Leadership Development

Results, Not Resolutions

Each day is an opportunity to start fresh but there is something cathartic about turning the page on the calendar and starting a new year. With that new beginning about half of us make resolutions, 80% of which, according to U.S. News & World Report, fail by February. Why is it so hard to work on the things we want to change about ourselves and how can we increase the odds of follow through?

Whether we are trying to be more active, stop procrastinating, communicate better, or develop stronger teams there are behaviors that have been formed around these areas of our lives. Self-improvement requires changing behaviors and, we all know, change can be hard. But if we dissect these behaviors and understand how we can form new ones, we can be successful.

Below are some steps we can take to achieve long-term results.

    1. Be realistic. We all have things we can improve upon to become better versions of ourselves, whether personally or professionally, but we can’t change everything at once. Working on too many things at the same time can be overwhelming and cause us to revert to our old ways. Pick one goal as the focus and start there.

    2. Be specific. When we choose something vague to work on, for example to become a better leader, it can be difficult to define what exactly we are looking to change. But by identifying an aspect of leadership we want to work on, such as team development or improved communication, actions can be better targeted to achieve the desired outcome. 

    3. Identify the triggers. If the goal is to stop procrastinating, determine the triggers that prompt us to put off certain tasks. Is it when the task is difficult, overwhelming, or a fear of failure? For example, knowing that difficult tasks overwhelm us, we can change the internal dialog that prevents us from starting and break down the tasks into smaller tasks to make it less overwhelming.

    4. Increase your self-awareness. Often the behavior we wish to change is habitual and we don’t give it much thought. When we know our triggers, steps can be taken to detach ourselves and observe the action we wish to change from an objective point of view. Approaching change with that level of perspective helps increase our self-awareness so we can be deliberate in our actions.

    5. Be patient. Change does not happen overnight. Small, incremental shifts in our behaviors can change patterns and are more sustainable.

    6. Believe in yourself. When we believe that what we are trying to accomplish is within reach, it helps sustain the motivation necessary to fulfill the outcomes we want to achieve.

    7. Expect setbacks. Setbacks will happen because life happens. When we view setbacks as part of the process rather than as a failure, we are less likely to give up. 

    8. Be consistent. When we find what works for us, we should do it again. And again. Repetition creates neuropathways, leading to habit formation. When habits form we don’t need to exert as much effort, letting us focus on other things.

    9. Celebrate success. Results are motivating. We begin to shift psychologically and we see that our efforts are rewarded with, for example, higher productivity, stronger teams, or better collaborations. These rewards can inspire us to make the next change.

Taking these steps can translate to lasting results. The reason why most resolutions fail is because they take conscionable work that requires our focus and energy. It is easy to fall back on old habits when we are tired, stressed, or overwhelmed, which are bound to happen at some point. But when we are aware of how habits form and that almost any behavior can be modified, we can take deliberate steps to make lasting change. 

Self-improvement doesn’t need to coincide with the start of a new year, or any date for that matter, although February 7th seems as good a time as any. If one of your goals for 2019 is to improve your leadership skills or cultivate talent within your teams, please join us on February 7th for our Tier 1 Leader Workshop.

If you are unable to join us for the workshop, please check out our Tier 1 Leader website to find out more about how to improve your leadership skills. Our experienced coaches can guide you in developing the focus, insight, and accountability you need to achieve the consistent results you expect. If you have the desire and willingness to discover your full potential and achieve lasting results, then this is for you! Achieve your goals faster and discover your purpose.

How to develop your Staff and Leadership team. 

Far too often employees find themselves unclear when it comes to their job function, performance measures, manager expectations, and training requirements. As a result, organizational behavior is weakened and the implementation and management of the Strategic Plan becomes a challenge for leadership. 

Clearly defining job roles can make the difference between high performing teams and those that are unstable and ineffective. With poor performing teams, leaders tend to spend their days putting out fires, with little time left to devote to strategy. 

In order to strengthen organizational behavior and shape a stronger future, staff and leaders must work with clarity and focus. Enhancing collaboration, building accountability, and improving clarity of purpose and performance leads to efficient and effective organizations that are able to propel strategy forward.

