Rewiring Leadership

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Leadership is often seen as a power position. But the best leaders, though, are the ones that don’t exercise power over their people, but rather strive to serve them.

At some point in time, our view of leadership got distorted from service to power. When people become leaders, we give them a new title, a raise and a corner office. We think these things are the givens of becoming a leader.

However, the perks of leadership are only seen as relevant to the team if the leader has shown they are willing to serve the team – that they are willing to sacrifice, take accountability, continually give, and take on the heart ache of leading others. When this is done for the betterment of the team, people have no problem providing the rewards of leadership. But they must be earned first.  

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. What characteristics do you think define a good leader?

  2. What characteristics do you think define a bad leader?

  3. How should your organization decide who becomes a leader?

Gratitude requires work

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Gratitude is an important quality to develop in life. We should all learn to be thankful, show appreciation and be kind. However, sometimes gratitude is seen as a passive action. When things get hard – when life sucks – you should just be grateful for what you have.

Gratitude isn’t only about turning a blind eye to what you don’t like and accepting what you have. Gratitude is just as much about counting your opportunities to make change, as well as your blessings.

It’s about appreciating the fact you have a voice you can speak up with. And using it.

It’s about being thankful for your ability to make a different choice. And choosing to.

It’s about being grateful for having the chance to own your decisions. And doing it.

Gratitude allows us to see the good that we currently have in our lives, as well as the good we can achieve.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. What are you grateful for in your life?

  2. How do you use gratitude to improve your life?

  3. What can you do as a team/organization to use gratitude to improve our culture and performance?

Making the sacrifice

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We’ve long held that the definition of a great team is people who go out of their way to make one another look good. While talking about this with a client the other day, they added what we think is a brilliant point. They said a team is a group of people who are happy and willing to sacrifice for one another.

Sacrifice – that’s everything isn’t it? It’s easy to say we want the best for one another and will help each other get it, but what happens when it comes at our own disadvantage? Do we step up to the plate then? A strong team knows that every sacrifice of the individual leads to the success of the group, and that, when necessary, the team will sacrifice for them as well.

This ability to sacrifice comes from high levels of trust between members and a clear purpose for the team. People understand what they are trying to achieve and that they will reach it by helping one another be their best.

So, whether it’s through time, effort, comfort, resources, creativity or a 100 other ways, our willingness to sacrifice for one another shows our dedication and commitment to our team.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Describe a time when someone on your team sacrificed for you. How did it make you feel?

  2. Describe a time when you sacrificed for someone on your team. Why were you willing to do it?

  3. What can you do as a team or organization to make sacrificing something people are willing to do for one another?

Lunch Notes

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There’s nothing nicer than a surprise note in your lunch box – really a surprise note at any time just brightens your day.

Spread some joy in your workplace by using our version of “lunch notes” for your co-workers. Click the image below to print the PDF, cut them up and write an encouraging note on the back. Tuck them away somewhere where they will find them and smile.

We could all use a little more joy and appreciation in our lives. Start today.

The first selfie

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People have a love/hate relationship with selfies. You’ve either spent time perfected the right pose and angle to capture a good image, or think they are the worst because you have short T-Rex arms like me. Whether your social media feed is filled with them or you think they are the bane of society, most would agree that the selfie is a relatively modern act.

However, the first self-portrait to be taken by a photographer was in 1839 by Robert Cornelius. Selfies were quite common in the early days of photography. One could argue that even before photography made self-portraits possible, we’ve always been obsessed with images of ourselves – people sat for hours to have their portraits painted and I’m sure even early cave people took a crack at drawing themselves on the walls of their homes. Even the selfie-stick itself isn’t a new invention, check out this photo taken in 1926.

While some people see the selfie as self-absorbed, I think it just speaks to our incredible need to be seen and valued. We want people to remember we are here and reinforce that we matter. Cell phones have just given us the tool to do this on an entirely new level.

