New Articles

Want Employees To Love What They Do? Here Are 4 Ways To Get There.

Want Employees To Love What They Do? Here Are 4 Ways To Get There.

Bosses might want to take notice if employees view their jobs as “the daily grind.”

A disgruntled and disengaged workforce can undermine production and harm customer relations, while a happy, engaged workforce does the opposite.

“If you take care of your employees, they will be better prepared and far more motivated to take care of your customers,” says Shawn Burcham (www.shawnburcham.com), founder and CEO of PFSbrands and author of Keeping Score with GRITT: Straight Talk Strategies for Success.

“Ideally, you want employees who think and act like owners.”

Burcham says one of the first steps toward cultivating such an environment is to communicate openly with employees. And that may be even more crucial today because newer generations entering the workforce want to know the “why” of what they are doing.

“Millennials value truth and honesty,” Burcham says. “They also are looking for personal growth, education, and continuous learning. If companies want to scale, then they need to embrace millennials and work to create an environment where they are engaged.”

He suggests four ways leaders can help their employees love what they do:

Have fun at work. People spend more hours at their jobs than doing just about anything else, Burcham says, so the time might as well be enjoyable rather than drudgery. Some simple ways people can have fun at work include cracking jokes, decorating their work areas, or celebrating employee birthdays. For Burcham, the work itself is fun. “As a leader, I want to provide an environment conducive to having fun,” he says. “I also let our employees know that it is up to them to make having fun a reality within their job and their department.”

Coach them up. All employees must be willing to learn at a pace consistent with the company’s growth, Burcham says. “Usually, we hire people with a skillset that enables them to scale with us,” he says. “Sometimes, though, we have employees who are challenged to ‘make the leap’ with us. When that happens, we work with them to find a role on our team where they can excel. We want to provide them with every opportunity and tool we can to help them adapt.”

Maintain a positive attitude. Most successful people exude a positive attitude, are optimistic, and have a never-quit personality, Burcham says. “Who wants to work in an environment of doom and gloom?” he asks. One way to cultivate an upbeat workplace is to strive to hire only “A” players, people who want to be the best at their jobs and take pride in making positive contributions.  “But anyone can be or become an A player,” Burcham says. “It simply revolves around having a positive attitude along with a desire to learn and constantly improve.”

Show appreciation. Employees want to know that the bosses – and their coworkers – appreciate them, so it’s important to find ways to show them. Burcham says at his company new hires are welcomed by dozens of emails from their team members before they even arrive for the first day of work. When they start, two or three dozen employees gather to greet them with a high five. “For our team, it’s all about gratitude,” Burcham says. “It’s not, ‘I have to go to work today.’ It’s, ‘I get to go to work today.’ ”

“I think the real key,” Burcham says, “is to hire people who are already motivated and then put them in an environment where they can excel. Engaged employees are fun to work with and they will go the extra mile for their customers as well as their peers.

 

Shawn Burcham (www.shawnburcham.com), author of Keeping Score with GRITT: Straight Talk Strategies for Success, is the founder & CEO of PFSbrands, which he and his wife, Julie, started out of their home in 1998. The company has over 1,500 branded foodservice locations across 40 states and is best known for their Champs Chicken franchise brand which was started in 1999. Prior to starting PFSbrands, Burcham spent five years with a Fortune 100 company, Mid-America Dairymen (now Dairy Farmers of America). He also worked for three years as a Regional Sales Manager for a midwest Chester’s Fried chicken distributor.

culture

Who’s Responsible For Your Company’s Culture? Look In The Mirror, Leaders.