The process of assembling high performing teams begins with creating job posts and clearly defining team purpose.The team's purpose should be explicit within the strategic plan as that is the document that sets the direction of the organization. The posts, on the other hand, are designed under the guidance of the strategic plan.

What is a Job Post?

In its most simplistic form, a job post is a position of duty and responsibility. It is a tool that is designed to create a management model and drive conversation to build higher levels of order and organization. Part of implementing any plan relies on each team member's ability to do their job; if everyone is clear on what they must deliver, the chances of success increase dramatically.

When a job post is created collaboratively by an organization it is done so for an assigned function, not a specific person. Responsibilities or titles must be consistent, as well as the performance metrics used to measure the success of each job function.

A job post consists of four things: Primary Purpose, Key Activities, Key Performance Indicators, and Training Requirements 

Step 1: Primary Purpose

Step one is identifying a primary purpose for the post. The primary purpose is a single point of focus for a given job function. It is a key factor that, if missing, can mean the difference between someone really understanding how to best utilize their time and energy verses someone who is busy but unproductive. It should reflect a high-level understanding of the position's purpose to the organization and how it aligns with other job functions.

Step 2: Key Activities

Step two is identifying the key activities. Because each post has a primary purpose, it is necessary to identify the top activities that fulfill that primary purpose. 

Being mindful of the fact that if everything is important, then nothing is, we recommend assembling the top five key activities. This forces a prioritization of the actions that are most essential to fulfill the primary purpose. 

Step 3: Key Performance Indicators 

In step three of designing a Post, we identify what performance measures or statistics will be used to measure how someone is performing within their job and how effective they are. Key Performance Indicators, or KPIs, are quantifiable metrics that fairly and accurately track the success of a job function. Once performance measurements are in place, it helps remove the emotional aspect of decision making, allowing for the focus to be placed on the best interests of the organization.

We set the following rules when assigning KPIs to a post. 

  1. The person that assumes the responsibility of the post must have the authority and responsibility to be able to control the KPI. 

  2. The KPI must be a true representation of what is being measured. As statistics can be interpreted many different ways, it is important to constantly be assessing the units and means of measurement to accurately reflect a post's success.

Step 4: Training Requirements

The final step in the process is to identify training requirements for each Job Post. These requirements should outline the training and development that must take place throughout the duration of an individual being assigned to a post.  

The prioritization of training, coaching, and mentorship, helps ensure an individual’s success within their post while simultaneously increasing bench strength for the organization. 

Post Benefits

A post is an unemotional look at the types of functions or positions needed in an organization that best aligns to the strategy and structure. A person assuming a post ideally has all the necessary qualifications, understanding, and training needed to achieve the KPIs and primary purpose of that post. Using the post format:

  • Creates clarity regarding job function and employee satisfaction

  • Defines the ability to measure the success of a position 

  • Prioritizes what actions really lead to success 

  • Removes clouded judgment when assessing job performance

  • Builds accountability through every team member knowing their positions

Go Slow to Go Fast: The Role of Mindfulness in Leadership

Leadership.jpg

Most nonprofit organizations begin with the intention of making a positive social impact. Creating a strategic plan and a sound organization design around a unified mission helps leadership lead with a purpose. The strategic plan aligns resources and provides a roadmap for the organization. This allows leaders to agree upon a direction and clearly define next steps. It also provides leaders the opportunity to develop and refine their own leadership capabilities so they can focus on implementation and results.

The strategic plan provides a foundation for the organization but to build on this foundation, it is essential for leaders to establish a plan and vision for themselves.  Since leaders set the tone, they need to think about what behaviors and attitudes they want to see in their people and model them. They need to manage themselves before they manage others. In order to be most effective, leaders need to intentionally define the type of leader they want to be, allowing their vision and that of the organization to guide their leadership style. Some critical characteristics of effective leaders include self-awareness, self-knowledge, and centeredness all of which can be cultivated through the practice of mindfulness.

