Archive for Relationships

5 Leadership Capacities That Will Make Your Organization Shine

Want to be energetic? Enthusiastic? Hopeful?

Who doesn’t?!

Are people in your organization energetic, enthusiastic and hopeful?

Here’s the secret. I got it from education writer Michael Fullan, who lays out five leadership capacities in a simple way while weaving in knowledge and research from yesterday’s and today’s thought leaders.

The five critical leadership capacities Fullan describes in his book Leading in a Culture of Change are:

  1. Moral purpose

  2. Understanding change

  3. Relationships, relationships, relationships

  4. Knowledge-building

  5. Coherence-making

If you want an organization filled with people who are energetic, enthusiastic and hopeful, you’ve got to make sure your leadership team embodies these capacities in all they do—and that the entire organization is on board with the culture these capacities make up. This is essentially your organization’s brand.

The challenge for each individual is to live the brand and to let it inform every single decision made for the organization.

Moral Purpose

Moral purpose relates to three key elements necessary for a successful organization: vision, values and purpose. Successful organizations are clear on these, and their employees embody them in every action. For example, if sustainability is one of your organization’s values, you wouldn’t send out countless direct mail pieces printed on glossy unrecycled paper. If you were a public school system with a purpose to educate all students in your district, you wouldn’t discriminate against a student with disabilities or low income. Tony Hsieh used vision, value and purpose as the foundation for his world-renowned start-up Zappos. We all know how that worked out!

Understanding Change

To understand change and get others on board is tricky, and 70 percent of change initiatives fail. This is according to John Kotter, who spent 40 years researching change efforts in thousands of contexts. Do you want to know what works? In his book Leading Change, Kotter outlines the eight change accelerators. Get the book. Read it. It’s great. Why reinvent the wheel?

Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

When talking about building relationships, the first thing that comes to my mind is emotional intelligence. It’s different from IQ in that you can develop it. People with average IQ and high EQ outperform people with high IQ 70 percent of the time. In a nutshell, EQ is understanding yourself and others—combined with having personal motivation and regulation to communicate effectively and navigate relationships. It will get you $29,000 more per year, make you 58 percent more effective at your job and rank you with 90 percent of top performers.

I’ve taught classes on leading with emotional intelligence and written lots of blogs on the topic. You can read some of them here:

Want to Accelerate Your Career? The Magic Formula Equals EI Plus Coaching

What Tops the List of Lessons Learned by a Recent Master in Management Grad?

Hughesisms: Work Ethic Trumps Talent

Knowledge-Building

Knowledge-building and knowledge-sharing are critical for the growth of any person or organization. The challenge is that individuals will not engage in sharing unless they find it motivating to do so. You can encourage their motivation by making them feel valued and connecting it to your organization’s moral purpose.


“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
—John F. Kennedy


Coherence-Making

Finally, to build coherence, a leader must be relentless in the first four capacities—that means having moral purpose, understanding change, developing relationships, and building and sharing knowledge. “The Coherence Framework has four components: focusing direction, cultivating collaborative cultures, deepening learning and securing accountability,” says Fullan in Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts and Systems.

Over time, you will find the most powerful coherence will come from having worked through the ambiguities and complexities of hard-to-solve problems. You will learn as you go. Coherence binds the brand to the culture and creates the culture necessary for the organization—and its people—to flourish.

Develop Your Leadership Capacities

Capiche works with leaders and leadership teams. Let me work with you to develop the five leadership capacities to forge a strong brand and culture. Call 541.601.0114 or email me to get started today.

10 Ways to Make Your Employees Hate You—and Your Company

Mean Boss Yelling at Employee
Narcissistic. Rude. Insensitive. Arrogant. Something tells me you wouldn’t want to hang out with someone who matches this description, much less work for them.

The Costs to Employees

Mean bosses can wreck your work life—and your health. Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers author Robert M. Sapolsky informs us that intermittent stressors like incivility in the workplace not only take a toll on our psychological well-being but also our physiological state.

This kind of chronic stress spikes our glucocorticoid levels, compromising our immune system and ultimately leading to a bevy of health problems ranging from ulcers to heart disease, diabetes to cancer. It also makes us hungry and fat.

Women in one decade-long study, for example, were 38% more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event when subjected to job stress.

The Costs to Business

Misery and poor health are the costs to employees. According to Christine Porath and Christine Pearson, authors of Harvard Business Review article “The Price of Incivility,” the annual cost to an organization can reach the millions.

