Category Archives: Motivation

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

 

Communicate to accelerate!

Accelerate-455x687“Great communication – no matter the topic – always connects with people’s feelings and with what they find meaningful.”

John Kotter from his latest book, Accelerate: XLR8

Can you remember projects that you “got to” work on compared to projects that you “had to” work on. The feeling of energy and the opportunity to do work that made a difference. I recently listened to one of our state university presidents talk about the amazing and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity we have to contribute to transforming higher education. All of us felt the emotion in his message and it resonated with meaning for each of us.

In his latest book, XLR8, John Kotter shares ideas to help leaders communicate in a way that creates this type of “get-to” mindset. Communication that “captures people’s attention in a way that almost compels” them to engage in their work with messages that describe both the urgency and the opportunity to make a difference in a meaningful way.

A starting point for leaders is to focus and align people’s energy and enthusiasm using what Kotter calls “Big Opportunity” statements. These statements must include both emotion and reason. At Minnesota State Colleges and Universities we have an opportunity in front of us that is described in the following statement:

Charting the Future is a strategic effort to help change how we work and encourage collaboration among MnSCU institutions to better prepare our students for success and achieving a more prosperous Minnesota. We are imagining a better world for our students, our colleges and universities, and our communities across the state.

Creating “Big Opportunity” statements that are realistic, emotionally compelling and memorable can help you connect with both your people’s heads and hearts.  “Big opportunity” statements are:

  • Short:  Less than one page so they are easy to share and can reach more people.
  • Rational: They need to make sense in the current reality so they are not dismissed immediately.
  • Emotionally Compelling: Speak to the hearts of all relevant audiences.
  • Positive: Focus on the opportunity and what “burning desire” people have to make a difference.
  • Authentic: It feels real, is believed in by you and demonstrates your level of excitement.
  • Clear: Provide clarity and focus.
  • Aligned: Supports or is consistent with existing mission or vision statements.

Leaders who are able to communicate with their heart and heads can unlock the potential and passion of the people they lead.

Todd Thorsgaard

Feeling grateful

I am in the middle of a three day leadership program with 34 leaders from across the Minnesota State College and Universities system and I am feeling grateful for the people I 2016_01_27_08_24_00_Wordle_Createget to work with. We asked them to describe what energized them about being a leader and one group created this wordle.

Powerful!

A second group wrote this as their leadership mission statement: “…collaborative learning and sharing best practices while networking and building new relationships.  Through fun activities, where we are able to laugh together, will fuel our creative and innovative thought.”

And as we wrapped up today one leader shared this, “I am so grateful for the generosity of my colleagues. They trust me and have granted me the freedom to make mistakes and grow in my role while giving me the benefit of doubt.”

As leaders we have the opportunity to get to know ourselves better by being open to the wisdom and the insight of those we work with.

What have you learned from those you work with?

Todd Thorsgaard

Know your why!

golden circle“It all starts with clarity. You have to know WHY you do WHAT you do… people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it, so it follows that if you don’t know WHY you do WHAT you do, how will anyone else?”  – Simon Sinek, Start With Why

Do you follow what Simon says in the quote above? It’s actually pretty powerful stuff! Knowing why we do what we do is critical to inspire others and have them willingly follow our leadership. Last week we held our second executive leader development seminar for aspiring presidents in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. One of the assignments was for participants was to deliver a very brief 200-300 word inaugural speech that communicated the value of their institution and most importantly helped people understand their “why.”

Several of the participants delivered their speeches to the entire cohort and it was awe-inspiring to hear their “why.” They told personal stories about their own experiences and relayed how college had changed their lives in truly amazing ways. Their stories were from the heart and compelled the listeners to want to follow them as leaders.

Let me tell you about my “why.”

When I was about 6 years old, I remember sitting with my dad in the living room. We were watching Richard Nixon on a small, snowy, black and white TV screen. It was just before the 1968 presidential election and Nixon was holding a TV conference. While we were sitting there, my dad turned to me and said, “Wow, you’re growing up so fast!  Before you know it, you’ll be going to college.”

That one statement had a profound impact on my life. It became a matter of fact…an expectation that I would go to college. I’m not sure that I knew exactly what college was at 6 years old.  But I knew it was important! I knew it was something that my dad expected of me.

As I grew older, I learned that my parents faced barriers that prevented them from going to college. In fact, my mother had received a full scholarship to attend Hamline University, but couldn’t attend. She needed to work to support herself right out of high school. So as the oldest of 5 kids in our family, I felt very much a pioneer as I marched off to St. Olaf College after high school.

