Leading a Community-Focused Culture

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Philosophy, while equally loved and despised by people all over the world, has a valuable lesson to teach each one of us (yes, even in 2018!). Over the next few weeks, we’re going to be looking back into the corners of Ancient Rome, Greece, and China to examine how Ancient philosopher’s can show us new ways to think about Leadership.

Our first philosopher stems from Ancient Rome. Marcus Aurelius was the Roman emperor from 161 to 190 AD. His Meditations offer unique insights into who he was as a leader of this great Western Civilization.

Marcus believe that people exist to help one another.

Marcus believed that even though there will always be people who seek to harm others and live selfishly, humanity was meant to live in harmony and unison.

He writes,“…We came into the world for the sake of one another,” and within that society, leaders emerge and rise to the occasion. It is the Leaders duty to be the guardian of their followers, the Leader exists for the sake of their followers, and the followers for their Leader.

Interesting food for thought. How can we apply this thinking to our twenty-first century leadership?

Take a moment this week to think about how you can best serve your Team this week. How can you help create a culture that perpetuates the philosophy of existing to help your Followers?

  • Maybe it’s sending an encouraging email
  • Maybe it’s lunch
  • Maybe it’s popping by their office or cubicle to ask about their week and how you can help

Whatever that something is, we urge you to take the 5 or 30 minutes this week, to make a difference in the lives of those whom you Lead.

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Minimizing the Conference Craziness

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You made it! You’ve been looking forward to this conference for a long time.

The only drawback to the last conference you attended was that you went back to work completely exhausted from trying to make it to all the sessions you were interested in (which, let’s be real, were most of the sessions they had!).

This conference, you’re already torn between a couple of the break out sessions and the keynote speeches. Each day looks fantastic!

As you’re planning out your week, we’d recommend a couple of tips!

Be intentional about where you spend your time.

Take a couple of minutes to look at your schedule, the time you’ll be spending in different sessions, and prioritize.

Even if you make it to all the ones that look interesting, we all know your brain will be mush by 3pm, and dinner will not be fun!

Think about your year ahead, the team or corporate goals you’ve got, and what you know the most (or least!) about. Where is there a gap, or where do you need your thinking challenged or pushed a bit?

Choose what you attend strategically verses just what looks interesting.

Meet someone new.

 At these types of conferences, it can be easy to flock to those you know (maybe team members are there with you or you know other people in your region who will be there).

Even if meeting new people gives you the hives, try it out. In addition to the knowledge you’ll learn while there, just as impactful (and sometimes even more so) can be the people you meet.

Grab lunch with someone sitting in-front of you at a session, or choose to sit with someone new for dinner (even bring a colleague along with you!).

Communicate back

It can be so easy to go to a conference and then share these little bits and pieces with some of your team. When that happens, we sell ourselves short of the impact we can have of all growing towards the same thing together.

Even if you’re not sure that anyone would care that you learned about “x,” consider taking a little time to share some key learnings or next steps with your team.

HAVE FUN!

Surviving the Holiday Parties

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It is that time of year again… you’ve been invited to your companies holiday party.

Surviving or thriving at holiday parties doesn’t seem to ever get any easier.

We’ve got lots of suggestions here!

And, if you need a quick reference:

Starters: Need a topic to talk about? People LOVE to talk about themselves.

You can try something like “I am trying to figure out what to do for next year’s summer vacation – what’s your favorite vacation spot? Any recommendations?”

Stoppers: Politics – if you can, we’d highly recommend not to go there!

Stallers: In the middle of a conversation that’s not going well?

You can always use the bathroom as your friend. Excuse yourself, head to the bathroom for a quick moment, and then rejoin a different group.

Good luck and have fun!

Enjoy Your Vacation (Really Enjoy It!)

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The first day of vacation is here! You’ve already prepared your colleagues and boss with how to fulfill your role while you’re gone, but have you taken the time to prepare yourself for days of fun, relaxation, and adventure?

You’ve developed a routine of staying on top of tasks in the office, but we want you to hone your skills related to personal time.

This guide, in short, will show you how to decompress without all the stress of worrying about work while on vacation.

