Category Archives: Motivation

The problem is not the problem….

Best of HigherEDge, first published on June 24, 2013.

Interestingly, this post from 2013 is one of the most-read on our blog. I’m not sure if it’s because of topic or the fact that it contains a nice photo of Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. Still, the core message is enduring. While we can’t always control the circumstances we are in, we can control our reactions. This lesson has been even more important to me personally as I’ve worked the last 15 months to recover from a brain injury and tried to choose gratitude each day, rather than anger and frustration or sadness and a positive attitude, rather than a negative one. It’s made all the difference in the world. – Anita Rios

Ok. I have to admit that I’m not your usual Pirates of the Caribbean fan, but I do love this movie quote from Captain Jack Sparrow. Let me explain why. A few months ago, I experienced a few big disappointments. I know my natural response to those disappointments could negatively impact my team, their productivity, their confidence in me, and as a result,  their service to others. (If you recall Dee Anne’s blog about mood contagion, she outlines why it is so important for leaders to maintain a positive attitude and how it impacts our service to our customers.) I used this picture and quote as a daily reminder to keep my focus on maintaining a positive attitude, even though my gut reaction was exactly the opposite. I can’t say that I was successful every day, but this daily reminder helped me to focus on what I could control: my reactions.

Shawn Achor, one of the world’s leading experts on human potential, takes this idea further in his book The Happiness Advantage. Drawing from positive psychology, Achor builds a case that positivity or happiness fuels success for ourselves, the people we lead, and our organizations. He says that, “when we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work.” He also demonstrates how this discovery has been borne out by research in neuroscience, psychology, management studies, and organizations around the world.

He outlines seven principles in his book:

  1. The Happiness Advantage: how happiness gives your brain and your organization the competitive edge
  2. The Fulcrum and the Lever: changing your performance by changing your mindset
  3. The Tetris Effect: training your brain to capitalize on possibility
  4. Falling Up: capitalizing on the downs to build upward momentum
  5. The Zorro Circle: how limiting your focus to small, manageable goals can expand your sphere of power
  6. The 20-Second Rule: how to turn bad habits into good ones by minimizing barriers to change
  7. Social Investment: why social support is your single greatest asset

If you’re trying to lead and excel with increased workloads, stress, and negativity or you want to build on a positive culture you have developed, I encourage you to pick up a copy of Achor’s book.

What strategies do you have for cultivating happiness and a positive attitude in yourself and others?

Anita Rios

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One size DOESN’T fit all

Standardization and consistency are necessary but not sufficient if you want to be a leader that truly helps your people thrive. As my humorous picture depicts: people are not the same! They need different sizes and types of leadership from you. Different strokes for different folks informs individualized consideration which is the fourth I of transformational leadership.

Individualized consideration focuses on the importance of leaders recognizing the unique characteristics of each person on their team, respecting and valuing their uniqueness, and most importantly taking different actions based on their unique needs and strengths.

The first step starts at a personal level. Individualized concern asks leaders to genuinely demonstrate awareness and interest in the individual needs or concerns of their people.  Next your leadership actions must vary and be customized to bring out best in each person on the team.

Sounds challenging and it is. However small steps matter and people appreciate authentic interest. Informal conversations, purposeful checking in, listening and being open to new perspectives will help you detect what is important to each person on your team. Do they like data? Are they drawn to the concerns of others? Do deadlines energize them? Are they focused on new ideas? Do they want clear processes or structure? You get the idea.

Acknowledging the uniqueness of the people you lead and supporting them so they can leverage their strengths will unleash the potential in your team.

Todd Thorsgaard

Follow the leader

It takes more than saying the right things to be a transformational leader; you have to do the right things! And that takes work.

Through their work transformational leaders demonstrate Idealized Influence, the first of the 4 I’s that Anita described in her post on Monday.  Just like the lead biker in a team time trial, they don’t just have a powerful message or good ideas. They lead by example. They are the type of leader who isn’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and work along side you.

In fact, through their actions they become such a positive role model that people are inspired to follow. The following actions or behaviors are often listed when people describe a transformational leader. They:

  • Walk the talk
  • Would never ask you to do something they wouldn’t do
  • Stay true to their values without worrying about outside opinions
  • Spread enthusiasm and integrity
  • Provide real-life examples through their actions
  • Take personal risks when it is the right thing to do
  • Inspire through action

Becoming a more transformational leader is a lot of work, but the trust and engagement you build can set the stage for success.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

 

 

Where’s the meaning?

where-is-the-meaningIf the people on your team have to ask “Where is the meaning in my work?” something is wrong!

In his book  Meaning, Inc. , Gurnek Bains ecourages leaders to bring the organization’s mission and vision to life through meaningful work. Between actual work time and digital connections people spend over half of their waking hours “at work.” Understanding how those work activities are making a contribution to customers (students at Minnesota State), the community or larger society will make work more meaningful.

