Coaching to Engage: 12 Rules to Effective, Ongoing Employee Coaching

Employee Coaching
The role of a coach is extremely valued in athletics. But for some reason, that belief rarely extends to the workplace. Managers are too often viewed as overseers instead of mentors. In reality, coaching is just as essential in the workplace as it is on the field or court.

Employee coaching is an important part of continuous performance management. When managers maximize employee potential and surround employees with supporting talent, they put their teams in a position to grow and help the organization succeed.

Great managers foster open, honest relationships with employees that motivate and engage them. In this blog, we’ll share 12 rules to master employee coaching and create a productive team of engaged employees.

1. Give employees regular, frequent feedback.

Employees crave constructive feedback from their managers, but don’t always get it. Your employees want to know how their performance is viewed, what they’re doing well, and what they need to improve.

Intentionally set aside time to provide feedback on employee performance. Use one-on-one meetings and GOOD sessions as regular feedback periods. Consider setting reminders in your calendar to consistently provide feedback to each employee.

2. Create a culture of team feedback.

Contrary to popular belief, feedback shouldn’t just come from the manager. Employees should be encouraged to provide feedback to each other and to you, their manager.

Strive to build a culture where 360 feedback is the norm. This creates an ongoing dialogue that gives employees at all levels of the organization an opportunity to be heard.

3. Push employees to their attainable limits.

While you don’t want to overwhelm employees, motivating your team to get out of their comfort zone can help them grow and perform at their highest potential employees who demonstrate a lack of interest in their work are much more likely to become disengaged.

In many cases, they need to be challenged and provided regular feedback and recognition to grow and improve. Identify each employee’s experience and skillset, and have them take on new tasks or assignments that help them expand. Be available and willing to help when questions arise.

4. Be open to employee ideas.

Employee listening is an essential part of coaching. It opens you to different concepts you hadn’t previously thought of, and it makes employees feel heard. When they feel their opinion is respected and valued, they’re far more likely to be engaged and push harder.

Build in opportunities to capture employee voice through one-on-ones, feedback, and employee surveys. Listening to different perspectives from a variety of venues can help you create a more complete picture of the employee experience.

5. Encourage employees to learn from others.

No two employees are exactly alike. They come from different backgrounds and have varying personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. Simply connecting employees with their peers opens new possibilities and creates a more connected workplace.

Encourage employees to interact frequently so they teach each other new skills or approaches. Welcoming differing perspectives and asking for all employees to contribute will help you foster a more diverse and inclusive culture at work.

6. Ask employees for opinions.

Employees aren’t the only ones who can learn from each other—you can too! Keep an open mind during conversations and frequently source new ideas or tactics from them. Collecting regular feedback from your employees shows you’re willing to listen and always looking to improve.

Simply asking for feedback creates an open dialogue and gives employees a voice. This can make the workplace feel more like a democracy instead of a dictatorship. Make sure you take notes and follow up once you’ve heard from your team.

7. Build confidence.

Confident employees are more likely to achieve their goals than those who feel unsupported and misguided. As you coach employees and provide feedback, it’s critical that you instill them with confidence.

Look for opportunities to recognize employees for strong performance and extra effort. Make sure you understand how employees like to be recognized too, but always strive to make it public so that others in the organization can take note. Acknowledging employees’ contributions boosts their confidence and sets them up for success.

8. Don’t do employees’ work for them.

When you notice an assignment is proceeding slowly or heading in the wrong direction, you might be tempted to take it into your own hands and simply complete it yourself. This might be beneficial in the short term, but employees need to learn through trial and error.

Instead of taking the task off their hands, teach them how to handle the situation by offering guidance. Ask leading questions and help them navigate their way through the muck. Remember—a good coach gives their team a pathway to success.

9. Tolerate and support failure.

Sometimes, things don’t go according to plan. Mistakes will be made and deals will fall through. It’s just a part of work. But how you respond is what really matters. Accepting failure and moving to the next task can create a lower standard for performance expectations. But you don’t want to crush employees’ spirits for their mistakes either.

Ask your employees to explain what went wrong and how they could have performed better. Encourage them to consider what opportunities exist and how they might improve in the future. Remain positive and solution-oriented.

