How to use negative feedback to be a better leader

A few weeks ago, I gave constructive feedback to a colleague.  Although those types of conversations are never easy, the discussion went well. Looking back on our meeting, I attribute its success to my detailed pre-planning.

At the close of our meeting, I was feeling good about our time together, but then something unexpected happened: This employee said they had feedback for me. My colleague then shared two examples of when I had recently let them down. The feedback stung. While I had planned to give feedback, I certainly hadn’t planned to receive it. I was thrown off guard and immediately felt hurt because I could empathize with this person’s concerns. They were right — I could have handled a few things differently than I had.

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3 practical ways to lead change effectively

I recently attended a great human resources seminar that was fast-paced, informative and thought-provoking, which is exactly how I like my training.

While I was excited about my learnings and ready with workplace change ideas, some attendees didn’t necessarily share my elation. In fact, an attendee I was partnered with admitted feeling a bit lost, overwhelmed and apprehensive. While the seminar information was valuable, implementing practical changes was a concern. And I’d say that’s very fair considering only 25% of change management initiatives are successful over the long term, according to a Towers Watson study. Change initiatives fail for a number of reasons, including poor planning, ineffective communication, employee misunderstandings, past resentments, shock and a feeling of lost control.

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Is there a dark side to emotional intelligence?

I consider my emotional intelligence to be one of my greatest strengths, and because of it, I’ve had thousands of positive and successful professional relationships. This trait allows me to easily work with a variety of people, handle conflicts effectively, comfortably navigate change and build even stronger relationships.

Seeing such a positive use and outcome, it was quite the shocker to find out some people use their emotional intelligence to actually manipulate others. According to research in The Atlantic’s articleThe Dark Side of Emotional Intelligencea research team led by University College London Professor Martin Kilduff found:

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6 proven techniques for conducting an engaging training session

You’ve spent weeks preparing for your upcoming training session—the training goals have been identified, the agenda is set, all of your materials are finalized and your training schedule is complete. You may think you’re ready to give an effective training session. But, are you?

You made sure all of the necessary logistics were taken care of, but did you also ensure your training was designed to be engaging? Many people forget this step, and as a result, their hard work and preparation goes to waste. While their content is spot on, their delivery is dry, which leads to the attendees zoning out and not absorbing the material.

So this doesn’t happen to you, consider using these tips when conducting a training session.

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The perfect trick to help you cope with making tough decisions at work

In all of my management roles, I have been “the bad guy” more often than not. I’ve said “no” more times than I can count and I have made hundreds of unpopular choices. I’ve also been responsible for initiating and supporting dozens of corrective action conversations and terminations. In short, I’m not people’s favorite person at work. But you know what? That’s okay. I take pride in taking a difficult stance as long as it’s for the greater good of the company.

When I started out in my career, being “the bad guy” didn’t come as easy to me. I would get nauseous before I had to have a difficult conversation and the idea of someone not liking me would make me cringe.

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4 easy ways managers can beat year-end work stress before it starts

Believe it or not, the year is almost over and the holiday season is right around the corner. While the holidays bring cheer, fun and togetherness they can also bring stress and a poor work-life balance.

Before you know it, you will find yourself with aggressive end-of-year work deadlines all while trying to spend time with family, prepare for the holidays, and squeeze in your last few vacations days.

Fortunately, it’s early enough in the year to mitigate some of the craziness to come. (more…)

3 simple ways managers can foster a positive work environment

When trying to improve employee job satisfaction, many managers focus on training, communication, and recognition. While these tactics can be helpful, they won’t make much of an impact if employees don’t feel respected.

A Society for Human Resource Management study found 72 percent of employees feel being respected at work is the most important aspect of their job satisfaction. Yet, only 33 percent of employees report being “very satisfied” with respectful treatment of employees at all levels.

As a manager, you can help infuse more respect in the workplace by being clear, holding people accountable and leading by example.

Here are practical steps that can help you accomplish all three and create a positive work environment for both you and your employees. (more…)

4 simple steps for getting your employees to use their vacation time

Time away from the office is critical to employee health, engagement, creativity and productivity—yet, workers are letting millions of vacation days go unused. That’s 429 million days a year to be exact.

Project: Time Off reports American workers are taking the least amount of vacation in nearly 40 years, just 16 days in 2013, almost a workweek less of vacation compared to the pre-2000 average of 20.3 days each year.

Why aren’t employees taking time off? The report found:

  • 40 percent of employees didn’t use their vacation because they didn’t want to return to a mountain of work.
  • 35 percent of workers feel that nobody else can do their job.
  • 22 percent of employees express concern that they do not want to be seen as replaceable.

These employee fears are concerning. Fortunately, there are actions you can take to help encourage your staff to take the vacation they so desperately deserve. (more…)

Good or bad, lack of feedback is hurting employee engagement

When managing employees, giving feedback is one of the most important aspects of your job. Feedback gives your team members the opportunity to better their individual performance while keeping them engaged, aware and feeling valued.

Despite the many benefits, it’s not happening nearly as much as it should. In fact, 65 percent of employees say they want more feedback. While there is a variety of reasons why managers aren’t giving enough feedback, I believe the anxiety of giving corrective critique tops the list.

Where managers’ fears lie

As a people manager, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to muster up the courage to give someone constructive criticism. On many occasions, I have found myself concerned that my employees may not be receptive to my feedback or that our conversation may discourage or demotivate them.

In the past, this fear has gotten the best of me and has caused me to avoid corrective conversations I should have had.

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How 15th century sailors’ work songs can help make us better leaders today

In a recent trip to a maritime museum, I had the opportunity to help raise a ship’s sails while singing sea shanties—15th century shipboard working songs—with a crew and all of a sudden I had a revelation.

As 10 other people and I were belting out sea shanties while hard at work, I instantly saw the value of our team singing. Within seconds, perfect strangers who had never worked together were all in sync. This got me wondering. How could we as leaders bring the benefits of sea shanties into the workplace?

Could we use the principles of these work songs to get our employees in rhythm and feel a slight relief of pressure from their day-to-day grind? The next day, the answer hit me. Good communication in the workplace is the sea shanty of the past.

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