While my dad may not remember that comment he made in our small living room in 1968….I do.  It has laid the foundation for two core values I hold dear:

  1. Education has the power to transform our lives
  2. Seeing possibilities for growth in others and encouraging them is a gift we give to our children, to our students, to our colleagues, and to our employees.

My work in supporting the development of leaders in our colleges and universities springs directly from these values. It gives me the deepest satisfaction, because what I do every day supports my “why.”

Have you thought about your “why” recently? If not, I encourage you to do that. Why is it that you do what you do? If you have thought about it, have you told others about your “why?” If not, do that too! It will reconfirm your own commitment to the values that drive what you do each day. And, you might be surprised at how it inspires others.

Anita Rios

The power of affirmation

Best of 2015, first published on June 15, 2015
Thinking over the last year and some of the most powerful talks I’ve heard, I kept coming back to Sugata Mitra and his “Hole in the Wall” research. His work reinforces over and over again how important affirmation is in supporting the success of others. When you show appreciation for your team members and other colleagues, it lays the groundwork for a productive work environment and let’s face it, it just feels good. What can you do to affirm others?  –Anita Rios

sugataLast month, I was reminded of the incredible power of affirmation to turbo-charge performance by Sugata Mitra, who was speaking at the ATD International Conference. You may have heard of Mitra as the “Hole in the Wall” professor from India. While Mitra’s research focuses on children and how they learn, I think his findings have relevance for how adults learn and perform in the workplace.

If you haven’t heard of Dr. Mitra, I’d encourage you to listen to his TED talk. Through his research, he has discovered that groups of unsupervised children can learn just about anything if they have access to the internet. After winning the million dollar TED Prize in 2013, Mitra was able to fund and create five self organized learning environments (SOLE)  in England and India to further test his theories about education and literacy.

He wanted to see if affirmation would further children’s learning in the SOLEs, so Mitra recruited retired teachers and other interested adults to volunteer their time one hour a week to beam into the classrooms via Skype. He dubbed these volunteers the “Granny Cloud.” Their sole job was to demonstrate interest in what the children are learning and doing, ask good questions, and provide positive affirmation. What Mitra learned was that:

  • Children react well to encouragement
  • Children exceed targets if encouraged
  • Children like to show off to a friendly adult

In my experience, I’ve found that adults behave similarly in the workplace. We react well to encouragement and often exceed performance targets when encouraged.  While I know I am an internally motivated person, I have often worked harder for a boss who is appreciative and encouraging.  And I can honestly say that the teams I’ve led do better when I am actively engaged, interested in their work, and providing positive affirmation.

Does this ring true for you? What has been your experience with positive affirmation and performance?

Anita Rios

Connecting the culture

Stillwater bridgePolicies, procedures, rules, hierarchies and roles are the pylons or framework of organizational culture but you, the leader, provide the human element connecting your people to the structure. Like the incomplete Stillwater bridge, until you connect the individual pylons with your day to day actions, the culture won’t help them get to where they need to be.

Curt Coffman and Kathie Sorensen, authors of Culture Eats Strategy for Lunch, state it this way; “it is the human interaction within these structures – our emotional connections – that determines its (culture) effectiveness.”

I experienced a powerful example of this last week at the MnSCU annual orientation program for our new senior leaders. Chancellor Rosenstone was describing the challenges our system faces and our strategic framework and Charting the Future next steps. What made it real for me was when he added the human element. He reminded us of the difference each one of us can make in the lives of our students. He highlighted a core belief that all Minnesotans deserve an opportunity to improve their lives and he challenged each of us to take on the responsibility to bring that value to life in our day to day work! It sent chills down my back.

Coffman and Sorensen encourage leaders to serve as the translators, connectors and catalysts of culture. Adding the human element can make your culture inspiring!

Ggb_by_night

 

 

 

Todd Thorsgaard

That’s not what I said!

You work harMixed Messagesd to craft a clear and meaningful message. You are confident it will cut through the noise and unify your team. Yet when you follow up you hear a mishmash of interpretations and it seems like everyone heard a different message. What happened?

People happened! We all have behavioral preferences that influence what we pay attention to in a message, what we ignore, and what irritates us. At Minnesota State Colleges and Universities we use  the DiSC behavioral style model as a tool to help leaders enhance their communication effectiveness. The DiSC model identifies four basic behavioral styles that we all possess. It can help us better understand how each style best receives messages.

The people on your team are listening for, or looking for, different content, ideas, images, and behaviors in the messages they get at work based on their unique set of preferences. The key priorities for each style are:

D – Action, drive and challenge

i – Encouragement, action and collaboration

S – Support, collaboration and reliability

C – Objectivity, challenge and reliability

When we rely on our own style to deliver our messages it will get lost in the noise for many people. A starting point for leaders is to repeat important messages multiple times using varying styles. Additionally, leaders can vary the style they use during individual communications.