10. Recognize employees often.

Mistakes happen, and so do successes! Oftentimes, managers get caught up in being a constructive coach instead of a celebratory one. When an employee succeeds or goes over the top, let them know that you noticed.

Recognition can be as simple as a thank-you note, a cup of their favorite coffee drink, or a shout-out during the next team meeting. Little acknowledgements can go a long way toward securing buy-in and building a stronger team.

11. Make a goals roadmap.

If you hope to get everyone pushing in the same direction, you need to show them where to go. Goals are the clearest and most effective way to do so.

Sit down with employees to create personal goals that help them develop and further their careers. Work to connect those goals to the over benchmarks of the team and the organization as a whole. Aligning goals in this way will give employees a clear picture of how their work contributes to team and business success.

12. Ask what you can do to help.

Good coaches don’t just throw their players into a competition and say, “figure it out.” They actively encourage their team and search for solutions to help athletes succeed.

Let your employees know they can come to you with questions or concerns. Use one-on-ones to understand the challenges they are facing and build a plan together. You’re there to help them, and they should feel comfortable asking for advice and or assistance.

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Think Productivity With Work From Home Is Improving? Think Again. Here’s What You Must Know

You’ve probably seen the press and the hype about work from home and the amazing productivity that is accompanying these new work circumstances. But is it real? In a couple words: Probably not. While there may be elements that seem valid, there are other pieces that are suspect.

Productivity is important to organizations, of course. But it’s also important to individuals. When people are efficient, they have a greater claim to recognition, rewards and career growth—at least if their company doles out these goodies equitably.

It is also worth mentioning that productivity isn’t the only evidence of success—or even the most important. Performance is probably the better, bigger concept—based partially based on productivity—but also including engagement, commitment, learning, growth, innovation and contributions to community as a whole. Productivity is part of a broader whole of overall performance.

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But productivity still counts as a metric that matters. With all that’s been written about productivity, what counts most in the midst of the pandemic? And if the claims of enormous productivity improvements aren’t real, what is, and how can you create the conditions for productivity?

Here are some important considerations:

Panic Productivity And The Wall
Many of the reports of increased productivity were early in the pandemic. Some have dubbed this “panic productivity,” attributing the early perception of increased productivity to the adrenaline boost people got from the sudden shifts in the nature and location of their work. Job loss was rife, and people may have been working like crazy in the hopes of staying visible, relevant and ensuring their boss thought they were still adding value—even from home. But we’re hearing a lot of people are now hitting a wall. They are tired, fed up and burned out. If their productivity was high at first, it has declined as the pandemic has worn on and as the stressors around them have mounted. Facilitating learning for children at home, caring for loved ones and navigating all the new norms for work are pressure points which have built over time and are unlikely to let up anytime soon.

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The solution: True and lasting productivity requires balance. Hard work and dedication should be interspersed with time off to refresh and rejuvenate.

The Time Equation
Productivity is a measure of how much people get done in a period of time. The problem with some of the new work-from-home productivity reports is they’re not accounting for the increasing hours people are working. Employees may report they’re more productive, but we also know they’re working more hours. So, it’s not that they’re actually packing more work into the same envelope. In reality, they’re producing results during times when they may have been commuting before. Or they’re finishing deliverables at times when they might have been “off” in the past. The proximity of work contributes to this dynamic. When there is a physical separation between the office and home, it’s easier to turn off and set a healthy boundary. But when work is at the kitchen table or the home office next to the living room, it can be tougher to turn off—and therefore, employees are working more hours—and producing more, but also making a greater investment of time.

The solution: Cultivate a healthy boundary between work and non-work activities. All work, all the time can dull the senses, sap motivation and lead to burnout. People will have better overall performance when they are able to invest time in both work and personal pursuits.

The Complexity Of Work
Another myth of productivity is related to the type of work people are doing. One recent study showed people could be more productive on rote, routine or repetitive work, but less so on work that was complex, urgent or required problem solving. People may be able to finish aspects of their work more productively—perhaps more administrative responsibilities. But they can’t be at their most productive doing work that requires greater sophistication.