Why? When the authors polled 800 leaders and employees across 17 industries, they discovered employees responded to incivility in the workplace by:

  • Purposefully slacking off (48%)
  • Spending as little time as possible at work (47%)
  • Producing poorer-quality results (38%)
  • Taking time off due to anxiety about a specific experience (80%) or to avoid encountering an uncivil boss or colleague (63%)
  • Performing worse (66%)
  • Feeling less committed to the organization (78%)
  • Quitting their job (12%)
  • Treating customers poorly (25%)

Boorish Behavior

So what exactly are the emotionally unintelligent behaviors that trigger these responses in employees?

Christine Porath continues her exploration of incivility in The New York Times article “No Time to Be Nice at Work,” identifying the following rude actions as most frequently cited in a recent survey (ordered by frequency):

  • Interrupting others
  • Judging those perceived as different
  • Not listening to opinions
  • Giving oneself the most appealing task and allotting the tough ones to others
  • Not communicating critical details
  • Lacking standard courtesies (no “please”s or “thank-you”s)
  • Being condescending
  • Taking more credit than is due
  • Using foul language
  • Belittling people

A Failure to Communicate

An Interact/Harris Poll of 1,000 US workers revealed 91% of employees felt flawed communication was at the root of poor leadership.

Lou Solomon documents these cardinal communication sins in her Harvard Business Review article “The Top Complaints from Employees About Their Leaders.”

Below are the issues pinpointed by survey participants, ranked according to percentage:

  • Failure to recognize employee accomplishments (63%). As we explored in our series on The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace (see part 1 and part 2), bosses who fail to acknowledge employees’ efforts cause them to feel unappreciated. This leads to burnout, resentment, and a decline in performance.
  • Failure to give clear guidance (57%). Vague or ambiguous directions often reveal the leader’s own incompetence and lack of clarity about the project. How can leaders effectively guide a team when they can’t even articulate their goals?
  • Failure to meet with subordinates (52%). Leaders who don’t take the time to meet with their employees lose a crucial opportunity for connection. Employees do not trust aloof managers.
  • Not bothering to talk to employees (51%). Just as lack of communication is one of the predictors of a failed relationship, so is it an indicator of ineffective leadership.
  • Taking credit for someone else’s work (47%). A boss who claims ownership of employees’ ideas undermines motivation and sows mistrust.
  • Failure to provide constructive criticism (39%). Poor managers tend to insult an employee rather than clearly identifying issues and outlining substantive feedback.
  • Not learning the names of their employees (36%). Why should an employee care about a leader’s objectives when that leader can’t even be bothered to learn her name?
  • Avoiding voice-to-voice contact (34%). Managers who are unavailable to their employees via in-person or phone meetings create a further sense of disconnection.
  • Not getting to know employees (23%). When leaders don’t take the time to chat with employees about non-work topics, employees feel as if their personal lives—and by extension, they themselves—don’t matter to their boss.

Your Stories

What are some of the emotionally unintelligent behaviors you’ve observed in leaders? I’d love to hear about your experiences with bosses from hell. On the flip side, I’d also love to hear about your experiences with bosses from heaven. We can learn from both.

Curious How You Can Change Your Workplace?

Give me a call at 541.601.0114 or email chris@capiche.us. I’m happy to assess your situation and help you develop a plan to improve your work situation.

Want to Accelerate Your Career? The Magic Formula = EI + Coaching

Happy, Successful Leader with Emotional Intelligence
What will get you $29,000 more per year, make you 58% more effective at your job and rank you with 90% of top performers? If you’ve been following this blog, you can probably guess.

Yep, that’s right. Emotional intelligence.

Unless you want to be among the 80% of low-EQ employees classed as “bottom performers,” it’s time to discover how you can accelerate your career and become a better leader by developing your emotional intelligence.

Studies show those with average IQs outshine their highest-IQ counterparts 70% of the time because of their EQ.

Whereas IQ and personality are static elements of your makeup, you can always increase your emotional intelligence (thanks to the wonders of neuroplasticity)—and doing so will make a surprising difference in both your life and work.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

In a recent Forbes article, bestselling coauthor of Emotional Intelligence 2.0 and cofounder of Talent Smart Travis Bradberry describes the two primary competencies and four core skills that make up emotional intelligence.

Personal Competence

This first competency comprises self-awareness (observation) and self-management (actions). Your observation skills, sensitivity and ability to control your emotions come into play here. How conscious are you of your emotions, and how accurate are your self-perceptions? Do you practice mindfulness to remain aware of your emotions, and are you able to take a step back and regulate them when needed? How malleable are you, and can you transform a negative emotion into a positive action?

