You might not realize the impact you have or can have in someone’s life with these six simple words, as explained in this Inc magazine article.

What if I could show you how to improve the way you give compliments, and create truly memorable moments for the objects of your praise, simply by framing your words a bit differently?

I discovered this technique by accident years ago, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time considering and researching how it works. Its roots are grounded in a simple truth of psychology and emotional intelligence that I think we all understand.  

The framing works quickly, and it comes down to preparing your audience to do two things: first, to pay attention to what you’re about to say, and next, to expect that your message will be a true and positive reflection on them.

The easiest way to remember to do this is to learn to give praise by starting with a short, simple, focus-shifting preamble. 

For example, you might use a variation of these six words: You might not know this, but…”

That short phrase is packed with meaning. It starts with “you,” so it impresses that the other person in the conversation is also the subject of the conversation. 

It also implies that you’re about to share new knowledge that the other person isn’t aware of yet. And the inclusion of a difference-indicating conjunction (“but”) suggests that the information will contradict a previous assumption.

Overall, it establishes that whatever comes next isn’t just about something you want to share. Instead, it’s about the other person’s perception of reality. 

It’s other-centered, rather than self-centered

Now, we’re talking only about the preamble, so far. And I know we’ve squeezed a lot into it. However, whatever follows is just as crucial. It has to be both positive and truthful.

So consider these sample iterations:

  • “You might not know this, but people really appreciate how calm you can be in a crisis.”
  • “I’m not sure if you appreciated your impact, but your comments in the meeting last week reassured the whole team.”
  • “I hope you didn’t think you were alone; when you asked that question in class, you spoke for everyone.”
  • “You’re never going to believe this, but I took your advice and it worked out.”
  • “Would it surprise you to know how much the newer people on the team talk about you as a role model?”

I’m making these examples intentionally broad, and mixing up the preambles, of course.

But, I think you can see how it works — and how phrasing a compliment or positive feedback like this makes it a lot more powerful than simply offering praise as a declarative statement.

It also illustrates that the substantive compliment has to be authentic and truthful for this to work.

For example, if somebody were to say to me: “Bill, you may not know this, but people think you’re a really great dancer,” I would be skeptical. 

I mean, I know that I’m simply not a very good dancer. It’s kind of comical, actually.

Now, as I mentioned above, the irony for me is that I stumbled across this technique purely by accident.

Back when I was practicing law, a more experienced attorney taught a class for the newer lawyers. She really knew her stuff, and the advice she gave — including some fairly technical intricacies of tax law and civil procedure — saved my greener colleagues and me a lot of time and frustration. 

Afterward, I remember wondering why this gifted speaker hadn’t been promoted into a true leadership role. I also thought: Wait, does she actually know how helpful this was? Does anyone give her feedback?

We had hardly spoken before, but when I bumped into her later, I said something like: “I don’t know if anyone ever tells you this, but your presentation was great. It taught me and the other new lawyers quite a few things that made life a lot easier for us.”

That conversation sparked a bit of a work friendship and mentorship. And maybe a year or two later, I remember she said something reciprocal to me, like: 

“You might not have understood the power of your words, but when you complimented my presentation that day, I really needed to hear it.”

Now, I’m certainly not saying that this is the only way to phrase a compliment, or that other ways are wrong, or that it always has the kind of memorable impact that will leave you thinking about it years later.

But I know that the preamble played above its weight in both cases, and I’ve been tuned in ever since to observe it in action again.

It’s a reminder that whether it’s hard-wired or learned insecurity, most of us are predisposed to seek out information about how others perceive us. So, framing compliments like this can increase their effect, while also reminding you to be other-centered in your interactions when that is beneficial.

In other words: You might not have known this, but your opinions are valuable to other people.

And when you phrase them correctly, they can stick with them in a positive way, for a very long time.

Do you know what good self-care looks like, what you feel like when you’ve done it, and how your outcomes change when you take care of yourself? Take the time to find out.

Harvard Business Review

The benefits of self-care are well known. Yet when I work with my leadership clients, I often get major pushback around the whole idea. Why are many leaders so resistant to taking a bit of time for themselves?

It usually boils down to misperceptions around what good leadership is, what self-care is, and how self-care actually works. Luckily, I’ve also found that with some thoughtful introspection, it’s possible for even the most skeptical among us to overcome those misconceptions and learn to reap the benefits of self-care. Below, I consider the three most common excuses my clients give for their resistance to self-care, and offer some solutions to help leaders overcome that resistance.

“Self-care is just a bunch of new-age, hippy-dippy nonsense”

Some of my clients find the entire concept of self-care to be antithetical to their image of what a “serious” leader looks like. They roll their eyes at the whole idea of meditation, mindfulness, chants, “anything that involves candles,” nature walks, and “slowing down.” Others trivialize taking time for yourself as an “indulgence” — maybe others enjoy it, but it’s a luxury they feel they can’t afford.

How can we start to challenge these limiting beliefs? To start, I work with my clients to reframe self-care as an investment that can increase their overall productivity and effectiveness as a leader. A data-driven approach is often the most convincing, and the research is clear that diet, exercise, sleep, and emotional regulation promote health and well-being.

Specifically, a healthy diet has been linked to better moods, higher energy levels, and lower levels of depression. Aerobic exercise increases blood flow, boosting both learning and memory. Getting good sleep has been linked to increased focus, improved cognitive function (including creativity and innovation), greater capacity for learning, and improved empathy.