The solution: Encourage people to consider where they do their best work. Avoid assuming all work can be done most effectively regardless of the location, and empower people to choose where they do their best work. Create places where people want to be, so they are attracted to an office where they can complete more complex work or problem solving. Also support them in curating the best conditions in their home environments. Bottom line: educate people and empower them, providing plenty of choice and control about where they do their best work whether it is more complex or more routine.

Productivity may also be better for many people for work that is truly individual. When people must complete contemplative or heads-down tasks, those with good work-from-home set-ups may see a bump in productivity. However, when tasks involve collaboration, co-creation or generative work, it is unlikely people can be as productive with their colleagues at a distance, compared to working together in the office. Just consider the coffee mugs, t-shirts and the mantra of 2020, “You’re on mute.” While some virtual work has its virtues, people just cannot be as effective when they’re collaborating on a remote basis for all their tasks, all the time.

The solution: Help people form strong bonds with teammates and encourage them to build relationships together. Ensure employees are working together on meaningful tasks. These tactics will help them collaborate whether they are working virtually or in person. As people get back to the office, create places where they can collaborate and work effectively with colleagues.

Individual Versus Organizational Productivity
Also consider the differences between individual and organizational productivity. There may be some work that benefits from people expending independent effort. Individual productivity is an important metric. But also consider organizational productivity. One of the fundamental reasons organizations exist is to add value for their customers and this requires integrating work across individuals and teams. The value chain must be—you know—a chain, connecting multiple tasks, responsibilities, projects and processes to deliver solutions and innovations to the marketplace. Ultimately, coming together helps ensure there is continuity and quality across a chain. Individual productivity can only go so far. Organizational productivity will rule the day when it comes to the companies that succeed or fail.

The solution: Remind people of their contribution to the whole, the company’s overall purpose and the customer. Reinforce the value of their work and create opportunities for integration and cross-functional work.

While a quick glance at a hyped-up headline may seem convincing, it is necessary to look beyond the top line. Realize productivity may actually be deteriorating and know there is action you can take to shore up employees’ effectiveness.

In addition, consider quality of life. People may be able to struggle along getting their work done, but they are also losing something in the equation. As my friend Marla said, an important reward she gets from her work—beyond her paycheck—is in the relationships she enjoys with co-workers. Work is more than just cranking out the proverbial widget or the number of keystrokes delivered. People must get something back, and a large part of the return is in relationships, social capital and connections with colleagues. This may be the biggest reason productivity can’t be at it’s best working from home. We need each other and being together makes us better in terms of our work and also in terms of our humanity—through our connections with others.

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The State of Prescriptive Analytics in HR

Human resources is more capable of collecting data than ever before and with that data, a wide range of decisions and observations can be made. In recent years, HR teams have familiarized themselves with the different types of analytics and have attempted to discover how their teams and organizations could use them, but one type of analytics remains difficult for many organizations to achieve: prescriptive analytics.

Prescriptive analytics refers to the type of data intelligence that allows organizations to combine the capability of descriptive analytics (what most are achieving now) with a view toward the future. Users can gain insight into what will happen next, but more importantly, prescriptive analytics provides insight into what the organization should do next.

You’re likely most familiar with this model through services you subscribe to in other areas of life, be it Spotify’s Discover playlist or the recommended for you section of entertainment streaming service platforms. It looks at your past usage data in an effort to predict what else you’d like and what you will like in the future. In the consumer market, the message around these can be customized to increase engagement and optimize how you experience whatever it is the model believes you will like the most.

Prescriptive vs Predictive
It’s important not to confuse prescriptive analytics with predictive analytics. Though they may sound similar, the two are actually quite different.

While predictive analytics is also valuable, providing the ability to identify employees that are most likely to quit, for example, prescriptive analytics could be used to build retention plans and plot actions to achieve desired outcomes.

READ: People Analytics More Important than Ever During Pandemic

For HR, that could have huge impacts for learning and development and workforce planning in the very near future, but questions over data quality and how to implement it without disrupting the workforce further remain. But there’s another problem according to Sarah Johnson, Vice President of Enterprise Surveys and Analytics at Perceptyx.