Social Competence

This competency focuses on social awareness (observation) and relationship management (actions), mapping the reflection and regulation required for personal competence to social situations and relationships. How well do you understand the motives, actions and moods of those around you? Do you intuitively sense people’s emotions and accurately perceive their intentions? Can you use these perceptions to navigate relationships and communicate successfully?

What’s Your EQ?

In an Inc. article, Bradberry outlines 18 key indicators of highly developed emotional intelligence.

Here are a few questions to help you explore your EQ and see how you well you meet Bradberry’s criteria:

  • Do you use a rich range of vocabulary when describing your and others’ emotions? The better you can articulate emotions, the better you can understand and thus manage those emotions.
  • Are you curious about people? Curiosity is a marker of empathy, and it also suggests a natural willingness to listen.
  • Do you welcome change? When your reaction to change is governed by openness and adaptability rather than fear, you will float rather than flounder in the face of transformation.
  • Are you aware of your strengths and weaknesses? If you have a clear sense of your gifts and blind spots, you can leverage your strengths to your advantage while minimizing the impact of your weaknesses.
  • How well can you judge people’s character? This quality is critical to building and leading a successful team.

Ready to Develop Your EI?

Becoming aware of the significance of emotional intelligence is the first step. The second is actively seeking to improve it.

It’s sometimes difficult to objectively evaluate your EI, particularly if you’re one of the many high potentials and middle managers who need to develop this area before they can rise to greatness. Even those who have already achieved success may have difficulty connecting with their employees in meaningful and effective ways.

No matter where you’re at on the EQ scale, you can always benefit from honing your EI. According to Bradberry, “every point increase in emotional intelligence adds $1,300 to an annual salary.”

But monetary rewards are only the beginning. Possessing self-understanding and the ability to control your emotions will give you a greater sense of purpose, peace and well-being. Developing a deeper rapport with your colleagues and employees will increase your effectiveness, their productivity and everyone’s happiness.

The Time Is Now

A co-active leadership coach like Chris Cook can accurately assess your EQ, identify ways to improve your emotional intelligence and give you the tools to do so. Chris will nudge you gently but firmly toward outcomes, holding you accountable while inspiring personal and professional growth.

To schedule a complimentary phone, Skype or in-person consultation with Chris, call 541.601.0114, email chris@capiche.us or complete our Contact form today.

“Let Me Not Die While I Am Still Alive.”

Stormy Sky Clouds
And other lessons from an untimely death.

I think I have a lot in common with 391,833 other Facebook users. I don’t want anyone to miss the essence of Sheryl Sandberg’s message from June 3 sharing her feelings and realizations from the 30-day religious mourning period following her husband’s unexpected death.

My thoughts keep going back to her Facebook post on losing her husband, Silicon Valley entrepreneur Dave Goldberg. What she shared can make us all stronger, more emotionally intelligent and better parents, children and friends.

She now understands the one-line prayer, “Let me not die while I am still alive,” shared by her childhood friend, now a rabbi.

She understands that “when tragedy occurs, it presents a choice. You can give in to the void, the emptiness that fills your heart, your lungs, constricts your ability to think or even breathe. Or you can try to find meaning. These past thirty days, I have spent many of my moments lost in that void. And I know that many future moments will be consumed by the vast emptiness as well. But when I can, I want to choose life and meaning.”

And empathy—Sheryl shines a new light on the power of empathy. In the past, she would have thought exhibiting empathy would look something like trying to reassure someone things would get better or—as many of us do—to put a silver lining on it, “Well, at least you had a great marriage for 11 years,” or “Thank goodness you have your children.”

Sheryl says it’s all about truth. “Real empathy is sometimes not insisting that it will be okay but acknowledging that it is not. When people say to me, ‘You and your children will find happiness again,’ my heart tells me, yes, I believe that, but I know I will never feel pure joy again. Those who have said, ‘You will find a new normal, but it will never be as good’ comfort me more because they know and speak the truth. Even a simple ‘How are you?’—almost always asked with the best of intentions—is better replaced with ‘How are you today?’ When I am asked ‘How are you?’ I stop myself from shouting, ‘My husband died a month ago, how do you think I am?’ When I hear ‘How are you today?’ I realize the person knows that the best I can do right now is to get through each day.”

She also learned that resilience can be learned. Her friend Adam M. Grant taught her about the three components that create resilience: “Personalization—realizing it is not my fault. He told me to ban the word ‘sorry.’ To tell myself over and over, This is not my fault. Permanence—remembering that I won’t feel like this forever. This will get better. Pervasiveness—this does not have to affect every area of my life; the ability to compartmentalize is healthy.”

