LEADERSHIP RESOURCES BLOG

Guidance on leadership development & strategic planning.

5 Phrases to Use for Effective Workplace Criticism

By Leadership Resources 10/19/2020
Leadership resources 5 phrases use effective workplace criticism

Delivering criticism to a team can be a significant cause of leadership stress for many leaders. It’s not always easy to find the proper balance between sugar-coated comment and pointless put-down. But when someone makes a mistake, requires correction, or falls short of their duties, ignoring or obfuscating the issue is more harmful to your workplace culture than addressing it head-on.

So, how can you deal criticism in a way that lets your team member know where they went wrong, and, just as importantly, how they can improve? Let’s examine 5 phrases that can serve as templates or starting points for more effective workplace criticism.

1. “I like where this is headed. Let’s see what we can improve…”

This is a powerful phrase to employ when your team or team member suggests an idea that has merit but plenty of flaws. Rather than starting with the problems, begin with a sincere recognition of the idea’s potential. This will energize the team while also focusing everyone’s efforts on trimming the fat and making necessary changes.

2. “The team could really benefit from more of your input.”

If you’re a team manager, you may experience an occasional imbalance in effort and input from your employees. Sometimes a minority of the team makes most of the calls. Or, perhaps a single team member rarely, or never, contributes to the creative process. When this happens, don’t just tell them to talk more during meetings. Instead, let them know that the team is lacking an important piece of the puzzle. This often motivates a less assertive team member to make their opinion known.

3. “This area seems to be a challenge for you.”

We all have our weaknesses. The key is identifying them so we know which areas we must work to improve. But it’s not always easy to make out our own faults. One of the most important leadership traits is being able to not only identify these problem areas in your team members, but also point them out without hesitation or ambiguity. Using the above phrase provides a solid entry point into this conversation, as it doesn’t personally attack the individual in question but still addresses the concern.

4. “You haven’t been meeting your performance goals/expectations.”

By letting a staff member know in simple terms that they haven’t been meeting their expectations, you accomplish a few important things. First, you reiterate what’s objectively expected of them, as laid out in previous conversations. Second, you open the door for a conversation on why these goals aren’t being met. And third, you can begin crafting a tangible performance management strategy for getting back on track. This is more effective than telling them they’re not doing a good job, or demanding results without a reminder of the company’s expectations.

5. “What do you think could have happened differently?”

Finally, effective leadership depends on reciprocity and communication. If you’re going to lead well, the conversation must go both ways. So, when someone messes up, make sure you ask what they thought of the situation, and how they might have handled it differently. To avoid coming off as patronizing, sincerely listen to what they have to say and give your thoughts as well.

No matter the circumstance, coming up with constructive criticism is a challenge for all leaders, but vital to maintaining an open and productive workplace. The above phrases are just a handful of examples that can help you address important issues without making it personal or sowing seeds of resentment.

At Leadership Resources, our purpose is making the impossible possible through people. We aim to do so by helping individuals develop patterns of success that will decrease stress levels and maximize productivity. Contact us here to learn more about what we do and how it can help your business succeed and grow.

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What Employees Want in a Leader: Exploring the Most In-Demand Leadership Skills

By Leadership Resources 11/07/2018
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By now, most of us are familiar with the bad leader trope. Shows and movies like The Office and Horrible Bosses parody the worst possible qualities a boss could have, some of which may ring true to life. These so-called leaders lack empathy, fail at communicating, speak rashly, micromanage, and unwittingly abuse their employees. As a result, their employees become bitter, resentful, indifferent, or too distracted to do a good job.

While we clearly see what makes for poor leadership, it’s a bit less clear to discern what employees truly want in their leaders. Interestingly enough, we can find these answers by looking at the inverse behavior of these awful fictional bosses. The best leaders exhibit qualities that actually encourage employees to work harder. Let’s examine why by looking at five of the most in-demand leadership skills.

Honesty

A good leader shouldn’t lie to or hide things from his/her employees. There are of course exceptions when it comes to confidential information. But in general, leaders must be as transparent as possible. This means giving honest feedback to staff, admitting mistakes when they occur, and letting everyone in on new goals, developments, and challenges. Any HR business consultant can tell you that a leader who exhibits honesty will encourage honesty in employees, creating an open atmosphere where problems aren’t bottled up to fester and burst.