Extensive research has shown that a positive work culture often results in productive employees who both value their work and feel valued themselves.
But company leadership, not the employees, usually creates that culture. Executives and managers have a significant responsibility to establish a positive culture that is conducive to company success.
“Culture can be thought of as the inner life of the organization,” says Cynthia Howard (www.eileadership.org), an executive coach, performance expert, and author of the book The Resilient Leader, Mindset Makeover: Uncover the Elephant in the Room.
“It is the self-sustaining mix of values, attitudes, and behavior that drives performance. Culture is the brand identity of the company, and it has the ability to attract and retain great talent or not. Thus, it’s incumbent on the leaders to be aware of their culture, what they can do to improve it, and honestly assess if it’s the kind of place where people want to be and want to grow.”
Another key reason that company leaders need to make work culture a high priority, Howard says, is because millennials — who comprise the largest segment of the workforce — rank culture as their top consideration when choosing where to work.
Howard offers five ways leaders can foster a positive work culture:
Model positive, respectful behavior. Howard says a positive work culture starts with the leader setting the tone, which can send the right message to leaders at other levels in the company. “Don’t play the blame game,” Howard says. “Encourage an environment where it’s OK to make mistakes and move forward. Frontline staff crave leaders who understand them and care about them, will mentor them, and will provide professional guidance to make fair and tough decisions.”
Show gratitude. “Show your gratitude and appreciation for accomplishments by acknowledging people during a meeting or with a note,” Howard says. “Celebrating wins lifts morale, and when people know they will be recognized for exceptional work, they’ll be more motivated.”
Communicate consistently and with clarity.  “Keep employees in the loop with consistent updates,” Howard says. “Give them regular feedback, not just at review time. This keeps people connected, feeling part of the team, and removes the mystery — and inherent tension — of where they stand. Create clear goals, and make everyone feel that they are necessary components toward reaching those goals. That inspires an environment of inclusion, pride and commitment.”
Really listen. “This is the important other side of communication that some leaders fail to master,” Howard says. “For the leaders underneath you and the employees throughout a company to truly feel valued, they have to know they have a voice and that it will be heard. Be open and encouraging to others’ ideas and solutions.”
Promote collaboration. One of a company leader’s primary jobs is getting the most out of their team — mainly by defining the importance of team. “Maximizing the strengths of a team means knowing each person’s uniqueness and talents and using them in the best possible way,” Howard says. “It also means creating a culture where everyone respects each other’s talents and is enthusiastic about working together for the greater good.”
“Poor culture leads to lots of turnover,” Howard says. “When you as a leader instill and insist on a positive culture, you reap the benefits. Happy, engaged employees mean a thriving company.”
______________________________________________________________
Cynthia Howard (www.eileadership.org) is an executive coach, performance expert and the author of The Resilient Leader, Mindset Makeover: Uncover the Elephant in the Room. She researched stress and its consequences in performance during her PhD. In the past 20-plus years she has coached thousands of professionals, leaders and executives toward emotional agility and engaged leadership. 
visionary

Are You A Visionary? 6 Traits Every Strong Vision Shares.

There’s a reason many of the most successful businesses in America – Apple, Amazon and others – had a visionary leader behind them, propelling them to achieve their goals at the highest level.

“A vision pushes people not just to do more, but to do more than they think they are capable of,” says Oleg Konovalov (www.olegkonovalov.com), a global thought leader and consultant who has worked with Fortune 500 companies and is author of the new book Leaderology.

Yet, even though everyone does a lot of talking about the importance of vision, he says, it’s not easy to fully grasp just what it is.

“I’ve discussed vision with CEOs of big companies, serial entrepreneurs, creators of unique software, and many others,” Konovalov says. “Every single person with whom I have spoken viewed vision differently. But in the course of all these discussions I discovered that there were some properties of a strong vision that remained constant.”

Vision reflects the highest purpose of leadership. A leader’s vision should include actual benefits for those affected by the vision, such as employees, customers, the leaders themselves, employees’ families and society at large. “A main stimulus of vision is people and the care of their needs,” he says. “If a vision is not formed around people and their needs, then it is not vision but personal ambition.”

Vision doesn’t lead to dead ends. A vision is always scalable and should show multiple potentials for expansion, Konovalov says. “But to be able to scale the vision you should maintain an appropriate cognitive distance from it,” he says. “This allows you to see the broader picture while keeping the important details in sight. Stand too close and you see the details, but lose the whole picture. Stand too far away and you lose the important details from which the vision is created.”

Vision reveals a path to success. As you pursue your vision, watch for the signs and clues that will help lead you to success. “They will be easy to follow if the vision is strong,” Konovalov says. “Those signs are always around in different forms – words of encouragement, expressions of real need from strangers, and answers to critical questions coming from unexpected perspectives.” Paying attention to such signs helps people spot opportunities while crafting the most effective path to success, he says.

Vision means taking on responsibility. If you’re the person with a vision, you are taking on a responsibility that will have an impact on people’s lives.  “And the greater the vision is, the greater the responsibility,” Konovalov says. “But this huge responsibility also comes with incredible opportunities, the kind of opportunities available only to pioneers. It may be intimidating to take on all that responsibility, but it will reward you in return.”

Vision should be easy to understand. “Vision involves elegant thinking about complicated things,” Konovalov says. But that doesn’t mean the vision itself should be so complex that everyone is left puzzling over what you’re saying. Just the opposite. “Great vision is genuinely easy to understand,” he says. “The simpler the vision is in its core meaning, the easier it can be shared with employees, customers, and partners.”

Vision generates excitement. A person with a vision isn’t nonchalant about it. Strong vision is always accompanied by excitement. “Actually, vision is a strong emotion itself,” Konovalov says. “If someone tells you about his great vision and he sounds ho-hum about it, then most likely he is lying to himself and others. Such a person might have a goal, but they don’t have a vision.”