Thanks for sharing, Sheryl. We’ve looked up to you as a highly successful female executive and bestselling author. Your book, Lean In, inspired us women to get out there and claim our place in the world of business. Your recent Facebook post inspires us and teaches us how important it is to choose meaning and life, impart empathy and learn to be resilient. How are you today?

Links to other articles and blogs on Sheryl’s post can be found at The New York Times.

What’s the Best Blend of Mentoring and Coaching?

Mentee Artwork (Orange Fields Green Mountains with Lamb)

All artwork by a girl Chris mentored for five years as part of the Soroptimist Strong Girls Strong Women program

Coaching and mentoring are close to my heart. Now a certified coach, I am fortunate to be in contact with a mentor I have had since my senior year in college over three decades ago. A retired journalist and professor, she is an author, a woman of great wisdom—and still my mentor.

Because of my experience in mentoring, coaching training and work with leaders related to emotional intelligence, I have been asked to lead a workshop at the University of New Mexico’s Mentoring Institute Annual Conference this year. The topic is “Developing Excellence in Leadership and Coaching—for Mentors.”

This blog post features an interview about that workshop.

Interview with Chris Cook

In this edition of Mentoring and Coaching Monthly, you will find an interview with 2016 Pre-Conference Workshop leader Chris Cook. Her workshop, “Developing Excellence in Leadership and Coaching—for Mentors,” is sure to have something for everyone.

Mentee Artwork (Girl in Mixed Media)Q: Can you describe your background? How did you get into mentoring?

A: My background includes 30+ years in marketing for professional services, higher education, nonprofits and other businesses. A few years ago, I earned a master in management degree, and in the process I found positive psychology. I loved it! I found a way to mesh marketing and positive psychology in work that focuses on helping organizations develop and live their brand. There’s a lot of coaching involved—and some mentoring.

For coaching, I trained at the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) and at CRR Global, and I am certified by the International Coaches Federation. I work with a variety of individuals and organizations.

I am both a mentor and a coach. Actually, coaching and mentoring are very close. There is a distinction though. Mentors work with mentees who want to learn the skills and knowledge their mentors have developed to further their life goals. Coaches work with clients to help them discover their greatest purpose, passion and values and to help them lead/live intentionally—in resonant choice.

As a mentor and a coach, I’ve found there are times in which you need to be one and not the other. Part of this workshop is to help mentors learn how and when to use skills that come from the coaching profession to augment their mentoring skills.

Mentee Artwork (Bird Collage)Q: What else can those attending your workshop expect?

A: They can expect 3+ hours of hands-on, experiential learning. I will share tools I have used over the years, and we will practice and talk about ways to use them in different situations. I expect the participants will learn as much from each other as they will from me!

Q: Without giving too much away, can you describe the co-active coaching model and the relationship systems model?

A: The co-active coaching model was developed by Karen Kimsey-House and Henry Kimsey-House—two pioneers in the coaching world and cofounders of the Coaches Training Institute. It emphasizes a partnership between the client and the coach, and it also promotes a combination of deepening understanding (co) and forwarding the action (active).

The relationship systems model I use is based on work by Marita Fridjhon and Faith Fuller, the cofounders of CRR Global. The premise is that we are all in relationship—with ourselves, our partners, teams, organizations, etc. Here we coach the system, not the individuals.

Both coaching methods have been used around the world and in nearly every type of organization with nearly every kind of person.

Mentee Artwork (Composition in Yellow)
Q: Do you believe that everyone has the potential for creativity?

A: One of the most basic premises of coaching using these methods is that we believe the people/systems are naturally intelligent and creative and resourceful.

Q: What constitutes an effective leader/coach?

A: There are several skills that are critical—mostly based on having highly developed emotional intelligence. The good part is EI can be learned. It can be developed. It’s not like IQ, which you are born with a level and that’s the level where it remains.

Q: Is an effective leader born, or can anyone learn to lead effectively?

A: I believe people can learn emotional intelligence, and, with that, they can learn leadership skills and tools. The competencies of EI—self-awareness, self-regulation/motivation, empathy and relationship awareness—are the foundation to all relationships. Leaders set the stage for how the relationship—or organization—will work together.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to those entering into a leadership position?

A: Find a mentor and get a coach. There’s nothing like having someone help you through a transition, help you grow in a new role and help you develop your own leadership style. Plus, it’s true when they say, “It’s lonely at the top.” A mentor and a coach will be your ally, and they will hold you accountable to take the steps to maximize your potential.

What I Like About You

What I Like About You Notes


Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well. —Voltaire


How important is it to let people around you know what you value about them? Why would you bother? Why take the time?

A quick Google search offers about 615,000 reasons.