This need is something we should keep at the forefront of our mind when dealing with other people – at work, home and in the community. The more we can do to show people we recognize them, the more they will be committed to us. After all, we stay loyal to the ones that value us.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. What does it feel like when you don’t think people value your time, effort or presence?

  2. How do you show people that they matter (at work and home)?

  3. In what ways do you like to be recognized?

Taking hits for the team

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Last night I got kicked in the face. My nose bled and I now have a slightly fat upper lip. When it happened, I made sure to congratulate the owner of the foot.

Let’s roll that back a bit. I’ve been doing fitness kickboxing for the last few years. Recently, I took up learning more of the technical aspects of the sport and this includes weekly sparring. Last night was sparring night. I always find sparring an interesting experience. People are doing their best not to get hit, but when they do, you always hear them giving kudos to their opponent – a punch to the head is a “nice shot”, a kick to the stomach is a “good job”.

It’s a pain (quite literally) but one we are all willing to endure happily because it means the other person is improving and us poor suckers on the receiving end are learning.

It turns out, when you are part of a good team, you’ll put up with quite a bit of pain and struggle to help one another. When we feel connected to our team members and care about their development, we will put ourselves on the line for them, knowing they’ll do the same for us.

This is what builds resiliency, perseverance and strength in teams – when we are willing to be open and vulnerable with others to help them grow and when we are willing to put our own comfort aside for the betterment of the team. And, in the end, we all reap the benefits.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Can you give an example of when a team member put your needs ahead of their own to help you?

  2. Can you give an example of when you put a team member’s needs ahead of your own to help them?

  3. What can you do more of as a team/company to encourage and promote this type of behaviour?

It's just talk

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Why do we struggle so much with communication? It comes naturally to us. We do it all day long – in person, on phones, through text and email. When we aren’t using our voices, we’re doing it with our bodies instead.

Communication often becomes our downfall because while we are proficiently skilled in the technicalities of how to do it, we lose sight of why we are doing it. At the core of all communication is the need to keep a relationship strong and healthy. Every instance of communication we have with someone either adds or subtracts from this goal. Whether it’s about a deadline, a project or lunch next week, underlying it all is the relationship.

To maintain relationships, we need to take the time and attention needed to communicate clearly, listen attentively and be respectful. While I believe that every person we come in contact with deserves this, the relationships we rely on are especially important. Surprisingly, these are often the very ones we take for granted. The people we communicate with most often are the ones we get lazy with and expect to forgive our communication gaffs. But too much poor communication will eventually erode even the best relationship.

When you are communicating with people, ask yourself, “What’s my responsibility to this relationship?” Communicate accordingly.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. On a scale of 1-10, how important do you think communication is to your relationships?

  2. When a relationship is important to you, how does it impact the way you communicate?

  3. What can you do to improve your communication with others?

This is your life

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We don’t go to work to do a job every day. We go to work to live our lives. We like to segregate work from our “real” lives, but there is no difference. We can’t draw a line in the sand with work on one side and life on the other, there are no boundaries. Work will be there when we climb into bed at night and home will be there when we walk into work in the morning.

This is why ensuring people are happy, engaged, confident and proud at work is so important. The average person will spend thousands of days at work. Thousands. We all have a responsibility to make sure this time is not wasted simply checking boxes and making it to the end of the week. Let’s make sure we are all living the best lives we can – no matter where we are at the time.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Do you feel that your work and life are two separate things? Why?

  2. How does work impact your life outside of it? And vice versa?

  3. What can you do as a team and/or organization to ensure people are living their best lives at work?

For the love of food

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This week we were at the HRPA Conference and Tradeshow meeting some awesome people and having great conversations. As part of our time there, we asked people to tell us how they “human up” in their workplaces – how they show care and commitment to others. People had all kinds of great answers, but what struck us the most was how many of them revolve around food.

