Archive for the 'Team Engagement' Category

The Ripple Effect

Monday, August 7th, 2006

Did you have a good day? How much effect do you think you have on what you, your team, your company achieves…and how people feel about it?

During this very hot weather, fatigue and frustration has reigned. We have all seen people dragging themselves into work, slogging through the day, snapping at each other. We each have struggled with the heat and transportation complexities. And, after a day being surrounded by other beaten down people, our energy is further sapped. It actually takes more energy to overcome a negative experience than to respond to a positive one.

In her recent article, Waking Up on the Wrong Side of the Desk, Wharton Professor Nancy Rothbard makes a compelling case for the effect of mood on workplace productivity.

Seems so obvious, doesn’t it? We spend countless hours reacting to, decoding, talking about and working around our own and other’s moods. Then we go home and complain about, or even worse, dump these moods into our personal time.

And yet, we would all agree that checking and adjusting disposition is not a typical daily, conscious habit. At the Executive level, mood subtleties create not a ripple effect but a rip tide effect. Executive vibes are observed, reflected and resound in employees’ own moods and behaviors.

When we debrief the interviews I have conducted–either in preparation for a team off site or for 360 degree reports–my clients have been consistently surprised by the impact that their mood has on the work product. Such subtle behaviors as vocal pace and volume, stride, and facial expressions are observed, absorbed and reverberate beyond the leader’s awareness and expectations. Style, attitude and actions can have a major effect on how staff and colleagues operate.
In conducting interviews I hear things about leaders like:

“He is always preoccupied, unavailable, short tempered and so we are afraid to suggest ways to improve things around here.”

“He must be very insecure and nervous, so we are afraid to take risks.”

“She never just stops by my desk to see how I am doing…everything is late night email and voice mail. I know she is very busy and overworked, but I don’t get the feeling she cares about me and my career.”

“No matter what’s going on in his private life or the amount of pressure he is under, he is always calm, encouraging, and responsive. I’d go through a wall for my boss!”

I have facilitated a number of meetings in which the leader’s mood clearly sets the pace. In one meeting, the senior executive who normally has a great deal of energy and passion was very subdued, spoke softly, slowly and with very little energy. While her team started out attentive, within a brief two minutes, they slouched in their seats, started to look down at papers or blackberries and lost energy. Afterward, the executive blamed her reports for not caring about the issues discussed. What actually happened here, however, was that the leader’s mood was contagious: her low energy was modeled by her team.

Alternately, I worked with a leader who, despite a heavy travel schedule and a very challenging quarter, consciously made up his mind to display optimism and vision during a critical staff meeting. From pre-meeting interviews we learned that the team experienced him as defeated and exhausted. We talked together prior to the meeting about the atmosphere he needed to create to win the hearts and minds of his team and to instill optimism. He succeeded in moving them from despair and discouragement to a dynamic action plan by showing spirit and excitement about the possibilities. His high energy and positive attitude caught on. The team engaged in a dynamic action plan and volunteered for challenging assignments.

Create the results YOU want. There is a very simple exercise. I call it “Show Time”. Here’s how it works:

Think of yourself as a performer. When you step onto your “stage” or enter your workplace, consider what mood you want to portray and therefore create in your “audience”, or colleagues and staff. Try it. You will see a positive result in those around you…and because mood is contagious, you will find that the positive atmosphere you create bounces back to you as well.

Let me know what you think. Make it a great day!

Ready for Some Career R&R?

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

By now, the holiday and year end rush are over and whether you have taken a vacation or not, you are probably in full swing at work, executing your 2006 strategy. And, like many of my clients, you may be finding yourself feeling that you have already lost sight of all of those New Year’s resolutions to have more balance, socialize/network more, do something with a personal interest/creative talent. Are you energized….or do you find yourself depleted at the end of the day? Are you in charge….or has “life” taken over?