“It’s human nature to believe that we know something that can’t be accounted for in the data based on our experiences,” Johnson said. “The challenge will be twofold: First of all identifying the many, many variables that need to be included in the analytics, both internal to the company, individual on the part of employees, and the external world. Collecting these data and then determining how to account for them and weight them in the analysis and solutions will be a challenge. But let’s assume we figure all of that out; the challenge will then be the human decision to implement the recommendations. The human element may choose to override the recommendations from prescriptive analytics based on our own beliefs, expectations, and biases.”

Another challenge is determining the proper course of action that the analytics identifies would then require careful consideration. Current potential actions could be out of date or ineffective and there may be scenarios where the action needed isn’t clear.

“It seems to me that in the HR world, predictive analytics would be most effective where there are finite potential actions to be recommended,” Johnson said. “But even then, HR will need to continually monitor data to determine where there are scenarios where current solutions do not exist. The challenge will be to create recommendations that are specific to the situation and not just generic recommendations that can be interpreted and implemented in a variety of ways.”

Prescriptive analytics often resorts to optimizing accuracy over interpretation. Throw all the variables you can think of at an algorithm and it can tell you what is likely to happen with a high degree of accuracy, but it cannot necessarily describe the reasons why, which leaders long to understand prior to making decisions. And the issues with prescriptive analytics being an ideal fit for HR don’t stop there.

“Going deeper down the prescriptive analytics rabbit hole, algorithms by themselves do not care about the veracity of data nor what data is included or excluded,” Johnson said. “Take for example, Amazon: when feeding resumes into machine learning algorithms to identify top talent – it succeeded, saving time during the hiring process and improving quality of hire. But given that technical roles were predominantly held by males when analyzing 10 years of applications, black-box algorithms leveraged this insight to perpetuate the male-dominant bias. Amazon has since scrapped this prescriptive analytics tool.”

Finally, legacy systems remain in place that hamper prescriptive analytics efforts. In the end, new cloud-based technology is required to adequately support these efforts, but investment is tough at a time when the future is so uncertain with regard to the pandemic and business models going forward.

The Talent Pool
Analytics efforts in HR generally face another problem in the way HR professionals are trained. Most are not data scientists and many have no desire to be. As a result, the talent pool for advanced HR analytics most often comes from outside of the HR function. Few HR professionals receive the kind of training necessary to do this kind of work, so most organizations have to rely on data scientists currently working for the organization in other functions or work with an external vendor that can supply analysis. There are challenges with both.

“Internal data scientists will need to be educated in terms of HR,” Johnson said. “They will need to understand the limitations of HR data relative to other company data, and then be immersed in the role of the function and its governance, policies, and practices. An external vendor will develop models and solutions based on a wide spectrum of companies and practices, but often times these don’t feel specific enough to be of use to a given organization without extensive customization.”

Moving Toward Prescriptive Analytics
If moving toward prescriptive analytics sounds complex, that’s because it is. But the task is not insurmountable, organizations simply need to get started on the first step in the process and it’s not adopting a new fancy technology or hiring the most brilliant minds to develop custom algorithms.

The most practical place to start is to simply take stock of the data the organization collects about people. HR needs to create a strategy for organizing people data and combine that with the many other data sources needed for prescriptive analytics. Consider this is a whole-company challenge, meaning that there is a need to create a continuously updated source of data.

But perhaps the most important part of moving toward prescriptive analytics is understanding the need for balance. While it’s necessary to get the aforementioned buy-in from leadership to use prescriptive analytics in making business decisions, it’s important to understand where it will inevitably fall short.

“Human behavior is notoriously difficult to predict, and an action that is prescribed may be highly successful in one situation but not in another,” Johnson said. “Initially I think prescriptive analytics will be most valuable and useful in transactional scenarios. For example, training experiences may be based on performance on a certain internal training program. Attrition trends can identify the need to hire specific skills in a handful of company locations. The selection of certain employee benefits options may signal a move either toward retirement or women going on maternity leave, which then leads to staffing recommendations. Other decisions or actions, such as promotion decisions or salary change recommendations, may be challenging to drive with predictive analytics, as these decisions may also be influenced by variables that are not easy to measure and record.”