My answer: It’s essential if you are looking to energize, motivate, develop or lead.

In my Working with Emotional Intelligence class at Southern Oregon University the other night, we did a little exercise called What I Like About You. Yes, it was performed to the music of The Romantics, and the students loved it.

Here’s how it worked: everyone had a piece of paper taped to their backs. Students made their way around the room and wrote a few words on each of their fellows’ backs. The messages focused on what they like or appreciate about each other (only one “kick me”—written in jest, of course, as these guys have great senses of humor and camaraderie).

Why this exercise? Self-awareness is a key component to emotional intelligence, and sometimes it helps to check in with others. We don’t always see what others see in us. Usually, we see our warts and feel slow and earthbound, while others see the glimmer in our eyes and notice our ability to come up with creative ideas.

And don’t forget that recognizing the good in someone only strengthens your own happiness.

Next time you have the chance to tell someone something you admire or appreciate about them, don’t be shy. You will both be better for it.

SOU’s Working with Emotional Intelligence class is part of an exciting new program called Innovation and Leadership. It’s a degree completion program for working adults.

The Secret to Exceeding Customer Expectations

Coding ZEAL Leaders
Above: Trever Yarrish, Sean Culver, and Adam Cuppy (photo by Jim Craven; courtesy of The Southern Oregon Edge)

What do coffee, code, and marketing have in common? For Adam Cuppy, Trever Yarrish and Sean Culver—founders of the wildly successful Coding ZEAL based here in Southern Oregon—it doesn’t matter what they have in common. What matters is the experience customers have while enjoying your product and interacting with your company.

“It’s not about the product you think you’re selling,” said Adam in a recent interview I conducted with him for The Southern Oregon Edge. “It really is about the relationships.… Ask yourself what is the experience you’re going to provide to the people that are going to consume it.”

In 2007, Yarrish and Cuppy left their stint as Dutch Bros. marketing and creative directors to create a marketing company in Grants Pass. Six years later, they partnered up again—this time joined by Sean Culver—to found a superhero-flavored development company in Medford.

Guided by the principle of zeal, the founders sought to “create an amazing experience.” Discussing the origin of the name “Zeal,” Adam says, “What I love about the name was I looked it up and it said ‘gross unadulterated enthusiasm.’ What’s more amazing and audacious than that? What says nothing about programming and everything about the experience? ‘Zeal’ does.”

Sure, the quality of your product matters, but what matters more is how you answer the question, “What am I going to do to blow people’s minds? What am I going to do make raving fans?”

And Coding ZEAL has done just that. With clients ranging from Mavenlink.com to Oregon Shakespeare Festival, SilverCloud to Scratch-it.com, the company has seen 1400 percent annual growth since its launch.

Agility is at the heart of their success. “We’re an agile agency,” says Trever, “so when technology changes, we move where we need to move.”

This fluidity allows the company to focus on not only satisfying customers but on wowing them.

Coding ZEAL Customer Expectations Versus RealityTo illustrate this concept, Adam draws two columns, one representing customer expectations and the other reality, each with a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The customer relationship begins when expectations meet reality.

A customer usually starts by expecting an average experience—a 5, say. If you give them what they expect, no lasting impression will be made. If you give them a 4 or worse, you’ve not only lost the opportunity to build brand loyalty, but that customer may go on to complain publicly, leading to the loss of other potential customers.

“So instead what we’re going to do is they come in and they get a 7. They come in and we’re going to take an opportunity to blow their mind somehow, some way,” explains Adam.

But that’s just the beginning. Now that they’ve had a 7 experience, their expectations will change, and they’ll want a 7 again next time. So what do you have to do as a company? You up the ante. You give them an 8.

With each new interaction, you deliver an even better experience. Once a relationship is built, you just have to sustain that level of service. Even if a bump occurs along the path, the customer is going to be more forgiving because of the positive relationship you’ve established.

Using this model of expectation dilemmas, a company that consistently achieves between an 8 and a 10 discovers “this wonderful, wonderful thing,” says Trever. “Right there is the secret to success in forming loyalty.”

Empathy is key to continually exceeding customer expectations. “We are trying to always understand where you’re at, what you’re needs are, what’s most important to you,” says Trever.

At Coding ZEAL, questions drive the conversation. They don’t assume they know what customers want.

“As leaders, our responsibility is to ask questions constantly,” says Trever. “One of those questions can be, ‘So how can we speak to our customers more clearly? Where are our customers? Who can we service better every single day?’”

In the end, it’s all about that fundamental connection between two people. The company, the product—those are ephemeral. What the customer will go away remembering, what they will feel and think and what will impact their future buying decisions, occurs in that magical moment of interaction.

