Category Archives: Leadership

Owls

When being the boss’ favourite can hurt your career

OwlsMachiavelli once ruminated on whether, as a leader, it was better to be loved or feared. While he concluded that it is “safer” to be feared than loved, as humans we crave community and recognition from those we respect or who are in a position of leadership.

Our natural instinct in the workplace is to try to curry favor with the boss so we can be influential in the decision making process, know that our ideas are heard first or bend the ear of our leader when promotion opportunities arise. While all of this might sound great for you personally, it can actually work to your detriment in very important ways.

Envy brings out the worst in people

When you are seen as the “chosen one” in the office, your teammates and coworkers will inevitably begin to envy you. While it may appear inconsequential at first, your proximity to your boss’s power may present some challenges in doing your job. Coworkers will gradually shut you out of important interpersonal office relationships. Even those who eschew workplace friendships recognise the need for connectedness in sharing crucial work-related information and team communication. If you are seen as the boss’s favorite, you may be left out of the loop, intentionally or not.

Hitching your wagon to your boss’s horse may work against you

Currying your boss’s favor is nice while it lasts. However, bosses who tend to play favorites are also fickle in their affection. You may be the heir apparent to their job one week and at the rear of the pack the next thanks to a manager’s changing whims or perceptions. It is also unwise to attach your merit within an organization to anyone else’s. Sure, your boss is influential today, but should they lose their position or credibility, you will likely lose yours as well unless you are associated with something other than your boss.

You begin to lose your objectivity

The idea of “groupthink” was first introduced by Irving Janis in 1972. He theorised that groups who are insulated from outside opinions are subject to faulty reasoning, a deterioration of mental capacity and a lack of moral judgment. Whether that group consists of 2 or 20, the concept remains the same. The longer you spend in the shadow of your boss, the more likely you are to insulate yourself from the differing opinions of your coworkers. Without that difference, you lose the ability to make an objective decision. This, coupled with a growing sense of invulnerability inevitably leads to carelessness and negative consequences.

So what should you do instead?

As humans we tend to want to be recognised for our accomplishments. We want to feel as though we are in positions of power to affect change for the better. In order to do this without sacrificing personal integrity or career trajectory, it is important to act decisively and methodically in your relationship with your boss.

  1. Honesty is the best policy. Do not oversell your influence with your peers or your boss. Give credit where credit is due. Never claim success that is not yours.
  2. Honour the workplace team. As tempting as it may be to let favoritism work for you, remember that your work team is where the majority of your tasks are accomplished. If relationships are strained, productivity plummets and your credibility dwindles.
  3. Be impeccable with your word. If something is shared in confidence with you by your boss, do not tell your coworkers until your boss shares the information. If something is shared in confidence by a teammate, do not tell your boss but rather encourage your coworker to build that relationship.
  4. Get to know other executives. Many people who are seen as parrots of their boss can combat this by interacting with other executives and learning from their insights. While some bosses become paranoid about losing their sidekick, most will see your desire to learn as a way to leverage your talents with other areas of the organization.

As nice as it may be to have the favour of your manager, you might find that it leads to greater stress and career hindrance rather than help.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

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Confident Leaders

5 Traits of Confident Leaders in Uncertain Times

Confident LeadersTrump is in the White House, the  iPhone 8 isn’t far away, and now we hear robots are planning to take our jobs.  Uncertain times indeed.

These days change is inevitable and guaranteed. So how do we take back some semblance of control over our lives and our careers?

The key to it, I think, is confidence.

While confidence is often defined by a self-assurance in one’s own abilities, uncertain times often work to diminish a leader’s confidence in their organisation, in their employees, and in themselves. So how does one keep their confidence when faced with uncertainty?

1. Confident leaders perceive failure as the beginning, not the end.

Paralysed by fear of uncertainty, many leaders find themselves in endless cycles of the decision making process. These leaders tend to view failure as the end – the end of their success, the end of the company, or perhaps even the end of their career. Confident leaders tend to view failure as a learning opportunity, a part of the discovery process. They do not take unnecessary risks, but rather rely on sound decision making processes to take calculated risks that will springboard them into their next success.