Vision is a great leadership ability and success instrument, Konovalov says.

“Vision defines and explains why and where effort should be focused,” he says. “And while vision is normally created by a single person, it quickly becomes the property of many, and that’s important.

“No one can accomplish something great on his or her own. Vision is what attracts the people needed to take what you want to accomplish and turn it into a reality.”

_____________________________________________________

Oleg Konovalov (www.olegkonovalov.com) is a thought leader, author, business educator and consultant with over 25 years of experience operating businesses and consulting Fortune 500 companies internationally. His latest book is Leaderology. His other books are Corporate Superpower, Organisational Anatomy and Hidden Russia. Konovalov received his doctoral degree from the Durham University Business School. He is a visiting lecturer at a number of business schools, a Forbes contributor and high in demand speaker at major conferences around the world.

 

employees

5 EFFECTIVE WAYS TO IMPROVE EMPLOYEE PERFORMANCE

One of the things you will undoubtedly want to do as a leader is to improve the productivity of your employees. While technology has certainly made things a lot easier over time, employees are actually spending more and more time in the office and the typical workweek of 40 hours is getting rather stretched. So how can you improve the productivity of your employees and get them to save more time? Here are a few tips I learned while working at AssignmentMasters and a few other places.

Delegate

It might seem obvious that you should delegate, but a lot of leaders and managers somehow find themselves in the micromanagement trap. It’s actually quite difficult to train yourself to delegate more in practice. You will often feel that your company and business is your baby and that you want to have full control over everything that goes on at the workplace

There is nothing wrong with wanting to see everything going according to plan. It is, after all, what guarantees that no one will hijack your ideas and that your business will be successful. However, you don’t have to check every little detail of what’s going on at your company while you’re at it. You are better off delegating as many things as you can to other qualified people. If you try to do every little thing yourself, you’ll just end up wasting everyone’s time. 

The most important thing you will have to develop is trust in your employees. Start by employing only people who are well qualified at what they do, and then trust them to do it well. You will not only take a huge load off of your back, but you will also give your employees the chance to put their skills to work, to learn problem-solving, to learn how to work independently, and also to learn some important leadership skills. These skills can then later be used to grow your company even more than you could ever have managed to do yourself.

This is actually common in the most successful companies. Zipjob, for example, is very large on delegating and as a result, can even afford to have a lot of employees working remotely. 

Think back to when you first hired your employees. You saw a lot of potential in them and that’s why you brought them on board. Now, give them the opportunity to prove your judgment correct!

Tasks Should Match Skills

While we’re on the topic of delegating, it’s also important to know what to delegate to whom. You should have an intimate knowledge of all of your employees’ skills and their different levels of skill. That way, you will be more efficient in your delegation of tasks to the employees. Some are extroverted and creative, who can think on their feet and are very charming. Allowing these employees to pitch to your clients makes a lot more sense than giving that work to your more introverted and methodical employees. On the other hand, if you have any work that is big on following the rules, then you’re better off delegating that to the more shrewd and methodical employees.

At AustralianWritings, different employees with diverse skills are hired and the work delegated to them according to their skills. As a result, this company has consistently beaten its rivals.

It would be unreasonable to expect your employees to do everything perfectly. Instead, always ask yourself who is best suited to what task before you delegate the tasks. If you can’t find them among your existing employees, then you can either hire someone new or outsource that piece of work to someone else.

Communication is Key

We all know about the importance of communication. It makes the workforce productive overall. With technology, it’s even easier to communicate in the modern office. However, just because more channels of communication are available to us doesn’t mean that communication has become more efficient. Sending emails, for example, takes up more than a quarter of the average employee’s day. That’s a huge portion of the day to dedicate to sending emails!

As a leader, you should look for the most efficient way to communicate with your employees. There are numerous technologies on the market, including collaboration software and scheduling software with direct video conferencing and voice to voice features. You can use these to carry out quick meetings or a speedy paper review and communicate with your employees. That way you will make sure that no more time is used on correspondence than is necessary and your employees have more time to do what you actually pay them to do. 

Have Clear Goals

The whole essence of efficiency is that you are trying to be efficient while trying to achieve some goal. Your employees can therefore not be efficient if they do not have a goal to work toward. You need to give them something to aim for. 

If you don’t define your goals clearly enough, and make them reasonable enough to be achievable, your employees will not be as productive as they actually can. This applies both the goals of the individual tasks you assign to employees and the overall goals of the company as a unit. 

You should always let your employees know, in no unclear terms, what your expectations of them are and what kind of impact the assignments you are giving them will have on the overall goals of the company.

There is a mnemonic for the perfect kind of goal: SMART. 