To refocus on the tangible benefits of self-care, I’ll often ask clients the following questions:

  • If instead of focusing on “self-care,” I invited you to focus on diet, sleep, exercise, and emotional regulation, how would you feel differently?
  • What could you stop, start, or continue doing right now to improve your mental and physical health?

“I don’t have time!”

More often than not, when I broach the topic of self-care or even taking a break, my clients respond with some version of, “Are you kidding me?!? I’m already way beyond capacity looking after my team and my family, trying to organize home schooling, emotionally supporting my friends, colleagues, family … I don’t have time for that!”

This feeling of constant stress is sadly all too common among today’s endlessly busy leaders. Unfortunately, when we’re stressed, neuroscience tells us that our amygdala — the area of the brain responsible for our evolutionary fight-or-flight response — kicks in, diverting resources from the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for logical reasoning, problem solving, decision making, and willpower. In other words, it is precisely when we’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed that we would most benefit from slowing down in order to think big, innovate, and solve the problems that are stressing us out.

This too is thoroughly backed by research. Studies show that taking breaks can help prevent decision fatiguerenew and strengthen motivationincrease productivity and creativity, and consolidate memory and improve learning. Even short “micro-breaks” can improve focus and productivity.

As we think about the stress-induced “I don’t have time” objection, it’s useful to ask:

  • What are the key priorities in your life? Can you achieve them without health and well being?
  • How much time could you save by responding from a place of control rather than reacting from a place of stress?
  • What is one thing you can choose to say no to today that will give you back at least five minutes? (Hint: You probably spend longer on social media than you want to!) How you could you use this time to improve your own well-being and performance?

“Leaders need to be strong. If I’m a good leader, I shouldn’t need self-care.”

Some of my clients come in to coaching thinking that as a leader, they must never show any vulnerability. Recently, I worked with a client who explained that she expected herself — and any “self-respecting” leader — to have all the answers. “Otherwise,” she asked, “why would anyone follow me?!” The belief that practicing self-care is a sign of weakness combines with the notion that showing weakness makes you a bad leader to create serious resistance to even exploring these practices.

To combat my client’s limiting beliefs, we needed to explore her preconceptions about what it meant to be a leader, delving into the power of vulnerability and the opportunities we can create when we rely on others. As she began to acknowledge the importance of delegation and asking for help, she was able to see that self-care was actually the key to becoming a more effective leader.

If you’re struggling to shift your notions of what “good” leadership looks like, try asking yourself these questions:

  • If the strongest leader you knew was struggling with stress, what would you advise them to do?
  • How has taking some time for yourself benefited you or your team in the past?
  • If you didn’t need help, but you just wanted to recharge your battery — how would you do that?

Once you begin to overcome your initial resistance, it’s time to start thinking about how to integrate self-care into your daily routine. Here are a few strategies that have been effective for my clients:

Make peace with self-care (or whatever you want to call it). Acknowledging your resistance is the first step to overcoming it. For example, one leader I worked with associated self-care with long meditations sitting cross-legged on the floor, complete with incense and chants, which he found completely repellant. Once we got past that misconception, we were able to arrive at a more meaningful understanding of self-care — for him, it consisted of a morning journaling exercise, a brief afternoon nature walk, and 15 minutes of kid-free jazz in the evening.

Make it your own. Understand that self-care is as individual as the person practicing it, so it can take many different forms. You may not be a spa person, but perhaps you get a boost from nature. Talking on the phone may be draining, but pulling out a sketch pad or a crossword puzzle might reenergize you (or vice versa!).

Make it micro. Short diversions can provide a powerful boost. One of my clients sets a daily alarm for a five-minute loving kindness meditation, which he finds centers him amidst his “many storms brewing.” Try an online mindfulness meditation to improve emotional regulation, journaling to promote self-awareness, creative writing to increase well-being and creativity, reaching out to someone you haven’t spoken with in a while to increase your social connectedness, a gratitude exercise or an act of kindness to promote positivity, or a walk around the block to get your blood flowing.

Make time in your agenda. Once you’ve come up with a plan, put it in your calendar to make it official! If you’re not sure what exactly you want to do, you can start by simply identifying two 10-minute blocks every day, setting your alarm, and then choosing a new self-care activity to try out during each time block.

Experiment. You’ll never get it exactly perfect the first time. Once you’ve started, think about what’s working for you, and what you might want to change or add to your routine. You can also look to your peers and colleagues for inspiration. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel — if something they’re doing sounds appealing to you, borrow it and make it your own.

Once you’re got it, share it. As a leader, you set the tone for your people. So share what’s worked for you, and make it clear through both words and actions that you know the importance of taking care of yourself. If you’re open about your investments into self-care, your team and your entire organization will follow your lead.

Self-care begins with you. It comes in many shapes and sizes, but done consciously and consistently, it gives you the tools you need to become a better leader and a happier, healthier person. If you want to become the best version of yourself — and inspire those around you to do the same — investing in your own well-being is worth making time for.

“Play is valuable — very valuable. In fact, the benefits of play cannot be overstated. So run, sing, and dance. Play games and have fun!”

I took the references to children out of this quote from the article; what’s good for kids is good for us as adults I’d say. How are you having fun at work?

Play is one of the most important aspects of a child’s life. Why? Because through peekaboo, patty-cake, and playing house, children learn to think creatively and interact socially.

Through play, they develop physically and discover a slew of emotional skills,and they learn how to process the world. In short, play is pivotal to your child’s development.

“Play is how children learn,” says Dr. Tiff Jumaily, a pediatrician at Integrative Pediatrics and Medicine Studio City in Los Angeles.