At the end of the day HR is a people business and people are complicated, they don’t always fit neatly into an algorithm and the human side of HR will always be something that humans have to own. While HR teams are recognizing the value of data intelligence, very few companies have conquered the predictive analytics part, to say nothing of prescriptive analytics. It will be a long time before this is common in organizations across the enterprise data ecosystem.

“People are complex and difficult to predict,” Johnson said. “While we can do our best to create prescriptive models we need to be willing to accept some element of error in the prescriptions. The data we have on people can only predict so much.”

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The Surprising Data Behind Why CEOs With Less Experience Outperform Those With More

When you think about the attributes that make a CEO successful, what comes to mind? If your list includes having many years of experience, you are in for a surprise.

New data recently published in Harvard Business Review details an interesting finding that rookie CEOs actually perform better than their more experienced counterparts. The report, based on research from executive recruiting firm Spencer Stuart, provides insights that are probably counterintuitive to what you would otherwise assume.

The firm conducted a study of 855 top executives who held their positions in companies listed on the S&P 500, a leading stock market index of the largest companies, at a point over a 20-year period. The results were clear: more experienced CEOs underperformed compared to those with less experience, over the medium and long term time frame.

Here are a couple of the key findings from the study:

Executives who held the role for the first time achieved a higher market-adjusted return for their company’s shareholders compared to more experienced ones. Further, the stock prices of their companies experienced less volatility.
For CEOs who held the role in back-to-back companies, an estimated 70% found more success in their first capacity as a senior leader compared to their second. For more than half of those studied, the second go-round as CEO led to results that were lower than the overall stock market.

There are a few reasons why this is happening. According to the Spencer Stuart research team, experienced CEOs rely heavily on the old way of doing things, with processes and playbooks that worked in prior organizations. As would be expected, this led to an increased focus on reducing costs.

On the other hand, first-time executives tend to be more adaptable and focused more on driving ‘top-line growth.’

The firm found that another key reason behind the disparity boils down to mindset. Certain attributes that are more likely to be found in rookie CEOs are some of the ones needed to lead companies in the modern era.

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Business transformation: there’s more to HR’s role than meets the eye

Organisations across the globe are experiencing change at a quicker pace than ever before. The pandemic has acted as a catalyst for many businesses to accelerate transformations that were already on the cards, while others have been forced into dramatic changes of course.

With HR leaders in the driver’s seat, they can set an agenda that translates the business strategy into operational delivery.
On the face of it, the remit for transformation seems to sit solely with senior business leaders – after all, they are the people ultimately responsible for success. Within this context, you could be forgiven for thinking that HR’s role within transformation is a small one, or one that’s only involved behind the scenes in how to communicate change. That perception would be an understatement at best, and plain wrong at worst.

Successful business transformation requires more. It requires an understanding that HR’s role is integral, not only to ensuring transformation takes place across the workforce, but to help define the mandate for change, influence key stakeholders and lay the foundations that change is built upon.

A positive catalyst for change
The impact of Covid-19 has permeated every part of how we work, our culture, and how we manage high performing teams. In the process, it’s given HR a platform to take control of it as a positive catalyst for change. This starts with HR being truly confident in what they are putting on the agenda.

For most businesses, there’s a lot to be determined with regards to the workplace set-up and post-Covid workforce of the future. How will work be done and how can teams collaborate effectively in a hybrid world of work? How is engagement and wellbeing monitored and managed? Instead of addressing these issues in isolation based on the current situation, what really needs to be considered is the longer-term plan and design of the organisation, even modelling different location strategies and exploring new sourcing options.

With HR leaders in the driver’s seat, they can set an agenda that translates the business strategy into operational delivery. By taking on a coordination role, leveraging their unique cross-functional view of the whole business, HR can empower organisations to hit the accelerator in the long term.

Building credibility through data
HR’s ability to get a seat at the table early and have a strategic role in designing any type of workforce transformation hinges upon its ability to have the right level of conversation, which must be rooted in evidence and data.