Responsiveness

Like honesty, responsiveness involves maintaining a clear line of communication between leaders and employees. Leaders must be able and willing to hear concerns and criticism from employees and then act on them. Bad leaders always think they’re in the right and scoff at negative feedback while doling it out. Good leaders accept any and all feedback and take action to resolve problems, whether or not they’re responsible for them to begin with. When employees see that their leaders truly listen to them, they’ll want to listen to their leaders as well.

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Clear Instructions and Feedback

When consulting a business advisor to improve your company’s operations, they’ll probably indicate the importance of clarity. Clear instructions and guidelines help everyone do their job better. There should always be some flexibility, of course. But overall, employees will work harder and do a better job if they know exactly what they’re doing and why. If things aren’t completely clear or someone makes a mistake, they should also receive descriptive and constructive criticism to prevent these errors in the future. The best leaders train their employees with precise, coherent instructions, giving them helpful tips, corrections, and methods along the way.

Trust and Independence

If a leader has displayed honesty and trained his/her people well, employees should be trusted to do their job with little interference. According to business consulting services and employees, micromanagement is one of the least helpful and most annoying methods of leadership to deal with. Whether employees work in teams or alone, they want to be left to their work and trusted to do it well. If they have questions, they should feel comfortable enough to approach their leaders. Leaders should trust their people enough to not have to check in every half hour and pull them away from their work.

Passion

Employees want to work for someone who cares, not only about them but about the work being done. Indifference and cynicism can become highly contagious and negatively affect the entire workplace. Likewise, positive energy, devotion, and excitement can spread even faster. Even if not all employees share the same level of passion as their leaders, they will naturally feel better about their work if they encounter this energy. Of course, effective leadership doesn’t mean ignoring bad things when they happen, but remaining positive and seeking solutions rather than dwelling on the negative.

You may notice that the fictional bosses mentioned earlier carry none of these qualities, at least not until the final act. And to be fair, some of these skills can be difficult to hone, which is why executive coaching programs can come in handy. These programs help leaders develop skills such as responsiveness and transparency. Things like passion can’t necessarily be taught, but they can be expressed in helpful ways. Employees will naturally work harder for leaders with these qualities and will develop leadership traits of their own. Leadership Resources provides tools for leaders as they grow to become even better. Contact us here to learn more.

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Beyond the "$#it" Sandwich: How to Plan for Effective Course Corrections with Feedback to Leaders

By Leadership Resources 10/19/2018
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No one enjoys giving or receiving negative feedback. Those on the receiving end might feel small and incompetent, while those dishing it out might feel they’re being too harsh … or not harsh enough. No matter what, both parties feel uncomfortable. However, giving feedback is a crucial part of employee performance management. The problem is knowing how to go about it.

People often fall into the trap of serving the “$#it sandwich.” This useful slang term refers to negative feedback squished between two soft, bland buns of positive sentiment in the form of irrelevant praise. The intention here is to soften the blow and minimize the bad taste left from hard criticism. However, delivering a $#it sandwich often results in a worse outcome than offering direct feedback. Why is this? And how can leaders give feedback to employees without disguising or diluting it?

Why the $#it Sandwich Goes Bad

Effective leadership depends on transparency. The $#it sandwich approach to feedback is antithetical to this. When leaders insert their true feedback between compliments and niceties, the message quickly gets lost, and the receiver often feels patronized and confused. This isn’t to say that those giving the feedback should be intentionally mean, of course. Rather, all feedback, good and bad, should be to the point. This will allow the person receiving it to understand exactly what he/she did right or wrong, making course correction easier to handle.

Better Ways to Deliver Feedback

For leaders to improve their business performance management, they need to go beyond the $#it sandwich. There are several better ways to give feedback, but they all follow the same principles.

