Tag Archives: innovation

ENGAGING LEADERS…ONE EMAIL AT A TIME

Keep the Passion Burning: Emails That Inspire Action

The Leadership Challenge® Workshop is an amazing experience for so many people. The time leaders spend  with others making commitments as to how they will engage in the behaviors and practices of exemplary leadership really get them fired-up about making substantive changes in their work and personal lives. You  see the passion and purpose in participants’ eyes as they walk out of the workshop.  And we, as facilitators and coaches, “hope” we have provided each and every person the tools they need to be successful.

However, when we visit with these same leaders  a few weeks later, the fire we once saw   is now merely a flicker: the “real world” of work has overshadowed the excitement they had in the workshop. And despite our best efforts—e.g., post-workshop learning trios, individual coaching sessions, following up with one-day sessions at six months—we  wonder if maybe, just maybe, there was something more we could do to help keep that passion burning brightly.

One leader in a government social service agency I have worked with extensively—training nearly 600 leaders in The Leadership Challenge—has implemented a creative way of  keeping leaders focused on The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® with meaningful and targeted email communications. Each weekly email reminds leaders of one of the 30 behaviors associated with The Five Practices, encouraging leaders to focus their thoughts and actions on that specific area for the entire week. And, unique among other organizations I work with, this client also includes inspiring quotes and links to additional resources, from YouTube and Ted Talks to HBR, that truly bring the Practices to life and continue the learning. .  Here are a few examples:

Email Title: Behavior #18 – Asks “What can we learn?” when things don’t go as expected.

Good morning LC’ers! (Leadership Challengers)

Last week, I started highlighting the behaviors of The Leadership Challenge in hopes of focusing our thoughts and actions on one topic for an entire week. As a reminder, we focused on Behavior #9 – Actively listens to diverse points of view. How did that go for you?  Did you see a difference? I would love to hear your stories from your week!

This week, I want to focus on Behavior #18 – Asks “What can we learn?” when things don’t go as expected.

This is really an easy concept to understand but, at the same time, really difficult to put into practice—especially in a fast-paced environment like ours. I think the reason it is so difficult to put into practice is because it takes a high level of vulnerability on the part of everyone involved in the process. We are often quick to look for someone or something to blame when things don’t go as expected. We often ask “What went wrong” verses “What can we learn?” and there is a HUGE difference…

Here is some cool stuff I found that may help make this behavior a little easier to put into practice:

 

 

 

 

 

I hope and trust that you find value in some of these resources and that, either at work or at home, when something doesn’t go the way that we had anticipated we ask “What can we learn?” versus “What went wrong?”.

Finally, thank you so much for your personally commitment to The Leadership Challenge! We are hearing wonderful success stories  about how the Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership® are being creatively implemented. If you have a story that you would like to share, please give me a call or send me an email! We would all like to celebrate your small (and big) wins!

Enjoy the week!

Notice how the email mentions the focus from the previous week and encourages reflection?

As a reminder, we focused on Behavior #9 – Actively listens to diverse points of view. How did that go for you?  Did you see a difference? I would love to hear your stories from your week!

It encourages leaders to stay engaged, providing small reminders that leadership is about learning.

Another Example

Another example focuses on seeking out challenging opportunities to test leadership skills.

Email Title: Challenge Yourself…

Behavior #3 – Seeks out challenging opportunities that test his/her own skills and abilities.

It’s pretty easy to get comfortable, isn’t it? Be it at work, or in our personal lives, we as human beings generally choose to take the path of least resistance. Why wouldn’t we, right? We have the ability to create scenarios, situations, and processes in our life that make our day “easier”.  Most of the time this can be a really good thing! Can you imagine doing everything that we need to do every day without so many of the “shortcuts” we have created?

I think this is why this exemplary leadership behavior, associated with the Practice of Challenge the Process, is so critical to our growth and development as leaders.  Consider the following quote:

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. -Robert F. Kennedy

We need to challenge ourselves to seek out opportunities to do not what is easy and convenient but what is hard and difficult, because through this we grow and help others around us to grow as well.

What is one skill or ability you would like to improve on over the next 30 days? Think about that. Then, I challenge you to share your goal with someone you trust and ask them to hold you accountable to challenge yourself to achieve it.

Here are a couple of things I found that might help with this challenge:

So, what part of your “ordinary” do you want to make extraordinary? What have you been wanting to do as a leader that seems a bit out of your comfort zone? Take a few minutes to write down your thoughts and begin to challenge yourself over the next week to take steps to move forward on these. And as always, keep me posted on your progress!