-Smart

-Measurable

-Attainable

-Realistic

-Timely

Your goals should not only be clever and attainable, but also realistic, easy to measure, and achievable within the given timeline. Always check if your goals meet these criteria before you assign any tasks to employees.

Best Essays and EssayWritingLab are two companies known for this. They pin their weekly goals on the bulletin boards for all employees to see and act accordingly. Each employee is also assigned individual goals so they know what to aim for.

Train Employees

Your employees are one of your greatest assets, if not the greatest assets themselves. You should, therefore, be eager to train and develop them, making sure they get all the skills they need to do their jobs even better. While it might seem like a good idea to cut costs on training and forcing your employees to learn on the job, it has a massive potential to backfire.

Take some extra time and invest some extra money to train your employees in the skills they require to do their jobs. That way, they will be even more independent and competent with the tasks you assign them. 

To prepare training material, you can outsource the work to a writing service like AussieWritings or AssignmentMan to do it for you expediently.  

By making your employees more productive, you maximize the value you get from your business and improve your bottom line. The tips on this list are certainly not exhaustive, but they are a good starting point on the road to making your employees and company more productive. 

This guest post is contributed by Kurt Walker who is a blogger and college paper writer. In the course of his studies he developed an interest in innovative technology and likes to keep business owners informed about the latest technology to use to transform their operations. He writes for companies such as Edu Birdie, XpertWriters and uk.bestessays.com on various academic and business topics.

Crane Worldwide Logistics Welcomes Second CEO in Company History

Crane Worldwide Logistics CEO Keith Winters enters his first month with the company, effective immediately following former CEO John Magee’s stepping down after 11 years with the global supply chain solutions provider. Mr. Magee served as the only CEO to-date for Crane Logistics prior to Mr. Winters’ appointment.

“I want to thank Jim Crane for the opportunity to build and lead Crane Worldwide. It has been an honor to work with so many exceptional people the past 11 years.”  says predecessor John Magee.

“Keith is also one of our founders, who has played an integral role in launching the company. With him moving into the CEO position, I am confident our clients will experience no impact to their day to day service needs.”

Mr. Winters is the second CEO in the company’s history and boasts over 20 years of experience in strategic leadership as a Crane family member. Winters served eight years as the Chief Operating Officer for Crane Worldwide in addition to serving two years as the CEO for Crane Capital Group affiliate, Davaco.

“Crane Worldwide has built our success as a result of our talented people and our unwavering commitment to client service. I am excited that our CEO successor has come internally as Keith exemplifies all of the great values we have built this company on,” stated Chairman Jim Crane.

“I am grateful for everything John Magee has accomplished in the role and personally thank him for his commitment as one of our company founders. I am confident the transition will be smooth  – our leadership team is solid, and we are looking forward to the future.”

“Crane Worldwide is a best in class global supply chain and logistics organization. I am honored to lead our team of over 1,800 employees into the next chapter of our growth and I look forward to working alongside our clients to continue to drive innovation within this industry.”

Transplace Announces Newly Appointed CAO

Danielle Lambertz is the newest member of the Transplace family, serving the role as chief accounting officer at the company’s Frisco, Texas headquarters. Lambertz will oversee accounting responsibilities in addition to all reporting, internal controls and compliance. She brings over 20 years of experience to the company and boasts prior experience with three Fortune 100 companies and “Big 4” public accounting.

“As they have continued to prove themselves as one of North America’s leading providers of transportation and logistics services and technology, it is truly an exciting time to be joining Transplace,”
said Lambertz. “I look forward to helping Transplace along its current growth trajectory by improving processes and enhancing its financial and operational performance, enabling the company to pass along those benefits to its customers.”

Lambertz previously held the position as McKesson Corporation’s vice president and controller for the pharmaceutical solutions and services business, and a key leader in the company’s accounting and finance organization. She will report to Transplace’s CFO Chris Nester as she leverages her polished skill set for leading accounting operations at Transplace.

“Danielle is a people-focused, experienced leader with strategic vision and broad expertise in driving widespread organizational change,” said Nester. “Her proven leadership will enhance our organization and allow us to further integrate finance with human resources (HR) and information technology (IT) as we continue to grow and scale at a rapid pace.

“She will also drive internal controls and compliance to better position Transplace to deliver exceptional logistics management service to our growing customer base.”

 

3 Types of Stories Every Leader Should Master

The fact that people are wired to react so strongly to stories should motivate business leaders to develop their storytelling skills. But what business situations call for a story?