What’s more, according to a 2012 studyTrusted Source, play reduces stress. “On the whole, play is associated with responses that facilitate learning… [and] work off stress,” says Jumaily.

But what are the benefits of play and what type of engagement, toys, and activities do children really need? We asked some experts to weigh in.

The benefits of play

While the benefits of play are innumerable — play helps children develop cognitively, physically, socially, and emotionally — there is more to play than fun and games.

Mayra Mendez, PhD, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist and program coordinator at Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Healthline, “Play is important because it provides a primary foundation for learning, exploring, problem-solving, and building an understanding of the world and your role within it.”

But how do children learn through play? Well, it’s simple. Play allows children the chance to emulate what they see and practice skills. It gives them an outlet for creativity and experimentation, and play helps them learn how to interact and communicate with others.

Cognitive benefits

Play promotes healthy development and critical thinking skills. It reinforces memory, helps children understand cause and effect, and, according to Mendez, helps children explore the world — and their role in it.

“Young children learn how things fit together through play. It allows them to use their senses and encourages exploration and curiosity, and these skills are the foundation of intellectual development and cognitive processing.”

Play also inspires children to pretend, create, and imagine. Creative, open-ended play helps children conceptualize, brainstorm, and exercise critical thinking skills.

Physical benefits

Physically, play benefits children in a few ways, namely in the development of their fine and gross motor skills.

“Play benefits motor development by encouraging movement [and the] understanding of spatial relations, promoting motor planning skills, and supporting balance and dexterity,” Mendez says. “It also supports gross motor skills, such as energy, stamina, flexibility, and body awareness.”

Examples of physical play include running, jumping, swimming, block building, dancing, riding bikes, and climbing trees. (When you’re providing opportunities for these types of activities, remember key safety precautions — from bike helmets to pool supervision.)

Social benefits

Play is also important for social development because it helps children learn how to interact with others.

Through play, children develop an understanding of social expectations and rules, and play provides opportunities to share thoughts and ideas, to listen, and to compromise.

Emotional benefits

Additionally, play helps children understand and process their emotions.

“Kids process their emotions and new concepts through play,” Kim Wheeler Poitevien, a child therapist in Philadelphia, tells Healthline.

When a child loses a game, for example, they learn to process sadness, anger, and grief. Playing also helps build confidence and encourages the development of their identity and self-esteem.

Lots of ways the bad guys can get in. Are all of your doors locked?

code projected over woman

Mike Foster shares how they are getting into your IT systems and how to prevent it in this short read.

An attacker can plug into any network port in your building and, within 3 seconds, take control of your entire network.

The attacker does not need to know any passwords; they do not even need a username. They plug in a cable, and 3 seconds later, they’ve completely compromised your network. An attacker posing as a visitor, a copier repair person, or a member of a cleaning crew can all compromise your organization. They can steal sensitive information, install ransomware, and can shut down operations entirely. They bypass the majority of, if not all, of your other protections because now they’re a Domain Administrator.

This exploit is so severe that the Department of Homeland Security directed all federal agencies to apply the patch in accordance with the Federal Emergency Directive 20-04.

Take these three steps ASAP:

First, ask your IT team if they’ve backed up your Domain Controller servers and applied Microsoft’s patches that address the Zerologon exploit CVE-2020-1472. They must do this immediately. Be compassionate if they’ve not. IMPORTANT: Realize that if an attacker already took over a network, the patch doesn’t help.

Second, if you have Domain Controllers using operating systems older than Windows Server 2008 R2, your IT professionals must shut them down for good. Be sure to migrate any mission-critical services to other servers.

Third, does your organization rely on third parties to support you? What if one of your major suppliers, a distributor, or your biggest customer falls prey to an attack? Prepare your organization now for an interruption of their operations. Be sure their executives know about this flaw and these three steps. You do not want a catastrophe at their organization to domino and cause a disaster for you, even though you’ve protected your systems.

Additional steps:

Inform your work-from-home team members that, in some cases, the attacker can take over your network using a VPN connection. Do you have an armed guard at every work-from-home user’s home to watch visitors? Of course not. But your entire organization might rely on their security. What if a teenager’s friend feels like playing around, experimenting, with this new cool exploit on a mom or dad’s computer?

The patches only protect you from attacks from Windows devices. If an attacker accesses a network port or cable with a non-Windows machine, the attacker can still take control of your network. Microsoft will release a second patch on February 9, 2021. Ask your IT team to configure alerts now to monitor security log events 5827 thru 5831 to see when connections are allowed or denied.

The average time for IT Professionals to apply critical security patches is five months, but you need to help yours be above average. Ask them what you can do to help them have time to test and install all critical security patches within 14 days or sooner. They might want to have a patch management tool. They might need more time to devote to applying updates.

Confirm that your IT Team disconnects or disables all unused Ethernet ports, including those in conference rooms. Lock doors to any offices and conference rooms that contain active Ethernet ports. Train everyone to be proactive and remove opportunities for anyone, including guests and repair people, to plug a device into a network port.

Keep in mind that 911 systems, airlines, governments, and every organization that you depend on are at risk for Zerologon exploit CVE-2020-1472 until they take action too.

Please forward this to fellow executives you care about so they can support their IT Professionals successfully backing up servers and applying the emergency patch.

Courage isn’t the lack of fear, it is action in the face of fear. Venus Williams shares how she took lessons from the Tennis Court to the Boardroom in this Forbes article.