2. Confident leaders rely on the expertise of others.

We all know of one manager who confused confidence with expertise, eschewing the advice of those that surrounded them. Chances are, their leadership tenure met an untimely demise. Truly confident leaders treat their role in organisations the way a conductor of an orchestra treats his musicians. Understanding that they are not a professional musician in every instrument in an orchestra, conductors provide strategic direction based on the knowledge of how the instruments work together to create the best overall sound. Likewise, confident leaders know they are not experts on every tool, mechanism, process, or skill, but provide strategic direction on how each expert can work together for the overall outcome.

3. Confident leaders own their mistakes.

In a day and age where many people try to take ownership for success while sidestep the blame for their mistakes, confident leaders take responsibility for both. Rather than relying on blame for self-preservation, these leaders instead take responsibility when they are wrong, learn from their mistakes, and move on to greater success. Miraculously, this singular characteristic also inspires subordinates to do the same, creating a culture where fear of failure no longer limits productivity and innovation.

4. Confident leaders communicate purpose.

It is easy to get caught up in the chaos of uncertain times. However, those who lead with confidence also understand and effectively communicate their organisation’s purpose. Part of a healthy psychological reward system, the concept of altruism – behaving for the betterment of others – has been shown to increase job satisfaction and increase workplace cooperation. Confident leaders understand, sometimes intuitively, how their employees’ efforts contribute to the strategic vision of the company at large. Taking this knowledge a step further, they are able to clearly and effectively communicate how the company’s overarching vision translates into action plans at a departmental level. Once their people buy into the purpose, altruism takes over, improving productivity and overall job satisfaction throughout the department.

5. Confident leaders are honest and consistent.

It is tempting to sidestep direct questions about the future of an organisation. Yet truly confident leaders understand that honesty breeds trust and a sense of safety at work. Knowing your boss will give you an honest, direct answer to your question without dancing around the issues gives employees confidence in their leaders. However, honesty must be matched with consistency. If a leader is honest with one group, but betrays that honesty with another, the perception of favouritism arises and employees are left with feelings of uncertainty about their status with their boss. Truly confident leaders are not only honest, but are honest in every situation, every time.

Many people equate confidence with arrogance. While arrogance is wrapped up in ego tied with a ribbon of insecurity, true confidence understands and embraces is fallibility. It sees mistakes as inevitable and failures as learning experiences. It acknowledges the expertise of others and revels in consistent honesty. Perhaps most importantly, confidence does not waver in uncertainty. Those who are truly confident leaders see the chaos of competitive economic times as a way to energise a lagging team and rally them to a common purpose. Uncertainty truly separates the average leaders from the great ones who seem to effortlessly turn uncertainty into opportunity.

Pedro Diaz
CEO

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
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4 Simple Strategies

The 4 Simple Strategies Top Performers Use To Neutralise Setbacks & Stay Confident

4 Simple StrategiesWouldn’t it be nice if everything you touched turned to gold and just worked? And everyone loved it? BUT, guess what? That leadership development strategy you’ve been working on for the past three months? The CEO didn’t like it. Your carefully constructed and painstakingly recruited project team? About to be decimated due to budget cuts. And that multi-million-dollar business deal you were sure you’d nailed? Fell through at the last second because someone changed their mind…In the business world, you don’t always get what you want, right?—even if you’re the boss. (if you don’t believe me, just ask your boss). In fact, you can often feel like you’re caught in the middle between helping your company advance and pressures that are beyond your control. That’s when setbacks happen.

The Psychological Impact of Setbacks

When you’re a relatively inexperienced leader or if you suffer from anxiety, these types of setbacks can be demoralising and humiliating—especially because so many people are aware of them. Sometimes, you might even feel like you’re a failure in the eyes of your own team. And that can compound your negative emotions and anxiety even further.

Setbacks produce a form of psychological pain that can warp our perceptions. As a result, we feel less capable of achieving specific goals, plus, we perceive those goals as much more challenging to attain. What’s more, we believe that whether we succeed or fail isn’t within our control.

It should be clear that when you fall prey to these kinds of misperceptions, they negatively impact your ability to do your job and most likely affect your quality of life.

Foster Resilience to Turn Setbacks into Stepping Stones

Of course, setbacks are part of life and business. Successful people haven’t gotten to where they are without failures and disappointments, but what sets successful people apart is their resilience—in other words, their ability to bounce back from failure, maintain good workplace mental health, and keep moving forward in a constructive manner.

