your mouth. When you breathe in, feel the air enter your lungs, expand into your chest, and then into your stomach. When you exhale, feel the tension being released.

5. Walk -  If you’re feeling unfocused and overwhelmed, stop. Get out of your office or workstation. If possible, get outside and into the fresh air. Walk for about 5 minutes and when you’re back at your desk, the next 55 minutes will be the most productive they’ve been.

6. Create Flow - In his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, the renown psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi states that happiness and joy in life can be achieved through creating a personal raison d’être for ourselves.

Rather than resorting to  external quick-reward mechanisms, having a sort of ‘unifying theme’ in life helps us achieve serenity and joy regardless of the surrounding circumstances and distractions. If you’re interested in human nature and what makes humans move forward, you should definitely check out this book!

7. Meditation - Meditation can do wonders for concentration. Successful entrepreneurs such as Richard Branson, Elon Musk, and even UFC’s tough guy Joe Rogan are known to practice meditation on a daily basis.

Meditating relaxes your tensed up body, clears brain fog, and helps you reset your thoughts in a relatively short period of time. Anyone can do it, and you don’t need a meditation room and a special calming setting to do this. 10 minutes in your office or car might end up being just fine, if that’s all you have.

If you’re unsure how to get started, there’s help, and it’s in the form of an app called Headspace. My clients swear by it.

Now that you know these 7 strategies, you should be less likely to be distracted by cat videos and the dinging of your phone.

Even Tibetan monks are bound to divert their attention from their tasks every now and again, but giving in to various distractions on a regular basis can hamper your productivity and waste tons of time for no good reason.

That being said, the art of focus isn’t rocket science. All you need is a little bit of effort and intention.

Science says that our brains are only as effective as we train them to be so reading this article is step 1. It’s time to put theory into practice.

P.S. If you’re a neuroscience geek like I am, here are some additional techniques to exercise your prefrontal cortex (focus center) and getting it moving like a well-oiled engine.


Simone Brown is a performance coach who helps leaders and teams increase productivity. Her approach is grounded in  behavioural and brain-based strategies. She believes success isn’t just about talents and smarts, it’s about the development of emotional intelligence. Simone is also a speaker, and talks about topics such as emotional intelligence, millennials, and the importance of purpose.

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.”