As you can see, these emails are constructed in a manner that engages the reader with:

  1. A “catchy” email subject line
  2. Stating which singular behavior you will be addressing in the email
  3. A quick story to catch the reader’s attention
  4. A familiar quote or idea that is inspiring
  5. A reminder of the importance of this specific behavior
  6. A call to action
  7. A video, article, or other resource whose message reinforces the behavior you want your leaders to focus on

Through email communication like this, you have a great tool to help participants remain focused on the individual behaviors and support their own leadership journey.  The power of each of the Leadership Behaviors can be reinforced both in the content and in the challenges you present to leaders. Encouraging reflection, keeping leadership and the Five Practices ‘top of mind’ will help the organization continue to build the language of leadership.

Renee Harness is founder of Harness Leadership and a Certified Master of The Leadership Challenge. Her leadership journey has included helping leaders at Charles Schwab and Co., Inc., Roche Diagnostics and in her own consulting practice to fully engage those around them. Contact Renee at renee@harnessleadership.com.

Training Innovation Out of People: Or, Go Get that Halloween Costume

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I was talking with a friend this week about the good old days at their company. You know the days: the ones with rosy-goldy edges about the memories. Where everyone is smiling, laughing, and rushing from meeting, to project, to customer with energy aplomb. The days when you loved your team, you loved the company and what it stood for, and you loved the work. LOVED the creativity and innovation that you could bring to the work! The stories you could tell about the fun you had, the crazy Halloween you dressed up as bikers (complete with mushroom tattoo), the friends that you made – for life.

Yes, you had stress. Yes, there were a few people you wanted to avoid in the halls because they “didn’t get it.” But overall, these were the golden years. Looking back on these years, if  lucky enough to experience them, one might feel a bit deflated about the here and now.

Today, it seems that many companies are trying to train the innovation right out of people. Adding more workload without the efficiencies needed to make it happen. Wanting more of our time (our life) and giving us less to care about in our work. Pushing the newest corporate initiative with a “don’t-ask-questions-just-do-it” mentality (questions are only for negative people).  How does this relate to our mission, our vision, our values? “It just does” is an answer one might expect to hear from some leaders who, themselves, are being pushed to their limits.

I hear a lot of stories from people who are looking to contribute, but are a part of a company that has lost it’s shimmer. It could make you feel deflated, but I prefer to think about the possibilities.

It’s energizing to meet with like-minded, engaging people. Last week, that was at Centric: Indy’s Innovation Network, where people talk about innovation and hear from some of Indianapolis’ most innovative leaders. They hosted The Supremacy of Mission: An Elephant in the Room. Indianapolis Zoological Society president and CEO, Michael Crowther, shared how to avoid business as usual by genuinely focusing on the mission of the organization. By seeking ways to advance the Zoo’s mission, Michael and his team constantly develop new and innovative ways of contributing.

The Indianapolis Zoo has a mission that stands out from the rest. It’s not simply a place for recreation, an addition to a downtown scene, or for people who “love animals.” The Indianapolis Zoo empowers people and communities, both locally and globally, to advance animal conservation. Michael repeatedly spoke about how the Zoo “engages, enlightens, and empowers” individuals to make their mission a reality.

Hearing my friend talk about the golden years, and then hearing Mr. Crowther talking about the elephant (and “orangutan“)  in the room inspired me to reflect on the dichotomies we see in our organizations. That once purpose driven organizations can falter, but also that there are institutions that have been around a while, who can still reach deep and find a way to energize and engage those around them to try innovative ideas. Organizations whose mission is at the forefront of their work.

Jeb Banner (@jebbanner), CEO of SmallBox marketing also spoke last week about mission. In his TEDx Indianapolis talk, Jeb proposed that organizations might be more successful if they worked more like bands. Jeb is the founder of Musical Family Tree, a website dedicated to keeping Indiana music thriving. He reflected on how companies often put profits above purpose, while in a band, purpose is always first – it’s always about the music!

As Jeb and Mr. Crowther shared, purpose, mission and the sense that your work has meaning – beyond the dollars – are essential to individuals wanting to contribute to an organization.

So, how are you leading innovation?

Are you asking people to “just do it” without tying your work to purpose. While few of us would take this “just get it done!” approach, we may still be training the innovation right out of our people – and organizations

It starts with each individual leader. Maybe your organization isn’t perfect, but you can strive to engage and innovate with the folks closest to you.

Think about it. Reflection is a part of every great leader’s practice. Reflect on who you are being as a leader with regard to inspiring innovation:

1. How is the work of my team tied to the mission of the organization (including budget, day-to-day work, and strategy)?

2. How am I (or can I begin) creating a energized work environment, with time to enjoy the work, have fun and innovate?

And, if you want to start with the “fun” part, go talk with folks about the team Halloween costume for a start. Enjoy and engage!

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