Tennis champion and Olympic gold medalist Venus Williams has some advice for the more than 30 million small business owners and entrepreneurs across the U.S. struggling to find their footing in the new normal: Don’t let fear take over. It’s a lesson she learned at the age of 19 while competing with sister Serena, then 17, at the 1999 U.S. Open. Williams only made it to the semi-finals—her sister went on to win the tournament.

“I let fear take over, and that’s where I should have just let go and would have been my best,” she says. “You want more, and you work very hard for more, so less than that is just not acceptable. That was my biggest loss.” 

Speaking to Forbes ahead of the American Express “Business Class Live: Summit for Success” on October 20, Williams drew parallels between her experience playing tennis and running various businesses during the pandemic. “Even though it’s a very challenging time it’s an opportunity to really refine your business and make it something that is a service or a product that is really needed and not just wanted,” says Williams, the founder of full-service commercial and residential design firm V Starr and activewear brand EleVen by Venus Williams. “This year showed all of us that we need to be a product or service that you can’t say no to.”

All entrepreneurs can benefit from that guidance right now. As of August 31, more than 163,000 businesses have closed as a result of the pandemic, according to Yelp’s September Local Economic Impact report. This represents a 23% increase from July 10. Even more alarming: 60% of closed businesses have permanently shuttered due to Covid-19 and the resulting restrictions in many states. The Q3 Yelp Economic Average Report released on October 22, however, points to a hopeful rebound: More than 210,000 businesses have now reopened amid a significant increase in consumer interest for outdoor related services and activities. 

For those businesses that have managed to stay afloat, the path forward will require the will to adapt in an ever-changing environment. In fact, about 76% of small and medium-sized businesses have had to pivot their business models to maintain revenue, according to the latest Business Resilience Survey of 1,000 business owners by American Express. Of those surveyed, 73% expect to pivot again in the next year. More than 80% still believe the benefits of owning their own businesses outweigh the challenges. 

“It’s okay to be afraid, but it’s not okay to let it ruin your decision-making process. There’s always a reason to be afraid. But should you let that take over? Hell, no.” Venus Williams, Tennis champion & Olympic gold medalist

When it comes to overcoming obstacles, small business owners can’t afford to doubt themselves. Williams learned this, and the importance of mental preparation, long ago. “It’s okay to be afraid, but it’s not okay to let it ruin your decision-making process,” she says. “There’s always a reason to be afraid. But should you let that take over?,” she says. “Hell, no.” 

The hard-earned lessons from the court have translated to the boardroom as she’s set out to become a multi-venture entrepreneur. Inspired by her father, who ran his own security company, and her mother, who encouraged her creativity as a child, Williams found her second calling in fashion and interior design. In 2002, she founded V Starr, which recently collaborated with Airbnb partner Niido to design its first-ever apartment complex. In 2009, Williams and her sister became the first African American women to buy a stake in a NFL franchise when they joined the ownership group of the Miami Dolphins. Three years later, she launched EleVen by Venus Williams and earned her associate degree in fashion design from the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. Earlier this year, she partnered with Credo Beauty to launch a line of clean, mineral-based SPF products for EleVen by Venus.  

Williams says running her businesses in the current environment has been one of the greatest challenges she’s ever faced, but she still appreciates the silver linings. “The world of business is really lending a hand to African Americans and women and minorities during this time. And that has also been unprecedented—so opportunity comes out of this really crazy hardship as well. You have to look at that as a challenge—you need to accept it and run with it. There’s no time to waste.”  

If you haven’t already voted, please vote tomorrow. See this compelling letter from Michael Bush at Best Places to work.

November 3 has always been an emotional day for me. This year will be no different.

On November 1, 1988, my wife and I were at the hospital with my father who, until a few days earlier, seemed physically indestructible. On that day, doctors told him he had just three to four months to live.

My father was a man of few words. I learned at a young age that each word he said really mattered and when he spoke, I should listen. That night he said three things to me:

First, “Take care of your mother.”

He continued, “I might not get to see your son, but that’s your fault for waiting too long to start your family.” My father was tough, but very funny. My wife was seven months pregnant with our first son Matthew at the time, so I knew this was his way of telling me that he was excited and happy for me and that he was looking forward to meeting his grandson, but preparing me for the likelihood that he wouldn’t.

Last, he said, “You need to vote.”

This became my mission. To understand why, you need to know a bit more about my father. You see, he was in the newspaper multiple times because he was always the first person in line to vote in Alameda County, California. The polls would open at 7 a.m., but he would be at the polls at 5 a.m. to ensure he was first to cast his vote. Everyone in our community knew his story. He was raised in the overtly racist South in Barnesville, Georgia and few things were more important to him than education and voting. Both were not optional.

Two days later, on November 3, 1988, we brought him his ballot and with the nurse as his witness, he marked an “X” and cast his vote. It was jarring to witness because that was all that the physically strongest man I have ever known could do. In just two days, his health had rapidly deteriorated and his three to four months to live became seven days, with November 8 being his last.

My father’s last conscious act on this earth was to vote. The importance that he placed on doing his part to shape the country we live in helped to shape the man I’ve become.

I vote. I encourage my family, friends and colleagues to vote. I do this because I know it matters. I do this to honor my father’s memory and to ensure that my children, and their children, will never have to endure what he did. He loved Martin Luther King Jr. and his peaceful protests, so I am sure they are together in heaven, but feeling disappointed at the America their children and grandchildren are living in right now.

I voted about ten days ago and delivered my ballot to city hall to ensure that I had met my father’s standard for self-responsibility. Most of you reading this have probably already voted as well. If you haven’t, get out there!

So now what?

I have already set up two post-election listening sessions for all employees at Great Place to Work. One will be on the morning of November 4 and the other on November 11. We will join together virtually and go from there.