For Cuppy, Yarrish, Culver and their happy employees, zeal “is not just a word and it’s not just a logo. The excitement and energy that’s wrapped around our brand is real and authentic and we mean it,” says Adam. “Every day, it’s about waking up and feeling that level of excitement and reaching out with that intention, with the intention that we’re going to connect with our clients. We’re going to connect with each other. We’re going to connect with our culture, our environment.”

Our next post will explore Coding ZEAL’s insights into leadership and employee happiness.

Naughty or Nice: Which Makes for a More Effective Leader?

Mean Boss

Which boss do you think achieves better results—the one who inspires by kindness or by fear?

Despite the inroads made by science of happiness researchers in recent years, the general consensus in business culture still seems to be that the tougher the leader, the more productive the employees.

Many believe fear goes hand in hand with hard work and that “softer” leaders won’t earn the respect of their employees, rendering them less effective.

What does the research say? A recent Harvard Business Review article (“The Hard Data on Being a Nice Boss” by Emma Seppälä) reveals tougher bosses generate higher levels of stress, not performance.

According to Stanford Associate Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education Seppälä, these higher levels of stress “carry a number of costs to employers and employees alike.”

These costs include:

1) Healthcare

A stressed employees costs an organization 46 percent more than a healthy, happy employee, partly due to the link between stress and coronary heart disease.

2) Turnover

Stressed employees avoid the workplace through whatever means possible, whether by calling in sick, seeking a new position, or simply quitting, according to research by S. Bridger, A.J. Day, and K. Morton.

Why Be Nice?

On the other hand, nice leaders tend to have higher-performing, happier, and healthier employees.

Here are some of the reasons why:

1) Trust

Harvard Business School Associate Professor of Business Administration and social psychologist Amy Cuddy has demonstrated that managers who convey warmth get better results than harsh ones, even when the tough bosses are more competent. Employees are more likely to trust a person who practices compassion and understanding.

2) Altruism

Leaders who put others above themselves gain a higher status within the group, according to the article “Nice Guys Finish First: The Competitive Altruism Hypothesis.”

3) Fairness

When managers are perceived as being fair to everyone on their team, employees not only perform at higher levels but also become better citizens themselves.

4) Inspiration

According to research by New York University Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership Jonathan Haidt, managers who demonstrate self-sacrificial behavior inspire employees to become more selfless, too. They are not only more helpful and kind to their coworkers but also more loyal to the company. Gretchen Gavett explores the contagious effects of paying it forward in an HBR article titled “The Paying-It-Forward Payoff.”

5) Stress Reduction

More than just a bumper sticker, random acts of kindness reduce stress, making people feel safer and therefore less stressed. Managers who foster a nurturing environment and encourage positive social interactions may actually boost employees’ immune systems and lower their incidences of heart disease. On the other hand, bosses who pit employees against one another and sow division cause stress levels to spike.

6) Engagement

Most of us already understand why employee engagement is crucial, and research connecting engagement to well-being only strengthens the argument for nice bosses since compassionate leadership, altruism, and integrity spark employee engagement.

7) Happiness

If you’re a follower of this blog, you also know happiness trumps high pay. As we discussed in our 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace series (see part 1 and part 2), it is far more important for employees to feel recognized and appreciated. When a workplace exhibits a culture of friendliness, helpfulness, and warmth, improvements are seen in areas ranging from customer service to performance to health and wellness to client satisfaction.

It’s time to shift the consensus that naughty is better than nice when it comes to leadership. Let the holiday call to be good for goodness’ sake carry over into the workplace—throughout the year.

Blue Ocean Leadership: 4 Steps to Boosting Employee Engagement

Surfer on a Blue Ocean Wave
There are half a trillion reasons why every American should care about employee disengagement. They’re called dollar bills, and that’s how many the US economy loses annually because of the 20% of discontented employees who undermine workplace productivity, according to Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report.

That counterproductive 20% is abetted by the 50% of apathetic employees who simply punch the clock and then count the minutes until they can punch out.

What about the remaining 30%? Those are the lonely few who are dedicated to doing the best job they can.

And why do you think one-fifth of the American workforce is so discontented? You guessed it. Poor leadership.

Blue Ocean Strategy

INSEAD professors of strategy and management; codirectors of the Blue Ocean Strategy Institute in France; and Blue Ocean Strategy authors W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne offer some fresh ideas about how to reinvigorate the dispassionate 70%. They wrote about their findings in the May 2014 issue of Harvard Business Review.