Data without context won’t get the job done, however. Not only do HR teams need to make their data organised and easy to handle, but they also need to ensure they can demonstrate its practical relevance to disciplines across the business. It’s this distinction that allows HR to show confidently and in concrete terms, via modelling scenarios and identifying opportunities, what the case for change is.

External data points to show the ‘outside-in’ perspective are also key. These allow HR leaders to understand and monitor the changes other companies are implementing to remain competitive in the marketplace. Without this grounding, HR leaders cannot hope to influence stakeholders or change perceptions.

The key to this happening is collaboration. We already know that silos between departments only put a damper on overall productivity and performance. By acting as a central hub that connects the different areas of the business, HR, and operations teams can ensure all the relevant workforce data is being seen in context – allowing leadership teams to make smarter, data-driven decisions.

This is what will deliver credibility and grow recognition of the value HR brings to the table for the business and its overall performance.

Making it an operational reality
It’s one thing to come up with a strategic plan for a workforce transformation, but it is another to turn this into an operational reality. HR has the potential to drive the latter by influencing senior leadership and stakeholders to communicate the transformations well and roll them out, pulling on all relevant organisational levers across the business. These should include performance objectives, compensation plans, governance, and organisational structures.

To deliver against the needs of the business when it comes to performance and growth, HR should take on an important role, that of a disruptor. Whether it’s pausing bigger picture activity to review and analyse how certain working practices are faring, or building a case for a new kind of workforce transformation, HR can approach disruption from a positive standpoint to drive meaningful change.

What’s crucial is that this planning cycle, from data and evidence through to implementing a change programme, cannot be a one-off. The onus is on HR leaders to make sure that they’re continually analysing, modelling, planning and influencing to ensure they are a core part of workforce transformation.

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All You Can Control In 2021 Is YOU

If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that 2020 was a doozy. Chaos reigned supreme. Our best-laid plans crumbled in the face of multiple disruptions. And while most business leaders are accustomed to operating in a state of uncertainty, Covid-19 and its fallout took it to a new level. Frankly, 2021 isn’t looking much more stable. And while none of us know what’s coming, there’s one thing we can and must control. Ourselves.

The louder the outward chaos, the greater the need for an internal sense of calm. If you’re able to cultivate a state of Inner Peace, you’ll be a far more effective leader in 2021 and beyond.

With Inner Peace—which I define as being fully present in the moment with an open, non-judgmental mind and a lack of self-absorption—you’re open to learning. You’re able to listen to others rather than just confirming your own biases. You’re able to build caring, trusting relationships. All of this allows you and your team to do high-level critical, innovative, and emergent thinking to make better, smarter decisions.

Inner Peace is what allows us to bring our Best Selves to work and engage with others in ways that enable them to be their Best Selves also.

Inner Peace has four parts: a Quiet Ego, a Quiet Mind, a Quiet Body, and a Positive Emotional State. By taking ownership of your mind, emotions, and behaviors, you’ll learn to generate the positive emotions that enable high engagement with others and behave in ways that enable them to be their Best Selves also. Here are six ways to make it a resolution in 2021.
Take a Good Look at How You Define Yourself
Ego is one of the biggest inhibitors of Hyper-Learning. When we define ourselves by how much we know and how “smart” we are (a common problem for leaders!), or when someone disagrees with us, our very sense of self is threatened and our ego gets in the way of having real conversations and seeking the best answers. If you want to be open to feedback and want to challenge your own perceptions, you must first make a conscious decision to quiet your ego.

The first step is admitting you have a non-Quiet Ego! The next step is to redefine yourself, perhaps by the quality of your thinking, listening, relating, and collaborating. Making this mental shift is surprisingly difficult, but it is a necessary starting point.
Embrace Mindfulness Meditation
This is a way of focusing awareness to something specific, like your breath or a part of your body or an object or mantra, and continually bringing your attention back to that thing every time your mind wanders off. Start small—perhaps just two to three minutes at first. Eventually, you’ll be able to work your way up to 20-30 minutes a day. That is how you train your mind so that you can control what you attend to. You must take ownership of your mind. Your mind should not control you! The science on the power of mindfulness meditation is compelling. It is how you can bring your full Best Self to every conversation and every meeting. It is how you can be really, really, really present.
Engage in Acts of Gratitude
This practice reduces your tendency to be self-centered and cultivates a Quiet Ego. Acts of gratitude may include saying thank you in the moment, writing thank-you notes, keeping a gratitude journal, and every night reflecting back on those who’ve had the biggest positive impacts on your life. The idea is to steep yourself in daily reminders that individual success is not all about “me,” and that none of us got here all by ourselves.
Practice Deep Breathing to Calm Your Body, Emotions, and Mind
Back in 2018, I started practicing deep breathing exercises that the Navy SEALs do and monitoring my heart rate daily. Now I do breathing exercises a couple of times a day to regulate the pace of my body so I can be more in the moment.