When you think of about it, it’s not really surprising. Food brings us together, it always has. Food is survival, but it’s also when we build our strongest social connections. When we share not only about our day, but about our values, our interests, our past, and future aspirations. Food comforts and relaxes us and leaves us open to sharing and connecting.

Studies show that when teams take the time to eat with one another, they work better together away from the table. They are better collaborators and problem-solvers. They just mesh better.

So, don’t forego the lunch room for a sandwich at your desk. Encourage people to have a bite together.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. How often during the week do you eat with co-workers or have a coffee together? What prevents you from doing this more often?

  2. What types of conversations do you have when you spend time eating with team members?

  3. What can you do as a team or organization to encourage people to share a meal together?

It's not you (but it really is)

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Feedback comes in two general forms – feedback on skills and feedback on personality. While feedback on either can be difficult to hear, feedback on skills is the easier of the two. Improving skills or learning new skills is more removed from our self-esteem and is easier to achieve.

However, how do you change your personality? How do you not take it to heart? This is the feedback that really hits hard. Whether it be that you are too emotional, too cold, too open, too closed, too loud, too quiet, too something – or, on the flip side – not enough of something else.  

The reality is, you probably aren’t going to be able to change your personality all that much. After all, it’s who you are. You can’t easily excise part of yourself. What you can do, is make the choice to change your actions.

But, why would you do this? You do this when it will lead to better relationships with others, and when it will allow you to do your job better. Sometimes, it is necessary to adjust the way we engage with others in order to build better connections, communicate more clearly and work through conflict. And at times, our jobs will require us to step outside of what is comfortable for us in order to do them more effectively.

At the end of the day, most people don’t need to change who they are, but we all need to recognize that there will be times we need to adjust our actions for our own benefit.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Describe a time when you’ve been given feedback about your personality. How did it feel?

  2. Do you change the way you act with certain people to get along better?

  3. Do you have to act in ways outside your comfort zone sometimes to do your job better?

Culture packs a punch

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Culture is often discussed as a defensive business move – we need to keep employees happy so that they don’t become disengaged. But good culture is an offensive strategy.

A good culture does more than keep employees from being unhappy. It creates an environment where healthy conflict is possible allowing people to overcome obstacles effectively. It facilitates strong social connections that promote higher levels of collaboration. It encourages people to take smart risks and explore innovative ideas and concepts. It allows open communication at all levels, so people are informed and knowledgeable. It inspires creativity and new ways of doing things.

Creating a healthy culture isn’t something that’s just nice for employees – it’s a necessity for a successful company.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. How does your culture allow you to do your job well?

  2. What impact would a negative culture have on your productivity?

  3. What can you do as a team or organization to increase the offensive impact of your culture?

Instructions for humans

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There’s no instructional manual for being a human. And if there was one it would be filled with corrections, adjustments and exemptions. The closest thing I’ve found to explaining human beings is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. If you aren’t familiar, Maslow proposed that our behaviour is driven by our unmet needs. He listed these needs as Physiological (food, water, warmth, rest); Safety (shelter, security); Belonging and Love (intimate relationships, friends); Esteem (prestige, accomplishment); and Self-Actualization (achieving one’s full potential, creative activities).

If you are ever left wondering why a person is acting a certain way, or even the motivations for your own behaviours, look to Maslow’s hierarchy. You can learn quite a bit about people when you tie their actions back to their needs.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Give an example when one of Maslow’s needs motivated your behaviour in a positive way.

  2. Give an example when one of Maslow’s needs motivated your behaviour in a negative way.

  3. What can you do more of as a team to help each other meet your fundamental needs in a positive way?

What’s holding you back?

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Kurt Cobain said, “No one is afraid of heights, they’re afraid of falling down. No one is afraid of saying I love you, they’re afraid of the answer.”

Often, we mistake the root of what is holding us and others back. We think we’re afraid of public speaking because it’s scary to talk in front of a room full of people. But what we’re really afraid of is not the speaking, but the audience not liking us.