Timing is everything

Peak season is commonplace in most organizations, so you’ll want to make certain your vacation coincides with the offseason, if possible, to maximize your efforts to unwind. By selecting vacation time outside of when you’ll be in high demand, you are better able to make plans around known information rather than a hazarded guess.

If you’re unsure when the busiest times of the year occur, speak with your boss or forecasting department, whose job includes maintaining appropriate staffing at all times, for guidance. Planning your vacation during a lull will ensure the likelihood that you’ll remain undisturbed with work and fully engrossed in enjoying yourself.

Unplugging from Technology

In today’s world, leaving your cell phone at home induces anxiety of the worst kind. Doh! How will you respond to emails, voicemails, and text messages if you don’t have your trusty device? Easy. You don’t. You’ve become so accustomed to always being “plugged in” that you are no longer in-tune with the most important contact – yourself.

It’s perfectly fine if you elect to bring your cellphone, laptop, or tablet on vacation, but be sure to utilize the “Do Not Disturb” feature when you really do not want to be disturbed. Pinging email notifications can put a real damper on a deep tissue massage. Disabling this feature will allow you to “loosen up” and enjoy the moment while remaining undisturbed.

If completely unplugging makes you uncomfortable, carve out a certain time of the day to devote no more than one hour to checking emails and responding to any urgent requests.

Putting yourself first

These days are devoted to no one else but you, so act like it! In order to be your best self at work, you’ll need to take the time to do all of the things you didn’t have time to do because of daily career demands.

When was the last time you were able to read a book, see the sights, or have meaningful conversations with loved ones? If this question takes you longer than a few seconds to answer, you need to make it a priority to do at least one of these things while on vacation.

You’ll also want to take this “make-time-for-me” mantra with you during your return to work. Pace yourself by using your first day back to catch up on emails and reacquainting yourself with your role. Block some time on your calendar to catch up so your coworkers will know that you’d prefer not to be disturbed while you’re getting back to business.

Now that you’re all rested up and refreshed, you’re able to seize the days ahead at the office!

Prepping For Your Vacation

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It’s Summer! You’ve banked those vacation hours, foregone taking an extended weekend for your birthday, and you’re ready to take some much-needed time off. Relaxation awaits just around the corner.

We’re here to make sure you’re laying out your beach blanket, rather than laying out step-by-step instructions to your colleague, with these tips for a fun furlough.

Cleaning out your inbox

You may never have been able to reduce your inbox to zero, but a good practice is to clear out any messages to the lowest common denominator before bidding adieu.

Go through each email and prioritize with Eisenhower’s Urgent/Important Matrix:

  • Important and Urgent – Extremely High Priority
  • Important but not Urgent – High Priority
  • Not Important but Urgent – Low Priority
  • Not Important and not Urgent – Extremely Low Priority

For messages that are Important and Urgent, take time to address those emails prior to your leave. For those that are Important but not Urgent, use the starring/flagging system to ensure that the messages are your first priority upon your return. The Not Important but Urgent emails may be delegated to the person who’ll be covering for you while you’re gone. Not Important and not Urgent emails can be postponed until you’ve made it back to the office.

Oh, and don’t forget to turn on your out of office reply.

Daily tasks

You have job duties that must be done on a daily basis, and you’ll want to ensure that those duties are fulfilled in your absence. Find out if you’re able to pass your everyday responsibilities along to one of your colleagues. If so, carve out some time to meet with your backup to list and thoroughly explain what must be done and when it will need to be completed.

  • Provide your backup with your passwords to any applications that he or she will utilize daily
  • Leave contact information for important connections (e.g., tech support, clients, and vendors)
  • Identify the location of reference materials that will supply the answer to any routine questions that may arise

Since your colleague will be holding down the fort in your absence, you’ll want to make sure that the transition is as easy as possible. Leaving a detailed list of things that must be done and how to do them will eliminate your need to check your phone a trillion times while you’re away.

Organize your workspace

You know the Rockford files are underneath a pile of papers tucked inconspicuously in the paneling of your cubicle, but your colleagues might not. Taking time to tidy up your desk before you leave will guarantee an easy search.