You might have guessed the answer—it depends. It depends on both the situation and what you’d like to accomplish in the situation. The situation might be a staff meeting where you’re introduced to the people on your new team, for example. As their new boss, your objective might be to get them to like and respect you and to start dismantling the barriers of mistrust and uncertainty. Another situation might be that members of your team have lost enthusiasm for their work, and your objective is to restore their engagement and give them purpose, so they understand the “why” of what they’re spending most of their waking hours doing. Or maybe valuable members of your team feel unappreciated or don’t get the credit they deserve. In that situation, your objective may be to reinforce or highlight certain norms and behaviors with your stories and to draw positive attention to them.

Below are three types of stories that every leader should master. My hope is that they inspire readers to dig deeper into this topic and to identify and cultivate potential stories that can help you accomplish important objectives.

1. Stories We Tell Ourselves

We constantly assemble bits and pieces of information of what we observe around us and automatically turn them into stories that tend to reinforce our long-developed beliefs. If those stories are positive ones—you admire a colleague and tend particularly to notice the admirable things she does, you pride yourself on your own punctuality and pat yourself on the back whenever you find yourself (again!) to be the first person to show up at a meeting—these perspectives are often uplifting and empowering.

The problem comes when we tell ourselves negative stories. For instance, if I feel that the people around me are lazy and incompetent, the stories I create will be based on morsels of data that “conform” that belief. Or if I feel that I don’t measure up to others’ expectations, the stories I create will reinforce this self-assessment, prominently featuring my mistakes, my failures, and others’ expressions of disappointment in me. And so a vicious loop is created where negative perceptions—including of the self—determine the stories we tell ourselves, which in turn play out in full color to reinforce these perceptions.

Clearly these aren’t productive narratives, nor do they serve the people and organizations we lead. And while I’m aware that years of cognitive behavioral therapy may sometimes be the most effective solution to modify such beliefs-and-values–powered narratives, I’d like to suggest that we have the option to intervene any time we recognize (self-awareness!) the unproductive nature of the stories we tell ourselves.

It’s clear that the stories we tell ourselves have an impact not just on our own behavior, but also on our engagement with others and in turn on their perceptions of us as leaders, colleagues, and partners. By carefully examining our dominant narratives and making sure they contribute positive value to our and others’ lives, we’re one step closer to wielding real influence with the power of storytelling.

2. Stories We Tell Others About Ourselves

Whether you are a leader joining a new team, or a job candidate in the first round of interviews, or someone meeting a potential new client for the first time, the stories you tell about yourself often set the tone for how the relationship will unfold, if it does, that is. Which are the right stories in such scenarios? It’s hard to go wrong with stories that illustrate your humility, good judgment, integrity, and expertise and experience. As for what to emphasize, putting yourself firmly into the shoes of your audience should provide clues. The needs and expectations of the people in your audience will, of course, vary, depending on the context of the meeting and their future goals as they involve you.

For instance, if you are the new boss meeting the members of your team for the first time, you know they’ll wonder about your leadership style and how you’ll treat them. Acknowledge this and share a personal story or two that show you empathize—maybe from when you met your boss for the first time. Mention the lessons you’ve learned in managing others and make sure to highlight any mistakes from which you’ve grown. Share examples of how you’ve navigated new cultures in the past—organizational or regional—and what you’re hoping to learn in this next stage with their help. This shows humility, humanizes you, and reduces the power distance that can hamper the open and honest dialogue that builds trust.

If your audience—whether a group or an individual—is looking to engage you for your expertise, share stories that illustrate how you’ve delivered results or solved similar problems for others. Mention the challenges you encountered along the way and how you met them successfully—even if it took a few attempts to get it right. This is also an elegant way to share your strengths without bragging about your accomplishments.

When others want to get to know us, they aren’t just looking for the content on our LinkedIn profile. They want to know the real us to determine whether we’re trustworthy and whether associating with us will be of positive or negative value to them. That’s why recruiters and hiring managers no longer have qualms about digging into our social media pro les and online musings to evaluate our reputation and our judgment.

And judgment is key whenever we share personal information. Faulty judgment can result in some awkward moments if not lasting reputational harm.

Faulty judgment in personal stories isn’t always this glaring. But if you are unsure of how your stories might land, run them first by people you trust. In the end, with personal stories less is more and humility is better.

3. Stories We Tell Our Teams or Organizations

The type of storytelling that is intrinsic to successful leadership is the ability to tell compelling stories of the future, to articulate a vision, to both internal and external audiences. Leaders need to master another kind of story too—this kind is about organizational values.