  1. Avoid the Ego

The human ego makes feedback delivery and reception very difficult. We often feel personally attacked when hearing about our mistakes. Delivering feedback can feel personal too, as the giver might feel self-conscious about how this interaction will affect the relationship. It’s not easy to detach oneself from the ego, but leaders can find ways to give feedback that focuses more on the problem and less on the people. This is a difficult balance to strike because the people involved have to be the ones making the change.

Still, leaders can help erase the ego from the equation by focusing on the future rather than past. In other words, negative feedback shouldn’t simply dwell on a person’s past mistakes. Rather, it should address the problem before quickly moving toward a future scenario in which things have improved. This still keeps the employee accountable but provides a more objective pathway for correcting errors.

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  1. Establish an Atmosphere of Openness

When the workplace is closed off in terms of communication, any feedback feels abrupt and even offensive. Conversely, work environments that encourage questions, criticisms, changes, and friendly dialogue allow feedback to flow naturally. Employees and leaders are constantly giving each other feedback in this type of open space so that even the harshest criticisms are understood to be constructive and normal. Staff members will naturally become closer and more connected so that the flimsy bread of the $#it sandwich becomes an unnecessary platitude, thrown away altogether.

  1. Keep Reviews Consistent

Another way to avoid the abruptness of negative feedback is to create a regular performance management review system for all employees. These can be monthly, bi-annual, or annual check-ins with employees to go over areas of improvement, make suggestions, and discuss the concerns of both parties. There is always a risk of making these reviews too formal and rigid, however. While these surveys should include specific items, the review itself should flow like a conversation where both parties truly feel engaged.

Conducting these reviews well will take the $#it sandwich and expand it into an organic meal. This is a space for both positive and negative feedback, but none of it will feel crammed in, hidden, or artificially procured. Additionally, the focus of these reviews should be more on the future than the past. In other words, leaders and employees should examine how the previous period of time went, but use it as a springboard for making course corrections in the future. The regularity of these examinations will keep employees and leaders aware of the present moment at all times.

Learning how to give and receive feedback is one of the most challenging and important leadership qualities to develop. Leaders should aim to establish a workplace open to communication, detached from egos, and structured enough so that everyone receives feedback on a regular basis. Leadership Resources can help leaders develop ways of giving feedback that go beyond the failings of a $#it sandwich. Contact us here to learn more.

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Increase Office Productivity: The Best Practices for Motivating Employees

By Leadership Resources 10/05/2018
Leadership resources: Increase office productivity best practices motivating employees

Employees are motivated to work for various reasons. For some, making money to support themselves or their family is enough. Others find meaning in the work itself and wish to advance their careers in order to accomplish even more. Of course, not every employee will feel motivated all the time. Stress, external responsibilities, and/or a feeling of stagnation can all significantly decrease office productivity. Let’s see how managers motivate employees and increase productivity.

Communication is Key

Communication is one of the most important leadership qualities. Nearly every problem in the office stems from poor communication. Without the proper channels for communication, information gets lost or misunderstood. Employees and managers struggle to see each other’s point of view, leading to further problems in the office.

Conversely, good communication (listening intently, sharing ideas, being honest) can resolve many issues between employees and managers. Better yet, proper communication can help generate ideas that push a business forward. When every employee feels open to sharing and receiving ideas, they will feel more motivated to do the best work.

Cultivate Collaboration

While some employees prefer working on their own, there is something to be said for a strong team. A business that promotes collaboration is bound to see an improvement in employee productivity. Of course, teamwork only works if every team member can work together. A bad matchup or poor communication can lead to arguments, passivity, or sloppy work. Managers should take the time to get to know employees to build the best teams within the company so that people build off each other’s strengths to promote more productivity.

Empower People

One of the reasons for decreased productivity is that employees don’t feel their actions or ideas make a difference. This lack of self-esteem, warranted or not, can become contagious, affecting the whole office. Effective leadership means empowering every employee, regardless of job title. Employees should feel that they have the right to speak up, be heard, and take action. Of course, guidelines should be set to delineate certain responsibilities. But within these guidelines, people should know that their work matters and that they have the ability to make changes that will benefit the whole office. This sense of empowerment will encourage productivity.