Mindfulness is an ancient practice rooted in Eastern beliefs that has gone mainstream in recent decades. Organizations like Harvard Business School, Google, and General Mills have incorporated mindfulness workshops into their employee offerings and witnessed the benefits the practice provides to both employees and the organization. Initial studiesshow what those who practice already know - the benefits of mindfulness are many. Benefits include greater overall well-being, improved physical health, increased emotional intelligence, and positive changes in attitude and behavior.

Many believe that the benefits of mindfulness are best achieved through meditation,  however, Dr. Ellen Langer, Ph.D., a social psychology professor at Harvard University, sees mindfulness in a slightly different light. While meditation is one tool used to practice, she believes mindfulness is more about context than meditation. It is the simple yet effective application of “being here now”. This application is about holding an open frame of mind and setting the pattern to notice new things. Through the act of noticing, we develop an awareness to see how everything is always changing and varies based on context and perspective.

Becoming a mindful leader requires a commitment to change on a personal level. There are several ways non-profit leaders can practice mindfulness so that their organizations can reap the benefits without the expense of a formal training program. Langer’s approach of noticing and shifting one’s frame of mind is a very simple, yet effective way to practice. Noticing something new in what we have seen before calls attention to it, improves focus, and can spark creativity and innovation. Fortunately, we get many opportunities to practice as anything we do can be done mindfully. Day-to-day activities such as drinking tea or coffee, sitting in a meeting, standing in line at a store, spending time with family, or taking a walk are opportune times for mindfulness. Doing things we have done many times before provides the perfect opportunity to notice something new, something that may have been taken for granted before. 

Additionally, meditating, practicing yoga, doing something creative, or listening to a mindfulness app also provide opportunities to practice outside of work. At work, leaders can incorporate mindfulness bursts into their day by taking occasional breaks, going for a walk at lunch, and using times in between meetings to check in with themselves. This allows time to process information and break habitual thoughts, providing leaders with a creative boost that can bring about innovative thinking. Carving out space to recharge helps prevent burn-out and is critical to overall well-being. Another way to practice mindfulness is by focusing attention on one thing at a time, or single-tasking, while tuning out any non-related thoughts or distractions. Slowing down leads to greater productivity and efficiency. When there are less distractions, our minds work at the optimal level.

Being an organizational leader is challenging. It is not uncommon for leaders to experience increased levels of stress, worry, and fatigue. These feelings —alone or combined—can lead to decreased attention, memory, and problem solving skills. Since many professionals spend a good part of the day multitasking, potentially on autopilot, it becomes even more challenging to focus and be present. Consequently, inattention is a growing concern within organizations. Inattention to results, staff development, and accountability are just a few examples that can lead to organizational dysfunction. One way to combat this issue is to practice mindfulness.

As Langer points out, we need to let go of the mindless illusion that we are in control. Leaders who are adaptable to and accepting of change are critical to organizational success. Mindfulness can help leaders become more accepting of change by helping them let go of attachments to what they think is “supposed to be.” By being objective observers, leaders can learn to accept situations for what they are, which does not indicate resignation to the situation. Acceptance eliminates the distracting thoughts of ‘what should have happened,” instead shifting the focus to improvements and solutions.

When leaders are mindful they are more relatable, open to multiple perspectives, and able to see what others have to offer. Practicing mindful communication leads to stronger, more trusting relationships. Listening without judgement removes emotions and self-imposed expectations from the communication so leaders are able to see situations objectively. By taking the time to pause, notice, and reflect leaders learn to be less reflexive and reactive in their decision making. The focus is on listening to understand instead of listening to respond. This leads to greater collaboration through increased understanding, empathy, and engagement. 

Practicing mindfulness provides many benefits and applies to all aspects of life. Mindfulness requires regular practice, with daily doses yielding the most benefits. As it is practiced, the way one responds is rewired, leading to a more relaxed way of being. That moment, that pause, that breath helps leaders to slow down. As a result they become more efficient, productive, and effective, which translates to more efficient, productive, and effective organizations. If you would like to learn more about how you can incorporate mindfulness into the workplace, please contact me at barbara@curtisstrategy.com.

Article written by: Barbara Sierota