A clean work area allows peace of mind during your trip. Put to rest the pangs of wondering if your coworkers saw all the crumbs in your keyboard or dust bunnies in the corners of your cube with the gift of tidiness. Double bonus – you’ll return to a desk that’s spiffy enough to be on HGTV!

Now that you’ve taken the time to prepare, get your motor running, head out on the highway, and enjoy your vacation!

So, You’ve Got a New Job – Part 1

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Whether you’re leaving to pursue a new career, trek across Tibet for sheer adventure, or take same personal time off from the workforce, leaving your current employer as respectfully as when you came in has benefits.

Here are a few reasons why you shouldn’t jump ship until you’ve secured your anchor.

The Beauty in the Two-Week Notice

Even if your boss wasn’t the most gracious in giving deadlines, your ample notice of resignation will be a gift to your coworkers who’ll likely have to shoulder the load in your absence if a replacement isn’t found before your departure. Remember, there is no “I” in team.

Established a good rapport with those you’ve shared a parking deck with during your stint at your company? They’ll likely want to celebrate your new beginnings. A last hurrah after work is a networking opportunity in disguise, as many of your coworkers will likely want to keep in touch with you (added bonus – LinkedIn buddies!).

Giving two-weeks’ notice graciously can also allot time to speak with HR to find out about things like: payouts for unused vacation days, COBRA benefits to bridge your coverage if there is a lag in the time for open enrollment at your new gig, and implementing your suggestions for improvement via the exit interview.

Training the new “You” 

Now that you’ve submitted your notice to separate (in writing), use this as an opportunity to add to your repertoire and resume!

You may not realize how much you contributed to your organization until you’ve created the training agenda for the new “you.” Listing all of your responsibilities not only validates your capabilities (GO YOU!), it can also be used as leverage for a counteroffer at your new employer or a great incentive to update your resume. Another plus – this list may highlight areas where there are gaps in your skillset that you can, ideally, develop in your new gig.

You are the expert when it comes to your role so be sure to impart this knowledge to the person replacing you. Remember all of those times you wanted to bang your head into your desk from frustration? Be generous in doling out the metaphorical Excedrin by providing thorough training to your proxy.

Perks of professionalism

Who doesn’t love having proof of how fantastic they are? Good news! Your willingness to work out your two-week notice and train your replacement, just might move your former boss to pen you a letter of recommendation that will last throughout the ages.

ASK for a letter of recommendation as you are closing up shop if your boss hasn’t mentioned it – chances are they will be happy to write one for you!

Don’t be the person to eat and run. If you apply good manners at a host’s dinner table, be sure to apply the same courtesy to your employer when quitting your job.

So, I’ve Got a New Direct Report

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You are so excited because you (finally!!) have someone new you are bringing onto your team!

You’ve been waiting a LONG time for them – and want to make this transition as smooth and seamless as possible.

As you are prepping to bring them on, we’ve got a couple of tips on things to think about!

First, they don’t know what they don’t know. You’ve been here for a while. You know the ins and outs of the company. You know that Bob never has matching socks and that on Friday’s, everyone goes to happy hour at 6.

Take a couple of minutes this week to really think about those things. Reflect on your days and weeks and think about those “things that you just know” and try to capture them.

Next, identify your expectations—because you’ve got ‘em (we all do!)

Schedule some time in your calendar this week and think about this:

  • What are the “shoulds” that you think of for this person?

That is, when you think about them, do you think “they should know this”, or “they should be ready for their first client call by X date”, or “their primary resource for questions should be Sally”.

Write all those out and then think about what is the best way (and time) to communicate all those to your new direct.

We’d recommend to not do it all at once, and also to make sure you ACTUALLY communicate all those expectations.

Last, consider the experience you want them to have.

Yes, this will all be new and it will likely be overwhelming. And in the midst of that, what do you want them to remember or experience?

Maybe you want them to know that they’ve got you as a support, so you’re going to coordinate team lunches once a week for the next few weeks to help the whole team get to know each other better.

Or maybe you want them to know that you really value their opinion, so every couple of days you’ll set up structured time to ask them what is going well and what else they would like or need.

You have the opportunity to create the experience you want them to have. So think about what that overall experience is and then a couple of practical ways that you can make that happen!

We’re excited for your new direct and would love to hear your best ideas in on-boarding someone new!