Why? Because I expect things to be unresolved for a while. I know that many of us will be anxious, nervous, stressed, perhaps sad or happy, frustrated or feeling like a winner or an unjust loser. I know emotions will run high and yet almost everything will be out of our control.

How will we get past that?

We are going to come together and acknowledge all of the emotions and fears that are present. We will support everyone on their individual journey. There will be no happy ending on Election Day. Too much damage has been done. Society is weaker. There are passionate and emotional “winners” and “losers” fueled by years of fear and “us” versus “them” positioning. No matter the result, the overwhelming feeling among the “losers” will be that the outcome was rigged. When the emotion-filled chasm between “winners” and “losers” is as large as it is today, we all lose.

Well, what can we do? Better yet, what will we do? At Great Place to Work, we will stand on our values of Integrity, Excellence, One Team One Mission, Curiosity, and Care — For All. We will recognize the pain of millions of people who have been living with and impacted by two viruses: COVID-19 and racism. We will acknowledge the need for healing and that it will take a lot of time. I hope you will do the same for, and with, your people. As we’ve seen, our workplaces can be the safe haven that society isn’t.

As For All leaders we must:

  1. SPEAK: Leaders at all levels need to state what they believe and stand for in terms of your organization’s values.
  2. LISTEN: Create safe ways for people to state what they are confused about, frustrated by, afraid of, as well as hopeful for. Ask how to make your people’s experience a more psychological and emotionally safe one. Take note of their comments and suggestions.

Ask people to be thoughtful, compassionate and careful not to pour gasoline on the fire that exists for some. Everyone needs to behave like mature adults, and those who decide to dish out pain need to be held accountable.

  1. LEARN: In the months ahead, laws will be tested and society will be tested. So organizations should do their best to get the facts, as we have all tried to do regarding COVID-19.
  2. ACT: Vote now. Encourage your teams to take time to do so if you haven’t already!

Ask your leadership team what you’re going to do for your people and what your organization is going to do to help rebuild our nation.

Add representation targets at the highest level of your organizations, knowing only the best will be chosen.

Partner with non-profits and purpose-driven organizations that can help create more inclusive, fair and equitable communities.

As an optimist, I believe that nobody can stop this nation from being a just nation for all. I mean NOBODY.

So, on this November 3, no matter who “wins or loses” let’s join together and recommit to this work in our organizations and communities to take care of one another. For leaders, the next wave of change starts now. Our people need our leadership more than anything else and it is our responsibility to provide it. This means that everyone, including you, will need to be a bit of a leader now.

If we can help you, let us know. We are better together.

Michael C. Bush
Chief Executive Officer | Great Place to Work

The Future is teams

From CEO World

Renowned American basketball coach Phil Jackson once said, “The strength of the team is each individual member. The strength of each member is the team.”  If this makes sense to you, consider the difference between groups and teams, and let’s explore why they need each other to create the individual and team strengths Jackson is talking about.

Groups convene to help their members achieve individual goals. It’s the mechanism that serves as the practice field, where peers help each other learn and grow to be more substantial individual contributors to their teams. Teams are comprised of individuals charged to work together to achieve a collective goal or create a shared work product. Such units may involve a business team working to develop an innovative product or a sports team striving to win a world championship.

The Attributes Common to Great Groups and the Best Teams

Group work strengthens relationship bonds among team members, helps these members hone their individual skills, and inspires a culture of accountability (member-to-member) that doesn’t make employees feel they are always playing defense. Here are five attributes shared by great groups and the best teams:

  1. A robust Learning-Achieving Cycle.
    The Learning-Achieving Cycle is a reinforcing loop of learning, sharing, applying, achieving, learning, sharing, and so forth.  Employees learn better when they learn together.  When a group or team drives a culture of learning and growing, everyone wins – the individuals, the teams, and the organization as a whole.
  2. A culture of team member accountability.  Among groups and teams, accountability in this narrative doesn’t mean accountability to the leader.  Top groups and teams are comprised of individuals who accept personal responsibility for bringing their best selves to work every day.  Their currency in the organization rests in their peers’ belief that they can be counted on to do what they say they will do – and do so exceptionally well.
  3. A focus on outputs as well as outcomes.  All too often, whether it’s a team or a group, being too focused on outcomes draws attention away from the outputs necessary to achieving the lofty results you’re looking for. Don’t be the person at the poker table who can’t help but stop and count his chips when he’s supposed to be playing the game.  The people who are laser-focused on outputs will beat those focused on outcomes every time – in fact; it won’t even be a fair fight.
  4. A leader who is a part of the team, not apart from it.  A significant factor in developing a member-to-member accountability culture is for the team leader to consider him or herself to be a part of the team, not apart from it. The leader (her special role notwithstanding) is still on the team and accountable to the team, just as the members are accountable to one another. As a group and a team, you win together, lose together, and celebrate and mourn as one in a manner that builds individual character and team strength over the long-term.
  5. A commitment to big goals as rewards.  No matter what the pursuit (a game-changing new client or a world championship), focusing on the big end-goal is less effective than pursuing the goal of doing everything it takes to get better as individuals (group work) and as team members (teamwork).  It’s all about continuous improvement – that’s the goal. The win is the reward. It’s the difference between teams who are always competitive (in business and sports) and those who are not.