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Highlight Good Performance

Recognition is a key element of employee productivity management. Employees who work hard, try new things, and treat others well deserve to be recognized. These accolades can be inputted into an employee management system. Complimenting people regularly has major positive effects that go beyond the individual. Not only does the person feel good for this recognition, but others will also see that hard work and decency doesn’t go unnoticed. While most people do good deeds altruistically, this added incentive creates a more positive atmosphere all around. Employees will feel that their work really does matter.

Build a Culture and Community

Work isn’t always fun, but a workplace can promote fun activities both inside and outside of the office. Friendly competitions, group lunches, parties for milestones or holidays, and voluntary programs all contribute to establishing a stronger office culture and community. Employees and managers will find new ways to bond beyond office duties. Strengthening this work culture promotes productivity, as each staff member feels a sense of obligation to everyone else. In this way, the whole office becomes a team where every individual plays an important role.

No two people are motivated by the same exact set of things. However, these five practices tend to increase employee productivity across the board. In the end, it’s all about communication, collaboration, empowerment, recognition, and culture. People who work in environments that promote these things will be happier, have higher self-esteem, and be more productive.

If you’re a leader, you should focus on developing these practices. At Leadership Resources, our purpose is making the impossible possible through people. We aim to do so by helping individuals develop patterns of success that will decrease stress levels and maximize productivity. Contact us here to learn more.

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5 Tips for Planning Sustainable and Lasting Growth for Your Business

By Leadership Resources 10/04/2018
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For a business to thrive in today’s market, it must follow a sustainable business growth strategy. Developing such a strategy presents a challenge for all business leaders, but while all businesses differ in some ways, a good business growth strategy features characteristics that apply to any business. Let’s examine five tips for planning sustainable and lasting growth for your business.

  1. Stay Mission-Driven

At the root of every business should be a mission or vision. What are the broader goals of your business, its purpose? A clear mission statement provides a foundation for all business operations moving forward. This applies to leaders, employees, and customers. Leaders can always come back to the mantra during challenging times or when teaching others. When coming aboard, staff members should immediately learn the business’ mission and understand how they can contribute to advancing it.

Customers and clients should also be aware of the mission. A business should boldly scribe their mission statement on their website and in their offices and storefronts. By making these objectives known, everyone involved with the business gets a better idea of its brand, its purpose, and its goals for the future.

  1. Create a Recognizable, Strong Brand

Business development and brand development go hand in hand. A coherent mission is at the core of a business’ brand, but brands go even further into the psyche. We all know the power of brand by the coffee cups we see or hold on a daily basis, the shoes on our feet, or the phones in our pockets. These brands have become inherently valuable, from their logo to their place in the social sphere.

To develop a brand, you’ll need a stark marketing campaign. Your business should feature an elegant and recognizable logo and motto that’s ready to be printed on any object imaginable. These images and words should evoke the mission and character of the business and its marketing. If done correctly, the logo will become synonymous with the business and its mission, creating a truly powerful brand.

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  1. Focus on Developing Effective Leadership

A ship won’t get very far without a competent captain and clear roles. To avoid a shipwreck or mutiny, a business must instill its values into its leaders and encourage leadership development. Employees should feel empowered in the workplace to speak up, ask questions, and be heard. This type of environment doesn’t just increase productivity, it increases the overall value of a business.

Websites like Glassdoor.com feature public comments from previous employees that reveal the inner workings of a business. When people learn of a business’ poor leadership, they may rescind their brand loyalty and go elsewhere. However, effective leadership helps retain employees and leaves a far better impression for the public eye. And the more leaders, the better, so long as everyone can work collaboratively.

  1. Establish Solid Partnerships

Your business doesn’t exist in a vacuum. To optimize the output of that sales growth formula, it needs the help of external resources, such as marketers, distributors, accountants, lawyers, and more. It’s crucial to work with the right people and build a relationship of mutual trust. Though your business is not responsible for the mistakes or failures of a partner, it must react to these eventualities in the proper way by either cutting ties or helping to ameliorate the situation.