Originally designed as a marketing model aimed at converting noncustomers into customers, Blue Ocean Strategy translates surprisingly well to the workplace. Viewing leadership from this new perspective, Kim and Mauborgne realized the fifth of disengaged employees represent the leaders’ noncustomers. That’s when they decided to apply their marketing strategy to building employee engagement—with stellar results.

Think about leadership as a service employees either buy or don’t buy. What can turn those non-buyers into loyal customers?

3 Leadership Approaches

According to the authors’ hundreds of interviews with managers and employees over the past decade, the following leadership approaches can help trigger the conversion.

1) Focus on acts and activities.

Instead of worrying about what kinds of people leaders should be, concentrate on what actions they can take to boost employee motivation and productivity. Actions are not only easier to change than personality traits, but they are also more measurable.

2) Tap into market realities.

Translated to the workplace, this means asking employees what leaders are doing wrong as well as what they could start doing to inspire employees to thrive.

3) Distribute leadership across all management levels.

Often organizations focus on executive leadership, but it’s the middle and frontline managers who tend to know employees better. By distributing leadership responsibilities across the top, middle, and frontline managers, organizations can access a deep well of often-untapped talent, thus enhancing engagement across the organization.

4 Steps to Stronger Leaders and More Engaged Employees

1) Recognize your leadership reality.

You have to understand where your leadership stands before you can plot a strategy for improvement. By using analytic visuals called As-Is Leadership Canvases, organizations can assess employees’ perceptions of how the top, middle, and frontline managers spend their time and energy. A cross-section of 12–15 respected managers leads this companywide conversation, with three subteams each focused on a different level of leadership. The team then compiles Leadership Profiles after a month to six weeks’ worth of interviews. These profiles identify the 10–15 dominant leadership acts and activities at each level based on how frequently they were mentioned during the interview process. The As-Is canvas charts these factors on the horizontal axis of the grid, while the degree to which leaders practice them is registered on the vertical axis. Typically, 20 to 40% of the acts managers tend to practice offer little value to employees, while on the flipside, 20 to 40% of the acts employees consider valuable are underpracticed by managers.

2) Develop alternative leadership profiles.

Once the team understands what managers are doing poorly as well as what they could be doing better, they can visualize positive alternative profiles. The team looks for cold spots (time-consuming acts that yield few benefits) and hot spots (actions not currently being taken that have the potential to energize employees). A second round of interviews is conducted to create the Blue Ocean Leadership Grid featuring these four areas:

a) Eliminate wasteful acts and activities.
b) Reduce not terribly beneficial acts and activities.
c) Raise existing beneficial acts and activities.
d) Create new beneficial acts and activities.

This grid is used to draft two to four possible To-Be Leadership Profiles.

3) Pick To-Be Leadership Profiles.

These aspirational leadership profiles are then presented at a “Leadership Fair” by the subteams. Participants include top, middle, and frontline managers as well as board members. The original senior team presents the As-Is canvases, establishing the need for change. This is followed by the subteams’ presentation of the To-Be profiles for each management group. The attendees vote on their favorite leadership profile, and the senior executives then ask attendees what prompted their votes.

4) Institutionalize new leadership practices.

The selected To-Be profiles are distributed to the top, middle, and frontline leaders, and meetings are held to discuss the actions that should be eliminated, reduced, raised, and created. Monthly follow-up meetings document employees’ feedback on their managers’ progress toward the new profiles. This routine check-in reinforces the desired changes and encourages accountability.

Fair Process

The principles of fair process—engagement, explanation, and expectation clarity—govern the four steps of Blue Ocean Leadership. Employees and managers at all levels feel ownership in the process, thus overcoming resistance to change and creating a sense of buy-in. Crucially, fair process fosters trust across the organization.

Get Started

Are you ready to try out Blue Ocean Leadership at your organization? Contact me at 541-601-0114 or chris@capiche.us to start the conversation today.

See the Blue Ocean Leadership website for more details.

The 5 Languages of Appreciation: Motivating Employees by Developing a Culture of Appreciation (Part 2)

Happy Employees Shaking Hands

In this post, we pick up the conversation about Dr. Paul E. White and Dr. Gary Chapman’s The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace begun in our last post.

The 5 Languages of Appreciation

Words of Affirmation

This is the most common form of appreciation expressed in the workplace, and it is especially important to practice with individuals whose primary language of appreciation is verbal praise.

Here are a few ways to apply words of affirmation in the workplace:

  1. Praise individual employees for specific accomplishments.
  2. Notice and affirm personal character traits.
  3. Focus on positive personality traits that benefit the workplace.

When you praise positive behavior, the employee is more likely to repeat that behavior.