What Groups Will Help Your Teams Do Even Better

If you were to conduct an online search for the words “business practice,” with rare exception, just about everything you’ll find will involve business as a practice or business best practices.  Run a search for “golf practice,” and you’ll discover endless links on how to practice your golf game, including videos, tools, articles, etc.  In business, every day is a game day, and consequently, we don’t take the time to practice our craft nearly often enough. Conclusion: this lack of practice compromises the individuals in your company who don’t take the time to hone their skills and your teams who are not as strong as possible if you believe in Phil Jackson.

Groups will also help your teams create better strategic alignment and engagement, particularly your cross-functional work teams, who provide a lens into the organization’s broader needs with the help of their peers from other departments. They help team members forge better relationships and build trust in each other’s talents and skills.  Group work also shines a light on extracting inclusion from diversity – the essential part of any diversity and inclusion initiative.

Finally, groups are fantastic vehicles for operationalizing learning and development.  In most companies, no matter how great the content or how talented the trainers, there’s typically little learning or development that takes place.  To be fair, the deck is not exactly stacked in their favor.  Unless, as a leader, you provide a means for people to take what they learn, practice it, and apply it to their work as individuals and as team members, it’s simply not going to happen.

Summary: To adapt to the challenges and opportunities in this ever-changing world, our employees and their teams need to be continually learning, growing, applying, achieving, and learning some more. Leading that effort today, one that empowers your employees to grow in groups and teams, will assure that your company will have the talent and skills to adapt and thrive in the foreseeable future.

If I asked your people how many would say you are their leader, not their boss?

A Vistage Article

While people may use the words “boss” and “leader” interchangeably, those who’ve made the journey from one to the other understand the key differences.

The differences may be best explained by Douglas McGregor, an MIT management professor. In the 1950s, McGregor drew on psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — people must feel safe, loved and have esteem before they can grow — to theorize two styles of management: Theory X and Theory Y.

Theory X-style managers assume that employees have little ambition, avoid responsibility, and are only motivated by individual goals. McGregor believed that this style of management hinders satisfaction, as it ignores employees’ higher-level need for growth and experimentation.

Theory Y-style managers assume that employees are internally motivated, enjoy their work, and want to grow. With Theory Y, McGregor believed that managers could motivate employees to reach their fullest potential.

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The boss versus the leader

These two theories created a clear dichotomy: the boss and the leader.

Theory X managers are bosses — they control, dominate and intimidate. Bosses fear that they’ll lose their position, so they rule with an iron fist. They often make decisions with little or no input from employees.

Bosses are also low in demand, easily replaced, and often the butt of the joke. It’s no mistake that Michael Scott, the clownish lead character of the U.S. sitcom The Office, highly values his “World’s Best Boss” mug.

Meanwhile, Theory Y managers are good leaders — they trust, teach and inspire employees. Leaders always aim for the team’s success but allow for experimentation, even failure. Leaders inspire employees to succeed and never take credit for their success — instead, leaders celebrate.

Leaders are in demand, both in life and business. To have an effective leader can make the difference between success and failure. Businesses now want true leaders who focus on how employees are led, managed and motivated. They want a leader who is part of the team, someone who creates a culture while improving the bottom line.

Are you a boss or a leader? Here are eight key differences.

1. Bosses deflect mistakes, leaders own mistakes

In “Extreme Ownership,” a leadership book by Navy SEAL officers Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, they write that the best leaders admit to mistakes, own those mistakes — even if someone on their team could be blamed — and develop a plan to recover.

“The most fundamental and important truths at the heart of Extreme Ownership: there are no bad teams, only bad leaders,” they write.

And this may serve as an alternative definition for boss: a bad leader. A boss will more often cast blame, while leaders accept responsibility. Bosses want to avoid the hot seat, but leaders thrive in the heat.

2. Bosses command, leaders teach and listen

Bosses have a “just do it” attitude. We don’t mean “just do it” inspirationally, like Nike, but rather an attitude of “I command, you obey.”

Leaders teach — they want employees to understand everything. But the best leaders realize that they’re fallible, just like everyone else, so they show humility and ask questions when they don’t know an answer. This creates a culture of two-way communication, allowing for employees to both teach and understand.

A culture of two-way communication makes leaders, employees and teams stronger. As Peter Drucker once wrote, “No one learns as much about a subject as one who is forced to teach it.”

3. Bosses micromanage, leaders trust

There’s a simple difference between trusting leaders and micromanaging bosses:

A leader trusts their employees to create and finish their own to-do list.

A boss will create their employee’s to-do list for them, hovering over their shoulder as they work through it.

4. Bosses rule by authority, leaders rule by influence

In his book “Emotional Intelligence,” Daniel Goleman wrote that “Leadership is not domination, but the art of persuading people to work toward a common goal.”

To persuade takes emotional intelligence, an ability to manage one’s own emotions, communicate effectively, have empathy with other people, as well as overcoming challenges and conflicts.

Leaders have great emotional intelligence, while bosses rule by authority. Authority may get some results, but it won’t allow employees to grow, learn and trust in the company’s mission — emotionally intelligent leaders will.

5. Bosses have big egos, leaders are self-assured

Bosses want to look good for their own bosses. Leaders trust that they’ll look fine. Instead, leaders focus on ensuring that the work is up to snuff, being humble enough to know that the next mistake, error or obstacle is always lurking.

6. Bosses think short-term, leaders think long-term

A boss is often too focused on what may happen today. Good leaders, on the other hand, think big picture.

Leaders account for the present, but they also want to be sure that their decisions are adding up to something good next month, next quarter and next year.

7. Bosses want credit, leaders give credit

A boss wants the raise, the promotion, the credit. A leader, on the other hand, wants those achievements for their team.