When I experience a fast heart rate, rising temperature, or stress in parts of my body, I immediately do my deep breathing and my self-talk. I tell myself to slow my motor down, and I try to experience a micro-joy—feeling very positive about someone or nature or something positive in my life.
Create Micro-Joys Throughout Your Workday
I’m a big fan of Barbara Fredrickson’s writings on the power of positivity resonance, which is the highest level of human connection that results from the sharing of positive emotions. Teams are far more effective when they can attain this elusive state. Obviously, leaders who are mired in negativity will inhibit positivity resonance and thus team performance. This is why it’s crucial to do what you can to keep yourself in a state of joy and happiness—one of the keys to being your Best Self.

What has worked well for me is creating micro-joys during my day. For example, I might focus mindfully on the beauty of nature, the beauty of colors, the unconditional love of a pet, seeing a friend in passing and wishing them a good day, thanking a custodian for keeping the bathroom so clean at work, and going out of my way to smile and express gratitude to fellow workers for specific things I have witnessed.
Create Your Daily Intentions
Spending 15 minutes or so each morning reflecting on how you want to behave that day—how you want “to be”—can help you start your day with the right mindset. This can involve inspirational readings and journaling. In my book, Hyper-Learning I include a workshop to help readers cultivate their own Daily Intentions.

Daily Intentions are very personal. The idea is to consciously choose how you are going to react and behave and what you’re going to pay attention to each day. Start each day reading your Daily Intentions and visualizing how each of the desired behaviors would be evidenced. And each night do a 10-minute review of your day. Ask yourself, Where did I behave as I desired? Where did I not behave the way I wanted to behave? Try to figure out what kept you from being who you wanted to be and what triggered that response.

You have choices every day as to how you behave. You have a choice as to how you manage your mind, how you manage your ego, how you manage your emotions, and how you manage your behaviors. These six practices will help you be a better and more effective person if you have the self-discipline and honesty to take ownership of YOU!

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Remote Work Has Arrived, But It’s Not Quite As Great As We Hoped

We’ve had almost a year of remote work, and the transformation has been amazing. Today, among those who can, 71% of Americans work from home most of the time, 87% say they have excellent tools, and employees are roughly as engaged as they were before the Pandemic.

But there is a huge gap between rich and poor going on.

In fact, “remote work” is the ultimate new class divide.

Consider this data (from Pew Research, 5,900 workers): 62% of College-Educated workers say they can work from home, only 17% of those without a college degree say the same.

When we look at income levels, the disparity is even greater.

The New Corner Office Is The Home Office

What does this mean? We have created a whole new “corner office” effect. While many of us can work at home all day, our lower-income team-mates simply cannot.

And younger workers (under the age of 50) are having a much harder time than people my age. Younger workers feel far less motivated, less able to meet and connect with peers, and less productive in general. In fact, as the data shows, younger workers are “half as motivated” than older people.

What does this mean? Well, remote work is more complicated than we thought.

Remote Work Is Harder Than We Thought

In the first few months of the Pandemic we rushed to buy tools, set up Zoom or Teams, and create all sorts of home office setups for people to adapt. My friends at Target told me they tracked the process of American’s outfitting their home offices by watching buying trends: first wifi routers and laptops; then desks and cameras; then new furniture and household furnishings; now exercise equipment, music systems, and all sorts of wellbeing aids!