The good news is that you can learn how to become more resilient—and heal that psychological pain that’s distorting your perception of your abilities. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Analyse the setback. Take a high-level look at the incident and objectively analyse what factors contributed to your failure. Was it really due to something you did or didn’t do? Or was it an external factor?
  2. Learn from your failures. Once you’ve determined why something didn’t work out, brainstorm what you could have done differently to produce a better outcome. Knowing you’ve learnt something from the setback will help empower you to take positive action.
  3. Manage your self-talk. You can’t let that voice of self-doubt influence your confidence or actions. Every time you hear yourself thinking negatively about yourself, stop, and instead, think something positive about your achievements and your ability to learn from past experiences.
  4. Keep moving forward. Avoiding challenges isn’t going to do your career or your confidence any good. Every time you do overcome a challenge or meet your goals, it helps build your confidence and strengthen your resilience.

Bouncing back from a setback isn’t always easy. But with the points above in mind, you can become more resilient and better prepared to give every business opportunity your best effort.

Remember: realising you’re only human is actually productive. It means you’re capable of learning, adapting, and moving forward after any disappointment or setback.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
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How do I lead

How do I lead authentically in a competitive culture?

How do I leadMost Leaders I’ve met, and I’ve met thousands of them, love the idea of being an authentic, ‘real’, leader. What about you? I love it but, and there’s a big ‘but’ here, I have to say that it’s not easy in the current competitive market. Despite the rise of informal, matrixed organisations, the majority of companies are still relatively traditional and have a hierarchical structure. And in these types of companies, it’s not uncommon to have a dog-eat-dog culture where everyone’s in competition with everyone… and one mistake can sideline you.

If you’re in a leadership position in an organisation like this, you’ve probably learned to adopt a certain management style to get things done. Maybe you relentlessly pursue your objectives, regardless of employee burnouts. Maybe you run a tight ship and exercise a lot of control over your employees’ work to ensure you hit your numbers. Or perhaps you play along with company politics—because if you don’t, you and your people will be disadvantaged.

However, if you’re new to the company or if your conscience prompts you to question certain actions, there might be a moment when you realise that this autocratic, even ruthless management style doesn’t sit well with you. In the long run, it could even become destructive to your workplace mental health. Eventually, you could find yourself asking whether you can develop an authentic leadership style—one that aligns with your inner values—without risking a loss of respect and power and eventually becoming a casualty of the culture.

Fortunately, it’s entirely possible, and realistic, to develop an authentic leadership style, regardless of what your company culture is. An authentic leadership style doesn’t automatically mean that you have to become “soft” and wishy-washy. What it does mean is that you develop a leadership style in which your character and values are the most important factors.

It’s critical, however, to keep in mind that those can’t be the only factors that determine your behavior and actions. You need to balance them against your experience, knowledge, and the best interests of your company. For example, even if it’s in your nature to be open, you can’t always be transparent in the workplace. There are times when it’s best to keep certain information under wraps because it could have a demoralising impact on your employees. Or if you’re naturally cautious, there are going to be times when it’s not in your company’s best interest to hold off and instead, you’ll have to be decisive and take action.

It’s important to understand that becoming a more authentic leader isn’t going to happen overnight. It will take a lot of introspection, plus, you’ll have to become accustomed to using your own values as a touchstone instead of simply falling into old management habits. However, with time and practice, you can develop a leadership style that reflects who you are and what you believe in without sacrificing effectiveness.

Yet all things considered, it’s not in your control how your work environment will receive your change in management style. However, if you have to choose between being constantly stressed because your values conflict with your management style or having to find a new position where you can further develop your authentic leadership style, in the long run, the second option is probably better for your mental health and your overall wellness.

Author: Pedro Diaz
Pedro-Diaz-authorPedro Diaz is the CEO of Workplace Mental Health Institute. He’s an author and accredited mental health social worker with senior management experience. Having recovered from his own experience of bipolar depression, Pedro is passionate about assisting organisations to address workplace mental health issues in a compassionate yet results-focussed way. He’s also a Dad, Husband, Trekkie and Thinker.

Connect with Pedro Diaz on:
Pedro Diaz on Google Plus Pedro Diaz on Face Book Pedro Diaz on LinkedIn

Workplace Mental Health Institute