The following tips can help you adapt your communication style to increase your effectiveness by connecting with the different behavioral styles on your team.

The D Style – Focus on action and outcomes. Use concise statements that highlight what will be accomplished and when it will be done.

The i Style – Interact informally and with enthusiasm. Focus on the energy in the group and include multiple points of view.

The S Style – Be calm and secure. Describe the process and support available for everyone on the team and thank people for their contributions.

The C Style – Focus on expectations and reasons. Be prepared for questions and don’t view them as resistance.  Provide detailed answers and background analysis.

We all may hear the same words but that doesn’t guarantee your message will make it through the noise without some adaptations.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

The annual review!

time-for-reviewDo those three words cause your heart to race, a smile to creep across your face, or a panicked look at your calendar as you search for time to prepare? Well, either by luck or remarkable planning, I am scheduled to have my annual performance review later today and I have experienced all three in the last few days.

When you cut through all the information and opinions from the hundreds of articles, blogs, consulting firms, books, processes, procedures and policies on performance reviews you end up with two elements; the process and the people or human interaction. The process is usually determined by your institution, but you, the leader, can determine the quality of the human interaction with your team member. And a recent study by the Gallop organization indicates that the human interaction is what actually drives employee performance and the effectiveness of the performance review, not the process and forms!

The study found the following four managerial actions made a significant difference in the effectiveness of any performance review process:

  1. Clearly communicating performance standards and what good performance looks like
  2. Focusing on employee strengths rather than weaknesses
  3. Emphasizing that the purpose of the review is to support and aid their development and success, not just an HR requirement
  4. Communicating performance expectations throughout the year, not just at the annual review

Other tips that focus on the people or human interaction element include:

  • Make it a two-way conversation by starting with an open-ended question
    • Over the past year, what accomplishments are you most proud of, and why?
    • Describe how your work supported the mission of the college or of your department/office.
  • Keep your feedback:
    • Helpful
    • Unbiased
    • Balanced
    • Specific

And a final general rule of thumb that I have found helpful is to balance the focus of the review to:

  • 10% on the past year
  • 30% on the current expectations and needs of the department, team and institution
  • 60% on the goals, expectations and development over the next year

As I said earlier, today is my review and I am looking forward to a genuine two-way conversation with my manager, Anita. She demonstrates the importance of the human interaction and I always walk out of her office fully engaged and with a clear picture of the year ahead and how I can succeed!

Let us know what good ideas or tips you have used to improve the quality of the human interaction in your performance reviews.

Todd Thorsgaard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happiness fuels success?

happinessAccording to Harvard researcher and author Shawn Achor, most of us have the formula for success backwards. We think if we work hard, we will be successful and that our success will lead to happiness. Think about it. Have you ever thought happiness would follow after getting that next great job or promotion? Maybe it did briefly, but was it really lasting?

Recent discoveries in neuroscience,  positive psychology, and management studies actually prove the opposite to be true. Our happiness fuels success. When we are happy, we are more productive and successful. In fact, being happy increases the levels of dopamine in our brains. And dopamine makes our brains 30% more efficient. So what does this have to do with driving performance, both our own and the performance of our teams? Quite a bit actually.

Achor explains in his 2011 Ted Talk, that only 25% of job success is predicted by IQ. The remaining 75% of job success is predicted by three key factors:

  • Optimism levels
  • Social Support
  • Ability to see stress as a challenge, rather than a threat

So knowing that optimism levels (aka happiness) fuels success, what can you do to increase the optimism levels of your team? Achor suggests that everyone needs to start with themselves first, saying that positivity and happiness can be contagious. He outlines several practices that can help you rewire your brain’s ability to see things positively.

  1. 3 Gratitudes – every day for 21 days, write down 3 new things you are grateful for
  2. Journaling – every day write down one positive experience you’ve had in the last 24 hours (this helps your brain re-live the experience)
  3. Exercise – choose something you like to do each day (exercise boosts mood and performance)
  4. Meditation – spend just 5 minutes a day meditating, praying, or just listening to yourself breathe in and out  (this helps your brain to focus)
  5. Conscious Acts of Kindness – write and send one positive email to a colleague each day (doing something good for someone else increases your own positivity)

This week I’m committing myself to the 3 Gratitudes and a Conscious Act of Kindness each day to increase my happiness and boost my performance. I’ll let you know if my team notices the difference and it begins to spread.  I challenge you to join me!  Go ahead, choose one or two strategies to increase your happiness and see what happens.

Anita Rios