Whatever the management goal, there are storytelling strategies that can help further it. A former Facebook director of engineering, Bobby Johnson, once saw the need for a cultural shift in the company’s infrastructure team. Although many of his engineers were drawn to exciting new projects and innovations, Johnson knew that other Facebook engineers, the ones who worked behind the scenes to ensure that the existing systems ran faster and better than before, also did critical work. He wanted to highlight these “unsung heroes,” both to honor them and to get more engineers interested in their less glamorous but nonetheless essential work. To accomplish this, he would take every opportunity—in one-on-ones, in meetings, and in group e-mails—to share stories of important fixes that these day-to-day engineers made and to publicly praise them.

Similarly, if you want people to speak up more in meetings and challenge each other, share a story of how a lone dissenting voice was able to change your mind about a decision you’d made, and how this wouldn’t have happened if the person hadn’t felt comfortable in challenging you. Or if you want to increase collaboration among teams, share a story about two teams who decided to join forces and whose combined creativity and brainpower led to important breakthroughs for the organization. And if it’s courage and risk taking you want to promote, highlight stories of risk-taking colleagues—and include their failures, to make the point that learning from mistakes is just another way forward.

As you can see in the three types of stories above, the formula for telling a story is simple. Decide which values you want to promote and which behaviors you want to encourage, and then make those traits the themes of your stories, and include characters who demonstrate the desired traits. Do these stories have to be true? It helps if they are, and it’s even better if your audience knows the protagonists. However, hypothetical scenarios can pack just as big a punch, as we’ve learned from neuroscience research and our own experiences from the myriad of stories that surround us.

Harrison Monarth is the CEO and Founder of Gurumaker and author of Executive Presence: The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO. An Executive Coach, he teaches C-suite leaders, senior executives, high potential managers and other top professionals effective leadership and positive behavior change for professional and organizational success. For more information, please visit, www.gurumaker.com and connect with Monarth on Twitter, @HarrisonMonarth and LinkedIn.

5 Things Leaders Can Learn From Stand Up Comedians

As you can imagine, stand-up comedy can make you a better presenter. After all, it’s one of the hardest forms of public speaking you’ll ever do (aside from effectively teaching second graders), which means if you can do okay in stand-up, all other types of business presentations will seem easier. But stand-up comedy can also make you a better leader.

The majority of my leadership training has come from two places: 1) the internal leadership development program at Procter & Gamble, and 2) stand-up comedy. The first is expected, after all, P&G is a promote-from-within company, so they have to have good leadership training. The second is surprising, but has been just as valuable in my career development.

Here are five important ideas leaders can learn from stand-up comedians:

1. Start strong.

The most important part of any stand-up set is the first 30 seconds. It is in that small timeframe that an audience decides if you are worth paying attention to.
 
Those first 30 seconds are just like the first 30 seconds of any recommendation or proposal you give at work. Some people know this concept as “headnodding”–get people in agreement early on (e.g. make them realize you’re funny), and they are much more likely to agree with you later.
 
In standup, a good introduction relates to something the entire audience can be a part of (such as a joke about the city, something a previous comic said, or the ridiculousness of your own voice…) In the business world, that may mean starting off a presentation by establishing that you are all on common ground. If you are proposing a solution to a problem or “opportunity,” confirm with the audience that you all agree that there is, in fact, a problem, and you agree on what it is. Then, once they’ve settled in and have already been nodding along (not nodding off), you can transition into the meat of the meeting.

2. Deliver with Confidence.

Comedy is a mixture of both content and delivery. Yes, the material itself has to be good, but so does the delivery. In fact, delivery can often make up for weaker material–just look at Dane Cook’s early career. The jokes weren’t mind-blowingly funny, but his delivery of it was.
 
The same is true for leading others. If you’re not confident in what you’re doing, it will be much harder for people to follow you. As Adlai Stevenson said, “It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.”
 
The key to improving your confidence as a leader is the same as developing it as a comedian: through practice and repetition. The more often you do something, the easier it tends to become and the more comfortable you get.

3. Seek feedback.

Comedy, in a way, is simple. How do you know something is funny? It makes people laugh. The only way for a comedian to know if people will laugh at the joke is to try it out and see. The immediate feedback they receive on stage is invaluable as a performer.
 
Similarly, feedback to a leader is crucial. Stopping to ask for ways to better connect with each of your direct reports, improve a presentation, or what went well in a particular meeting can guide you in finding what works and what doesn’t. Then you can start working on the right things–working smarter and not harder.
 
One key thing to note is that feedback doesn’t just have to come from other people. Comedians record their performances so they can go back to evaluate a performance. Checking in with yourself periodically or tracking your daily progress can help you find what is and isn’t working for you.

4. Give credit where credit is due.

The cardinal sin of stand-up comedy (just after murder) is stealing material. Taking someone else’s jokes and pretending they are your own is like buying a Coke, putting your own label on it, and selling it as Joe’s Soda. After all, jokes are the primary product that comedians “sell.”
 