This trait of leaders is best summarized by Drucker in his legendary book “The Effective Executive”:

“The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say ‘I.’ And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say ‘I.’ They don’t think ‘I.’ They think ‘we’; they think ‘team.’ They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but ‘we’ gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.”

8. Bosses foment fear, leaders build confidence

“Drive out fear, so that everyone may work more effectively and productively,” said productivity expert Edward Deming.

But this is the opposite of what bosses do — bosses want employees to fear failure. Leaders, on the other hand, know that errors, mistakes and failure will happen as sure as the sun sets.

Instead of fear, leaders work to build everyone’s confidence while staying on the right track. One big way leaders build confidence is simply accepting reality. When something has gone awry, leaders don’t hide from the problem, nor do they fear it. Instead, they own the problem as part of reality, working with team members to solve it.

U.S. Navy Admiral James Stockdale, a former prisoner of war, embodied this trait. He once said: “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

Good leaders drive out fear. They face the brutal facts of reality and keep going.

7 Aspects of Remote Work Entrepreneurs Should Keep When Returning to the Office

An article from Entrepreneur

When businesses shuttered across the country back in March, it wasn’t clear when employees would be headed back into the office, if ever. While the dust is still far from settled, many companies are starting to prepare for eventual re-openings of the in-person offices — if they haven’t done so already.

Just because workers are back to their desks doesn’t mean that you have to leave behind everything your business learned while it was remote. Most companies invested some serious time and energy into developing a strong remote work culture among their teams. Why give it up? 

Culture may be easier to maintain in a physical workplace, but there are still a few aspects of remote-work culture you won’t want to leave behind, such as….

1. Seamless Digital Communication

If there’s one thing that remote work teaches businesses, it’s the failure of emails. They’re stuffy, impersonal and can lead to big drops in productivity as well. Email may be the norm for interbusiness communication, but there’s no need to make it your primary method for talking with your team.

If they hadn’t already, plenty of businesses used the shift to remote work as an opportunity to switch over to Slack or other instant-messaging services as their primary means of communicating. Even if your company does move back into the office, there’s no guarantee that you won’t be forced to move out again. If that happens, the last thing you want is to have to fall back on email. 

2. A Focus on Employee Care

As workers first headed home, many business leaders were rightly concerned about the wellbeing of their employees, asking questions like: Do they have what they need to succeed? How are they coping with the stress? Is there anything I can do? This attitude has been long overdue in many corners of the business world.

Six Feet Apart, an organization devoted to helping people navigate a post-pandemic world, calls this phenomenon employee care, and its benefits are obvious: the happier your employees are, the more willing they are to give to and participate in your business. The focus on employee care may have just begun for some businesses, but it deserves to stick around for much longer.

3. Clarity Over Everything

If you encounter a confusing figure or a muddled piece of content on the job, all you need to do is pop over a few desks and have everything cleared up for you; for remote teams, the process isn’t so simple. Giving instructions and then being forced to clarify them over and over is particularly inefficient over the web, making clarity a priority for teams not in the office.

While you were remote, you probably found yourself taking pains to explain things in full from the get-go in order to avoid any snags later on, so why change now? Continuing to focus on clarity can help boost efficiency for your business in both the short and long terms, making communication and culture that much easier to promote down the line.

4. Flexible Work Policies

The whole 9-5 routine might have worked well enough before the pandemic, but it’s become increasingly difficult to justify since. Everyone is productive at different times and has different responsibilities that may not sync perfectly with a traditional work schedule.

It’s no surprise that 90 percent of employees consider flexible work policies to be their single biggest motivating factor towards productivity, but surprisingly few employers seem to take this into account. If you were lenient with start and finish hours while remote, you should be equally generous once the office opens back up, too — the effect on morale will be noticeable. 

5. Casual Messaging Channels

There’s no easy way to replicate “water cooler” conversations while remote, but that didn’t stop most businesses from trying. Slack channels and email chains dedicated to casual, friendly discourse have almost become the norm across business, and they should stick around even after the water cooler is in use again.

A casual messaging channel isn’t just good for culture; it can be equally useful for onboarding. Getting into office chatter can be difficult as a new employee, but having a text conversation to look through and learn from can help bridge that gap significantly.

6. Regular Team-Building Exercises

For a lot of companies, remote work culture meant putting in extra effort to keep people connected. One of the most popular ways of doing this is through virtual team building activities, a great way to force positive, friendly interaction in an otherwise professional space. 

Just because your team has moved back into the office doesn’t mean that these activities are no longer useful — in fact, they’re more important than ever. Going from in-person to remote work and back has been a whiplash for many employees; these team-building exercises can help them acclimate to whatever environment they currently find themselves in and make the best of it.

7. Privileging Face-to-Face Meetings

Endless Zoom calls may have been a drag, but they were necessary all the same. Ninety-three percent of all communication is nonverbal, making face-to-face contact an indispensable aspect of any business. 

When you’re working in an office, it can be easy to take the value of face-to-face meetings for granted, but doing so is a big mistake. People pay more attention to personal meetings, and the human element of it all can make soft the impact of bad news and make good news that much better. 

Keeping around some of the successful elements of your remote work culture can make in-office life easier while also giving you the flexibility to move out again, need be. As always, putting the needs and wants of your employees above all else is the first step. Everything else will come naturally.

The Spiral of Silence

An article from Farnham Street

Our desire to fit in with others means we don’t always say what we think. We only express opinions that seem safe. Here’s how the spiral of silence works and how we can discover what people really think.