We think we don’t give feedback because we’re worried about upsetting someone when mostly we’re concerned with how we’ll have to deal with the person after we upset them.

We’re not afraid of the new project. We’re afraid of the new project failing and what it will mean to our career. Or, we’re afraid the new project will be a brilliant success and we’ll be expected to do it again.

It is not the action, but the consequence, and its impact on us, that creates the stress. When we can train ourselves to handle the consequences – both good and bad – then we will be more prepared to step forward into the risk.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Think of one thing you are afraid of doing. What is the root cause of that fear?

  2. What can you do to better handle the consequences of the fear?

  3. What can you do as an organization or team to better equip people to take more risks?

Lovin' change

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A new year is just around the corner and with it comes the ambitious New Year’s Resolutions. Or as I like to refer to mine, January Resolutions because that’s usually how long they last.

If you’re looking to extend your resolution past January in 2019, here’s a tip courtesy of Seth Godin. Seth says that the key to changemaking is to fall in love with a different version of the future.

If you want to stay committed to the new actions or behaviours necessary, you need to create for yourself a clear, exciting story of what your future will look like once you’ve achieved the change. The more you can see it and feel it, the easier it will be to do what is required to get there.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Did you make a New Year’s Resolution for 2019?

  2. What steps do you need to take to achieve it?

  3. Have you created a story that allows you to fall in love with the new future with the change?

Put your mission and vision to work

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Your mission and vision are not just nice words that go on your website or a wall. Your mission and vision are important tools that should be used every day. They are not just inspirational platitudes, but important instruments for those working on the nitty-gritty aspects of the business.

The company’s mission and vision are decision-making filters. When faced with a decision – whether involving a product, customer service, team relationship, leadership dilemma, etc. – you need to decide if it aligns with the mission and vision. Does it represent what the organization is striving for? The mission and vision are the truth test. Do we believe enough in our goals to ensure we are doing what needs to be done to achieve them?

This is the purpose of your mission and vision – to guide your employees’ actions and behaviours. If yours are not clear enough to do this, then you should consider re-vamping them. There is no excuse for employees not to know the company’s mission and vision. They should be something they think about every day.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Do you know the mission and vision for your organization?

  2. How clearly can you connect your mission and vision to your daily work?

  3. How often do you use your mission and vision to make decisions? How can you do so more often?

Human Up

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We spent the better part of the last century, and the beginning of this one, figuring out ways to automate work. We’ve created machines, processes, and computers to streamline our labour and make it more efficient.

However, while we’ve eliminated downtime, errors, and simple conversations around the coffee maker in search of more productivity, we’ve stripped ourselves of the humanity that makes our work truly matter.

If we want to make a difference through our work now, we need to human up. We need people to make mistakes to find better ways to do their jobs. We need people to take risks that open up new opportunities. We need people to argue and butt heads so we gain new levels of understanding. We need people to just sit and talk to build stronger relationships.

We need to stop thinking machines are the only answer and remember that behind every great discovery was a group of people. Let’s embrace what makes us human.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. What human qualities are important to your work?

  2. What can you do more of as a team or company to bring more humanity to your company?

  3. What one thing can you do today to human up?

Making feedback not suck

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Most of us don’t respond well to feedback. We intuitively understand that feedback is important to our growth and development – not just professionally, but personally too. But we tend to shy away from it.

Receiving feedback can be a painful process. We take it personally – hitting us in our ego. It can be demoralizing. I strongly believe that most people want to do a good job and be good people, so when they receive feedback, it can seem like those two things are under attack.

So how can we learn to not only accept feedback, but maybe, in time, embrace it?

The key to taking feedback well and learning from it is by having confidence and self-awareness.

We all use different methods to do things. Sometimes our style isn’t the same as others. And that’s okay, as long as we accept the differences will still lead to the same result. We can choose to change our ways or not. We can adopt new ways of thinking or not. There’s no need to get bent out of shape when we are faced with new suggestions. Just be confident in your own path, or confident enough to be open to new ones.