In management, to take credit for what other people have done is not only dishonest, it’s limiting for both you and your team. Your team doesn’t get the proper recognition they deserve, and you don’t showcase your ability to inspire your team to great results.
 
Taking credit and stealing material may help you get ahead in the short-term, but in today’s world, the frauds and the thieves tend to get found out and left behind.

5. Respect people’s time.

The second biggest sin in comedy is going over your allotted time (called “blowing the light”). Nearly every comedian imagines they could entertain the crowd for hours upon hours, but (thankfully) shows typically limit the amount of time each comic has, often based on their skill-level or connection to the show. To go over the amount of time given is to tell the show producer and all of the other comedians, “I think I’m more important than you” and “I don’t respect you.”
 
When you, as a leader, hold people longer than the scheduled time, or consistently show up late to meetings, you’re saying the same thing: “I think I’m more important than you” and “I don’t respect you.”
 
Respect people’s time and they’ll respect yours (and you) for it. If you need help keeping meetings on track, you can always do what comedians do: give people a notification when their time is almost up and then cut the mic if they go on for too long.

Stand-Up Leadership

Becoming a stand-up leader isn’t easy, but following some of these principles from stand-up comedians can certainly help. Plus this is the perfect excuse to finally give stand-up comedy a try or at least watch some of your favorite comedians online. You won’t just be having a laugh, you’ll be on your way to becoming a better leader as well.

Andrew Tarvin is the world’s first humor engineer, teaching people how to get better results while having more fun. He is the author of Humor That Works: The Missing Skill for Success and Happiness at Work and CEO ofHumor That Works, a consultancy for human effectiveness. For more information, please visit,www.humorthatworks.com and connect with him on Twitter, @drewtarvin.

3 Keys to Become More Resilient: How Mindset, Skillset, and Ability to Reset Empowers Leaders

Building resilient organizations requires resilient leaders. Being resilient enables you to overcome setbacks, build effective teams, and stay focused on what really matters in your life and company.

Resilience is our ability to recover when we are faced with obstacles, difficulties, and setbacks. It allows you to tap into your strength and courage so you can persevere when things don’t go as you had planned.

Research finds that resilient people excel in problem solving, positive communication, emotional intelligence, and emotional regulation. They are also more hopeful and optimistic, and have higher levels of self-esteem. These are vital skills for leaders, both for their own health and happiness and to inspire their teams.

The people who work for you pay close attention to how you deal with challenges. Resilient leaders look at failures not as crushing defeats but as opportunities to grow and move forward. Resilience allows you to set a powerful, positive, effective example.

When I speak to groups, I sometimes begin by asking: “How many of you have survived the worst thing that has ever happened to you?” It’s a way of demonstrating that we are all, by our very nature, strong and resilient.

At the same time, resilience is not static. It is a set of habits, beliefs, and behaviors we can cultivate and practice proactively, so they are there when we need them. And whether we like it or not, life gives us plenty of opportunities to practice!

Fortunately, you don’t have to wait for a major setback or traumatic event to begin building your resilience. You can start today by focusing on three areas: your mindset, skillset, and your ability to reset:

Mindset includes your habits, emotional intelligence, and beliefs. Your mindset is the story you tell yourself about yourself, including how you think about stress. When we are under stress, the emotional center of our brain lights up, shooting the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline through our brain and body. This was originally intended to help us freeze, run away, or fight an impending attacker; the same process happens when we face an emotional setback or threat. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between a real or perceived threat. When you identify how you respond to stress, you can begin to proactively manage it. The bottom line: Our beliefs drive behavior. And beliefs can be changed.

Skillset includes our ability to cultivate gratitude, optimism, and other positive emotions; to manage stress; to mitigate negative self-talk; and to engage in activities that are good for us like humor, social connection, mindfulness, and self-care. Some skills you can start practicing today include:

GratitudeNumerous scientific studies have shown that practicing being grateful on a regular basis lowers blood pressure, reduces inflammation, improves heart health and sleep, and lowers our levels of stress. People who practice gratitude have improved sleep, mood, decision-making, and relationships along with fewer aches, pains, and bouts of depression. The benefits are almost immediate. You don’t even have to find anything to be grateful for. The simple act of looking releases the feel-good neurochemicals serotonin and dopamine and lowers the stress hormone cortisol by 23%.

Optimism also lowers cortisol and increases dopamine and serotonin. People who practice optimism have fewer aches and pains, along with better physical and mental health. It has also been linked with higher income and more successful relationships.

Mindfulness is simply being where you are when you’re there. Mindfulness trains your mind to focus on the moment instead of worrying about what occurred in the past or what might happen in the future. This makes you less likely to hit the panic button, and reverses stress-related changes in the brain.