Be honest: How often do you feel as if you’re really able to express your true opinions without fearing judgment? How often do you bite your tongue because you know you hold an unpopular view? How often do you avoid voicing any opinion at all for fear of having misjudged the situation?

Even in societies with robust free speech protections, most people don’t often say what they think. Instead they take pains to weigh up the situation and adjust their views accordingly. This comes down to the “spiral of silence,” a human communication theory developed by German researcher Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann in the 1960s and ’70s. The theory explains how societies form collective opinions and how we make decisions surrounding loaded topics.

Let’s take a look at how the spiral of silence works and how understanding it can give us a more realistic picture of the world.


How the spiral of silence works

According to Noelle-Neumann’s theory, our willingness to express an opinion is a direct result of how popular or unpopular we perceive it to be. If we think an opinion is unpopular, we will avoid expressing it. If we think it is popular, we will make a point of showing we think the same as others.

Controversy is also a factor—we may be willing to express an unpopular uncontroversial opinion but not an unpopular controversial one. We perform a complex dance whenever we share views on anything morally loaded.

Our perception of how “safe” it is to voice a particular view comes from the clues we pick up, consciously or not, about what everyone else believes. We make an internal calculation based on signs like what the mainstream media reports, what we overhear coworkers discussing on coffee breaks, what our high school friends post on Facebook, or prior responses to things we’ve said.

We also weigh up the particular context, based on factors like how anonymous we feel or whether our statements might be recorded.

As social animals, we have good reason to be aware of whether voicing an opinion might be a bad idea. Cohesive groups tend to have similar views. Anyone who expresses an unpopular opinion risks social exclusion or even ostracism within a particular context or in general. This may be because there are concrete consequences, such as losing a job or even legal penalties. Or there may be less official social consequences, like people being less friendly or willing to associate with you. Those with unpopular views may suppress them to avoid social isolation.

Avoiding social isolation is an important instinct. From an evolutionary biology perspective, remaining part of a group is important for survival, hence the need to at least appear to share the same views as anyone else. The only time someone will feel safe to voice a divergent opinion is if they think the group will share it or be accepting of divergence, or if they view the consequences of rejection as low. But biology doesn’t just dictate how individuals behave—it ends up shaping communities. It’s almost impossible for us to step outside of that need for acceptance.

A feedback loop pushes minority opinions towards less and less visibility—hence why Noelle-Neumann used the word “spiral.” Each time someone voices a majority opinion, they reinforce the sense that it is safe to do so. Each time someone receives a negative response for voicing a minority opinion, it signals to anyone sharing their view to avoid expressing it.


An example of the spiral of silence

A 2014 Pew Research survey of 1,801 American adults examined the prevalence of the spiral of silence on social media. Researchers asked people about their opinions on one public issue: Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations of US government surveillance of citizens’ phones and emails. They selected this issue because, while controversial, prior surveys suggested a roughly even split in public opinion surrounding whether the leaks were justified and whether such surveillance was reasonable.

Asking respondents about their willingness to share their opinions in different contexts highlighted how the spiral of silence plays out. 86% of respondents were willing to discuss the issue in person, but only about half as many were willing to post about it on social media. Of the 14% who would not consider discussing the Snowden leaks in person, almost none (0.3%) were willing to turn to social media instead.

Both in person and online, respondents reported far greater willingness to share their views with people they knew agreed with them—three times as likely in the workplace and twice as likely in a Facebook discussion.


The implications of the spiral of silence

The end result of the spiral of silence is a point where no one publicly voices a minority opinion, regardless of how many people believe it. The first implication of this is that the picture we have of what most people believe is not always accurate. Many people nurse opinions they would never articulate to their friends, coworkers, families, or social media followings.

A second implication is that the possibility of discord makes us less likely to voice an opinion at all, assuming we are not trying to drum up conflict. In the aforementioned Pew survey, people were more comfortable discussing a controversial story in person than online. An opinion voiced online has a much larger potential audience than one voiced face to face, and it’s harder to know exactly who will see it. Both of these factors increase the risk of someone disagreeing.

If we want to gauge what people think about something, we need to remove the possibility of negative consequences. For example, imagine a manager who often sets overly tight deadlines, causing immense stress to their team. Everyone knows this is a problem and discusses it among themselves, recognizing that more realistic deadlines would be motivating, and unrealistic ones are just demoralizing. However, no one wants to say anything because they’ve heard the manager say that people who can’t handle pressure don’t belong in that job. If the manager asks for feedback about their leadership style, they’re not going to hear what they need to hear if they know who it comes from.

A third implication is that what seems like a sudden change in mainstream opinions can in fact be the result of a shift in what is acceptable to voice, not in what people actually think. A prominent public figure getting away with saying something controversial may make others feel safe to do the same. A change in legislation may make people comfortable saying what they already thought.

For instance, if recreational marijuana use is legalized where someone lives, they might freely remark to a coworker that they consume it and consider it harmless. Even if that was true before the legislation change, saying so would have been too fraught, so they might have lied or avoided the topic. The result is that mainstream opinions can appear to change a great deal in a short time.

A fourth implication is that highly vocal holders of a minority opinion can end up having a disproportionate influence on public discourse. This is especially true if that minority is within a group that already has a lot of power.

While this was less the case during Noelle-Neumann’s time, the internet makes it possible for a vocal minority to make their opinions seem far more prevalent than they actually are—and therefore more acceptable. Indeed, the most extreme views on any spectrum can end up seeming most normal online because people with a moderate take have less of an incentive to make themselves heard.

In anonymous environments, the spiral of silence can end up reversing itself, making the most fringe views the loudest.