I have just finished re-reading a wonderful book, The Path of Least Resistance, Learning to Become the Creative Force in Your Own Life, by Robert Fritz (1984) which reminded me how very important it is to create a vision of what we want rather than responding to or reacting against life’s circumstances. Too often we find ourselves just getting through the day…putting out fires, resenting interruptions and obligations, operating on “automatic” and losing sight of those projects and commitments we made to our organizations and ourselves. What happens is that driving innovation, initiative, creativity, and engagement suffer.

With so much going on, the first indicator that you may be scattered is your ability to focus, carry through with plans, prioritize and execute. So, take a moment to assess yourself with this fun activity:


Whether you are leading a team or are an individual contributor working on a new initiative, you know how strong a role talent and desire plays in building results. When you are fully engaged in an activity, utilizing your strengths (talents and interests combined) the day seems to float by and your work seems effortless. A recent Fast Company article reminds us of the research behind this phenomenon:

Working in Flow

Each of us has a unique purpose, a unique world view that is bursting to emerge. If we ignore it in the interest of getting “stuff” done, we eventually undermine the outcome with disappointment and resentment. As Martha Graham reminds us:

“There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost.”

So, here three ideas to consider as you plan (yes…plan rather than slog) through your days ahead:

1. At the beginning of each week, think about what you want to accomplish both professionally and personally. Make sure as you look at your calendar that you have actually built in time for a creative project, a nurturing friendship/family experience, some quiet time to restore yourself. Make these plans manageable. I actually color code my calendar to assure that I have integrated respite with responsibility.
2. Assess at the end of each day whether you have been able to meet your own goals, analyze what worked and what got in the way. Adjust your expectations in line with realities. If an unexpected event or project intervened, make sure you adapt your schedule to accommodate realistic goals and promises.
3. Examine the gaps between the way you wanted to spend your time and what you actually did. Where did you accomplish your goals and where did you get derailed?

Let me know how you are doing!


Fashion and Leadership

Saturday, September 17th, 2005

It seems that clothing is on everyone’s mind right now. Fashion week dominated New York City’s midtown last week, fall magazines are filled with the latest fashions, the Wall Street Journal’s Carol Hymowitz’s article “In The Lead” featured opinions about attire and leadership effectiveness, and a recent article in Fast Company The CEO’s New Clothes by Linda Tischler, wonders whether current Aquarian leadership styles will be just passing trends or long-time standards.

All of this discussion about style reminds me of my grandmother’s housedress. Nana Stella was a true woman of her generation. She wore a baggy, colorless smock almost all the time. I remember my grandfather sitting in his chair, smoking a cigar and watching his sports shows on TV, never even noticing her as she emptied the ashtray, fed him, cleaned up after him. One day we were all going to a restaurant and Nana changed to a navy blue dress, did her hair and put on rouge for the occasion. What a difference: Grandpa suddenly noticed her, stood up and waltzed with her around the room.

Many executives wonder why no one is noticing them, why they are losing their edge…or why they are relegated to unremarkable careers, overlooked for promotions, or sidelined or misunderstood. One reason could be that they suffer from the “grandmother’s housedress syndrome”. Too many leaders stop paying attention to the way they come across, to how they comport themselves, forget to display courtesies or to demonstrate a confident, modern, stylish presence. They become comfortable at “home” in their workplaces.

Take a good look at your style today:

1. Notice how dynamic and respected leaders in your organization comport themselves, communicate and yes, dress. Are you reflecting the current style?

2. Look at your office. Does it demonstrate the brand you wish it to? If the CEO walked into your office today, what impression would s/he get?

3. Are you conscious about how you treat others? Are you positive, constructive, interactive, engaging? Are you included in important meetings and considered a “go to” person for your area of expertise?

4. Are you getting the results you want? Are you conscious of your leadership attitude, attributes and attire? Have you looked in the mirror lately and asked for feedback?

If your responses lead you to thinking about refreshing your own leadership image, it is probably time for you to think about ways to be more crisp, more present, more communicative….more positively noticable. Get dressed up and go out to lunch!