Praise and recognition can be public or private; introverted employees may prefer a quieter approach, while others will feel most appreciated when praise is shared in front of coworkers.

Individual, one-on-one expressions of appreciation are the most valued and thus the most effective approach. Sending emails or texts thanking an employee for a particular project or praising a specific characteristic are also effective. In a world where nearly all written communication is digital, handwritten notes can be especially meaningful.

Quality Time

If an employee’s language of appreciation is quality time, she will respond positively to the following actions:

  1. Offer your undivided attention, like so:
    • Maintain eye contact while talking.
    • Don’t multitask.
    • Listen for thoughts and feelings.
    • Affirm those feelings—even if you disagree.
    • Observe body language and respond accordingly.
    • Don’t interrupt (the average person listens 17 seconds before interrupting—try to beat that record).
  2. Find opportunities to create shared experiences.
  3. Engage in small group dialogue.
  4. Be in close physical proximity while accomplishing projects.

Working side by side on a shared goal creates a sense of quality time, even if you are working independently.

Physical presence isn’t enough to create a sense of quality time, however—you need to be emotionally present, too.

Acts of Service

For those who value acts of service, actions speak louder than words. Here are several ways to express appreciation to those who fall into this category:

  1. Ask if they want help.
  2. Offer your service voluntarily.
  3. Cultivate a cheerful attitude while helping out.
  4. Do it their way (you want them to feel the task is done “right”; otherwise, the service could backfire and make them feel they’d be better off doing it themselves).
  5. Complete what you start so they’re not left with an unfinished task (or warn them in advance that you can only help with a portion of the project, asking if they still want your help).

Receiving Gifts

A thoughtfully chosen gift suited to the individual can have an enormous impact on people whose primary language is tangible gifts. On the other hand, a poorly selected gift can give offense.

We are not talking about raises or monetary gifts; it has to be personal to the individual for it to be perceived as an expression of appreciation.

Here are a few tips on gift-gifting:

  1. Reserve gifts for those who list gifts as their primary or secondary language as gifts will likely have little impact on others.
  2. Give a gift the person values.
  3. Gifts are not always a thing; it can also be an experience like tickets to the theatre or a favorite sporting event.
  4. Time off from work can be a greatly appreciated gift.

Physical Touch

While there can be appropriate expressions of physical touch in the workplace—a friendly high-five, pat on the back, handshake, fist bump, hand on the shoulder or hug during a personal tragedy—this appreciation language is the trickiest to apply in a work environment.

The interpretation of touch varies widely according to individuals, the organizational subculture, and a person’s history with abuse. The risk of physical touch being perceived as sexual harassment is high in a culture where touch has been so highly sexualized.

Our research reveals that touch is the least important language for the workplace setting. Individuals who may have a primary language of physical touch in their romantic relationship may have an entirely different language in the workplace.

For those who do value touch as an expression of appreciation, however, affirming, non-sexual touches can be important.

The safest way to tell whether touch is an appropriate form of expression for that individual is to observe the employee’s behavior to see if he uses physical touch as an expression of appreciation to others. If a person stiffens in response to touch, that’s a good indication they are uncomfortable being touched.

3 Ways to Discover a Person’s Primary Language

Three-quarters of people intuitively express appreciation in their own language. This raises two significant points: 1) you can usually guess a person’s language of appreciation by observing how they express it to others and 2) just because you convey appreciation through your preferred language does not mean the recipient will feel appreciated. If you do not share the same language, the expression will fall on deaf ears.

To informally assess a person’s language of appreciation:

  1. Observe their behavior.
  2. Listen to their requests.
  3. Notice what they complain about (this usually reveals emotional hurts related to their language of appreciation).

MBA Inventory

Chapman and White developed the Motivating by Appreciation (MBA) inventory to help individuals and organizations assess employees’ languages of appreciation. It costs $10 to take the standard test, but you will get an access code for free with your purchase of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.

After completing the MBA inventory, you will receive a report detailing your primary language, secondary language, and least valued language. The report also contains an action action checklist that others can reference as they learn how to express appreciation to you.

Individuals may wish to take the MBA inventory and then forward the report to their supervisors to open the lines of communication about appreciation.

Even better is if an organization decides to embark on an assessment process together. I would be happy to help facilitate the assessment and implementation process. If you are interested, give me a call at 541-601-0114 or email chris@capiche.us.

More Details

Visit the Appreciation at Work website for a list of resources, assessments, training tools and videos on the research presented in The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace.

Your Results

If you take the MBA inventory, tell us how it goes! We’re eager to hear how communicating appreciation plays out in your workplace and life.