Other times, we may very well have dropped the ball. It’s alright to mess up sometimes. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. Feedback (when it’s given for the right reasons) means someone cared enough about you to show you the error of your ways with the hope it will help you in the future. Have the awareness that we all make mistakes sometimes; it doesn’t mean you’re stupid or unworthy. Be grateful for others who are there to gently put you back on your feet.

As Aristotle said, “There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” Be confident, be self-aware, and don’t fear feedback.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. What (if anything) makes it hard for you to receive feedback?

  2. Are you in the habit of asking for feedback?

  3. What can you do to become more comfortable receiving feedback?

Mattering moves us

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If you want to drive up levels of engagement in your organization or team and motivate people to bring their A game to their work, one of the best things you can do is make sure they know they matter.

We all want to matter. We all want to feel like we are important, that the work we do is valuable, and that we would be missed if we weren’t there to do it.

Mattering is both something others give us, but also something we give ourselves.

We need to feel appreciated by others. We need to have those conversations where we see how we fit with our group. We need to have our strengths recognized and utilized.

But we also need to see our own value. We need to believe deep down that we have something to give that no one else can. We need to feel we are worthy of belonging to a team. We need to feel confident and comfortable putting ourselves out there.

When we feel like we matter, it moves us, but we must always remember that it’s both an outside and inside job.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. What is something other people do that makes you feel like you matter?

  2. What is something you do for yourself that makes you feel like you matter?

  3. What are things you can do more of to make other people feel like they matter and to make yourself feel valued?

Do you have an elephant?

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I want to hear about your problems. Or more accurately, I want to hear about how you deal with your problems. It’s easy to congratulate ourselves on having a great company or team when things are going well. It’s when issues arise that we are truly tested.

Healthy organizations view problems not as things to avoid, hide or punish but to grow and learn from in the future. They trust their employees to own their mistakes, point out problems and work together to make improvements.

So how do you measure up?

  • Are people comfortable speaking up when they’ve made a mistake?

  • Are they comfortable speaking up when they see others make a mistake (including their leaders)?

  • Are they skilled at letting others know they’ve made a mistake or there’s a problem without causing unnecessary conflict?

  • Do people distance themselves from people who’ve made mistakes or have a problem rather than trying to help them?

  • Do people own their mistakes and come up with solutions to fix them or do they play the blame game?

  • Does the organization see mistakes and problems as opportunities for learning and growth or punishment?

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. How many questions were you able to answer positively?

  2. If you couldn’t answer some of the questions positively, what do you think is causing the distrust?

  3. What can you do as a team to create a culture that embraces mistakes and problems?

In praise of the weird

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Fear of rejection handcuffs too many of our organizations into mediocrity.

As humans, we strive to belong. We need the security and love that comes from being part of a group. Because we dread being left out in the cold, we learn from an early age to hide the parts of us that we don’t think will be accepted – to soften the hard edges and swallow thoughts unsaid.

We deny the parts of us that make us different. The very parts of us that would elevate the groups we belong to – that would make them stronger and better. Conformity never leads to creativity and innovation, it only leads to more people toeing the line into infinity. But the odd, and the weird, and the unique have a way of fostering all kinds of ideas and growth.

If we want to rise above average, we must start by giving one another permission to let their strange sides come out of the shadows. We need to embrace the weird and let it show us the wonderful things it can do.

A Team Human Conversation

Fight workplace zombies in your organization and join Team Human! Gather a group of fellow workplace zombie hunters to discuss our most recent blog post. Use the questions below to kick start your conversation.

  1. Have you ever held back a part of yourself, or not spoken up because you were afraid of what other people in your group might think?

  2. Do you feel that what you had to contribute would have benefited the group?

  3. What can you do more as a team to encourage people to not hold back?