Laughter is good for your soul and your brain. Studies show a genuine smile (one that involves facial muscles around the eyes) sparks a change in brain activity related to a good mood.

Social connection is the greatest predictor of longevity. Surround yourself with people that lift you up, celebrate, and laugh with you.

Reset is getting out of being busy, being deliberate about where you invest your energy, and making sure that your actions are in line with your intentions in terms of your priorities. Taking the time to reset is imperative for leaders to keep their focus on what matters most. For instance, it can help you identify your high-payoff activities.

A high-payoff activity is an activity that brings the greatest result for the time invested. Twenty percent of the tasks that we do on any given day generate 80 percent of our results. By identifying the tasks and responsibilities that bring the greatest return for time invested, you can focus on planning and prioritizing these activities.

What do you wish you had more time for? Where is it scheduled in your calendar? If you tracked your time would it be representative of what you say is most important to you? Take the time to make sure your actions match your intentions. It’s all about focusing on what’s important.

About the Author: Resilience expert Anne Grady is an internationally recognized speaker and author. Anne shares humor, humility, refreshing honesty, and practical strategies anyone can use to triumph over adversity and master change. She is the author of “Strong Enough: Choosing Courage, Resilience, and Triumph” and “52 Strategies for Life, Love, & Work.” For more information, please visit www.AnneGradyGroup.com.

Score a Workplace Win with These 5 Traits of Successful Athletes

When Tiger Woods thrilled the sports world by winning The Masters golf tournament, many golf experts and fans viewed his triumph as inspirational.

After all, the 43-year-old Woods demonstrated not just athletic skills, but also mental strength that allowed him to overcome declining physical prowess and years of adversity that included a sex scandal, divorce and numerous back and knee surgeries.

For high-performing athletes, that’s not so unusual because mental attitude is often critical to success in sports. But the same can be true in the workplace for those willing to learn from the practices of athletes and apply them in their own lives, says Grant Parr (www.gameperformance.com), a mental sports performance coach and the author of The Next One Up Mindset: How To Prepare For The Unknown.

The key, Parr says, is to be prepared when big opportunities arrive – sometimes unexpectedly, as it did for Woods.

“Many of the demands we face at work are not so different than those faced by high-caliber athletes,” Parr says.“The need for mental toughness in the face of chaos and adversity is similar.

“But what happens when a big moment is at hand, like a promotion, and people aren’t ready for it? What did they not do to be properly prepared? The world is filled with unexpected opportunities for greatness, and there are processes that athletes and people in all types of positions can execute to get prepared for that moment.”

Parr focuses on five areas where athletic examples can be applied toward readiness and success in the workplace:

Applying grit in the face of adversity. “Handling adversity starts with being flexible,” Parr says. “Take difficult people you have to deal with; you must be able to adapt and adjust, know when to let things roll off your back and when to stand your ground. Or when you’ve missed your sales quota, you lose key people, etc., the stress can be enormous. These are times you have to rely on your inner warrior and draw on your past examples of strong mental performance.” 

Turning crisis into opportunity. Some athletes are summoned to a bigger role because the performer in front of them is ineffective or hurt. “Can you see opportunity when everyone else sees uncertainty?” Parr asks. “When others react with fright, you can choose mental might.”

Embracing your role.  Every team requires people who fulfill their roles. Part of embracing your role is recognizing that the team’s needs are bigger than your own. “Rock your role, and people will notice,” Parr says. “But keep aspiring, studying the practices of those in higher roles, and you’ll be fully prepared for advancement when it comes.” 

Visualizing success. So critical to success in sports, visualizing success is just as vital in business. “See the performance as you wish it to go,” Parr says. “See yourself performing with energy and confidence; pump yourself up with positive talk.” 

Assuming leadership. “Doing your best, showing enthusiasm and trustworthiness help establish a culture that lifts everyone up,” Parr says. “Showing leadership when you don’t have a formal title allows you to develop the skills you’ll need when an opportunity arises and offers evidence you’re the one to fulfill that opportunity.”

“You may wait 10 or more years for a big opportunity, or it may come suddenly,” Parr says. “But if you’re not ready mentally, that opportunity will pass you by.”

About Grant Parr 

Grant Parr (www.gameperformance.com) is a mental sports performance coach and the author of The Next One Up Mindset: How To Prepare For The Unknown. Parr owns and runs GAMEFACE PERFORMANCE, a consulting firm that enhances mental skills for athletes and coaches. A recruiter and sales leader in the corporate world for 17 years, he now works with a wide variety of athletes including Olympians, professionals, collegians and high school athletes. His podcast, 90% Mental, provides a window into a broad range of athletes’ and coaches’ mental games and shares their insights around mental performance.