While each person on your team has their own personal values and beliefs about what is important, there are actions that leaders can take to strengthen meaning at work.  Bains identifies the following leadership activities that help create more meaningful work:

  • Discussing and supporting personal stretch goals that are related to the vision.
  • Focusing on the unique strengths and talents that each person brings to work.
  • Documenting, evaluating, providing feedback and highlighting each person’s work and contribution to group efforts.
  • Clearly linking individual and team work activities and accomplishments to wider issues.
  • Ensuring that short-term goals don’t conflict with the deeper organizational purpose.
  • Role modeling stated ideals.

Making sure your people know the difference their work makes in the lives of other people builds meaning. And meaning is powerful.

Todd Thorsgaard

Passion? At work?

passioninspirationwork2Last week at our New Administrator Orientation program Chancellor Steven Rosenstone shared his passion for why he comes to work each day and clearly articulated why the work we all do is important.

He spoke about the shared common core value that our colleges and universities are focused on: providing an opportunity for all Minnesotans to create a better future for themselves. He reminded us that our work as leaders is crucial to ensuring that our colleges and universities meet that challenge and that is why we do what we do. His passion was evident and it was infectious!

Author James R Lucas in his book, The Passionate Organization: Igniting the Fire of Employee Commitment, suggests that articulating and sharing your organizational vision with passion helps guide and focus the work people do and enhance commitment. This requires a vision that has two key components:

  1. What is your organization’s purpose – the strategic vision. The what and how of your organization.
  2. What are your organization’s values – the cultural vision. This is the element that is often missing or not communicated by leaders. It is the why of your organization.

Passion is expressed when you focus on making a difference and clearly articulate how people’s day to day work contributes directly to the shared values of your organization.

Yes, passion does belong at work!

Todd

 

Find the sweet spot!

diagram_sweet-spot_clear-background-3-1024x804Author Dan Pontefract has released a new book that I found energizing and I encourage you to check it out. In The Purpose Effect (2016) he suggests that leaders can help their people recognize the “sweet spot” where the organizational mission overlaps with their role purpose and their own personal vision. You can read a summary of the book here – getAbstract

The sweet spot is the space where people feel engaged in their work, energized by how they can make a contribution and clearly understand the contributions their organization makes to their stakeholders. As leaders we rarely have the opportunity to be involved in the crafting of the organizational mission and vision but we can connect it to the day to day work being done and the unique aspirations of each person on your team.

Pontefract suggests that leaders focus on understanding and facilitating two-way dialogue in these three areas:

  1. Individual and personal goals or purpose and how they relate to the day to day work.
    • what motivates the people on your team?
    • how do they want to develop themselves?
    • what most interests them in their job?
    • how can you and the organization support their success?
  2. The organizational purpose, mission and vision.
    • what are your organization’s values?
    • how does the organization live out it’s purpose?
    • what are examples of the organizational purpose?
  3. Role-based purpose.
    • how do individual roles contribute to the success of the organization?
    • where do individual roles make a difference to stakeholders?
    • how can a leader recognize individual role contributions to the success of the department or organization?

Taking the time to understand each of these three areas is the first step. Then taking the time to consistently help your team members find their own personal sweet spot at work will help you bring your mission and vision to life.

Todd Thorsgaard

The dreaded review!

h-WOMAN-TALKING-OFFICE-628x314A leader at one of our schools remarked that when done right, performance reviews can be energizing and uplifting but when done wrong they are demoralizing. It appears that the latter is what is happening in most organizations. David Ulrich, the Rensis Likert Professor of Business at the University of Michigan and the “Godfather of HR” just published an article in the  latest issue of Talent Quarterly titled “Resolving the Performance Management Paradox.” He cites that 90% of HR professionals are unhappy with their review system, only 14% of CEOs believe that the review system is working and only 8% of HR executives believe that performance management makes a contribution to the success of the organization. Yet, he also cites a long history of studies that clearly indicate that accountability makes a difference. In fact one study identified that just the presence of a performance review system is the greatest predictor of success for hospitals. What can a leader do?

Ulrich recommends that regardless of the process or forms used, leaders embrace conversations:  conversations focused on what he calls “positive accountability,” conversations emphasizing learning and improvement opportunities rather than evaluating what went wrong, and conversations primarily focused on the future rather than the past. He suggests that leaders look for opportunities to engage in “real time” conversations that are ongoing and revolve around work events (projects, semester start or finish, work cycle periods, annual milestones, etc.) Leaders should focus on asking questions to discover how employees can sustain success and prepare for the future and help their people look forward to apply what they have learned and address new opportunities or challenges that arise.

A simple conversational model for leaders to use with their performance review process includes the following three steps:

  • Know Yourself – ask about and discuss each person’s strengths, weaknesses, passions and interests.
  • Action for Growth – ideas and concrete action to leverage individual strengths and interests to support success and on-going development.
  • My Value – dialogue focused on the value that each employee provides to the work unit, institution, students, stakeholders or overall organization.

By focusing less on the process and more on the conversation we can make performance reviews a more uplifting experience.

Todd Thorsgaard