  1. Build Internal and External Communities

Business development is all about people, both inside and outside of the company. This is why it’s so important to foster a positive work culture and expand that atmosphere externally. These spheres will influence each other. Internally, employees and leaders should trust one another to make decisions and change course when necessary. On the outside, customers should feel at home when stepping into a storefront or office space. Providing little comforts like complimentary coffee or water can go a long way.

The digital space has opened several doors for building communities. Staying active on social media by posting often and engaging with customers makes a big difference and doubles as a marketing tool. Everyone should feel welcome and involved in the business, regardless of their stake in it.

By creating a salient mission, imbuing it with a strong brand, instilling this in leaders and partners, and cultivating a positive community, businesses have a better chance of growing and staying relevant for years to come. Leaders can learn about even more business growth solutions via Leadership Resources. Our purpose is making the impossible possible through people. We aim to do so by helping individuals develop patterns of success that will decrease stress levels and maximize productivity. Contact us here to learn more.

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How Self Care Can Improve Your Performance as a Leader

By Leadership Resources 10/03/2018
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Some modern media have portrayed the hardworking leader as a sleep-deprived, stubborn, borderline manic individual obsessed with the bottom line and neglectful of self care. While some people do fit this category, most do not. This stereotype can be harmful even if it’s meant to lampoon and discourage this behavior.

In reality, the best leaders make time to take care of themselves physically, mentally, and emotionally. Being able to balance the challenges of work with the importance of self care is one of the most important leadership qualities. Failing to achieve this balance is a strategic error and bleeds out into the rest of the business.

Ignoring the needs of one’s mind and body hurts one’s ability to think, focus, and help others in need. Conversely, engaging in self care boosts the mind, body, and spirit, which lifts those in proximity up as well. Here’s a deeper dive into how self care can improve your performance as a leader.

  1. Proper Sleep: Alertness and Ability to React

The science of sleep still largely remains a mystery, but researchers have found a critical link between good sleep and improved work performance. The National Sleep Foundation reports that 29% of workers regularly feel sleepy while at work. Missing out on a good night’s sleep can consistently lead to a loss of focus and increased irritability.

When work piles up and deadlines loom, people often put sleep on the back burner. This is a big mistake. The importance of proper sleep can’t be overstated, especially for leaders. Effective leadership depends on maximum alertness. By sacrificing these precious hours of slumber, leaders are less equipped to react to challenges, prioritize tasks, and help other employees deal with stress of their own. Conversely, getting proper sleep allows one’s mind to refresh, retain important information, and handle new problems as they come.

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  1. Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

While improper sleep plagues a large chunk of the population, so does poor nutrition and exercise. So many workers and leaders are always rushing from one place or task to the next. To keep things moving, people may skip meals or grab the nearest, fastest option from the vending machine, fast food line, or microwave. While these choices may be convenient, they can do serious harm to one’s work performance.

Foods low in nutritional value can result in more trips to the bathroom, sure. But beyond this, they can also negatively impact brain function. Nutritional science is ever evolving, but most studies have shown that a diet of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and minimal sugar contribute to improved mental health. Additionally, regular exercise doesn’t just improve metabolic function and burn calories, it also produces endorphins which increases alertness, reduces tension, and improves mood. In this way, eating well and exercising are two of the best ways of managing leadership stress.

  1. Setting an Example: Helping Others with Self Care

Self care does not equate to selfishness. Quite the opposite. By practicing self care, leaders can do more for employees. How can managers help employees deal with stress? First, they can share their own experiences of dealing with stress with employees. By giving advice on sleep patterns, diet, exercise, and other methods of stress reduction, leaders can set a great example for the workplace.

Additionally, leaders who practice self care will have more energy to help employees. With enough rest and restoration, leaders can prioritize their workload to set aside time for helping others, honing these crucial leadership skills. With a workforce committed to self care, everyone benefits – and so does productivity.

Leadership in times of stress and change truly tests one’s abilities. Self care should remain at the forefront during these times, for the sake of leaders, employees, and the business itself. At Leadership Resources, our purpose is making the impossible possible through people. We aim to do so by helping individuals develop patterns of success that will decrease stress levels and maximize productivity.    For more information, contact us here.

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