Well, this may feel like a good thing, but it has had a dark side. Our operational and service worker friends haven’t been able to gain these benefits. Young people are getting fed up with the “work at home” life. And young parents, mothers, and people with children are actually suffering.

Consider this: according to the Pew study only 13% of workers believe their work is “better” than before the Pandemic. 23% think it’s “worse.”

When asked about specific aspects of their job, a third say they feel less connected to their co-workers, 26% say it’s harder for them to balance their work and family responsibilities, about one-in-five say they have less job security and fewer opportunities for advancement (19% each), and 16% say it’s harder to know what their supervisor expects of them.

Bottom Line: Learning To Manage Remote Work Takes Time

One of the big findings in the Pew research is that people who have worked at home a long time (writers, designers, researchers) are as happy as ever. For the rest of us, it has been a novelty that’s starting to wear off.

Right now I know most of you are working very hard to put together Employee Experience programs for 2021. I would suggest you look at Remote Work carefully, and think about all these issues. Are you giving young people the connection and advancement they need? Are lower-income workers able to work at home when they want? And are leaders paying attention to all the new issues that have come up?

If you’re interested in my thoughts, here are the principles I’ve developed – I talk about tools, rules, norms, and culture. They all play a role in this new world of remote work.

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How AI Will Guide Corporations, Part 1: By Redefining Roles

Industries dramatically change every decade or so. Consider this—only about 50 companies, or roughly 10%, have remained on the Fortune 500 list since 1955. As we start moving into the early 2020s, we’re on the cusp of another major change, one that will be guided by artificial intelligence (AI).

As revenues rise and fall, and companies adjust to new economic, political and social landscapes, the internal workings of companies change as well—specifically, executive roles, processes and technology. For the first article in my three-part series, I’ll walk you through how, guided by AI, executive roles within companies will change in the 2020s.

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Companies have long assigned new responsibilities to some executive roles, and have carved out new executive roles, too. For instance, these days, it’s not surprising to see a company with a chief revenue officer (CRO) either operating alongside or in place of a chief marketing officer (CMO). It’s also becoming increasingly commonplace for chief information officers (CIOs) to work more closely with chief human resources officers (CHROs) to improve the employee experience.

Why AI Will Reshape Go-To-Market Executive Roles The Most

In the 2020s, changes to executive roles in go-to-market departments—finance, marketing, customer success, sales, product development and human resources—will be guided by AI. This is a crucial development in the evolution of the corporation because it will also inform how practitioner and staff roles evolve in the 2020s.

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Roles in these go-to-market departments have the most potential to be redefined by AI because they naturally rely on a lot of data and shifting variables. These roles are marked by conditions of VUCA, which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. People have to make decisions in these roles that are, on some level, predictive.

While each unique role will be redefined and retooled through automation and augmentation via AI in different ways, broadly, AI can guide executives and other employees in these departments by showing them what’s going on across the business (the big picture view), by presenting them with different scenarios and associated consequences and by suggesting fresh ideas.

For instance, CMOs traditionally make marketing decisions based on past campaign data, such as lead conversion rates. AI could give them another layer of guidance to show them different scenarios and options and the good and bad that could result from each decision, such as selecting a new segment, targeting a new geographical market or starting a new brand campaign. AI could even show CMOs novel ideas they might not have brainstormed on their own.

We’ll also see chief customer officer (CCO) and chief experience officer (CXO) roles be drastically redefined, if not enabled, by AI. People in these roles interface with customers at various stages of the customer journey. AI will augment their decision-making to streamline and improve those customer interactions. We are living in a buying era where 67% of the buyer’s journey happens digitally. Unlike the classic funnel of awareness-consideration-purchase, buyers are acting non-linearly. They ask LinkedIn connections for recommendations, research competitors, use free trials and more. Using AI to collect data points along the customer journey, CCOs and CXOs can engage customers at the right time, on the right channel, with the right message.

How AI Will Reshape Roles Outside Of Go-To-Market Executive Roles

Outside of the executive suite, one example of AI retooling these go-to-market departments that we’re already seeing is in the news industry. Using algorithms and live data, Reuters writes text-based summaries of some sports games. Reuters also introduced a prototype for a fully automated presenter-led sports news summary system earlier in 2020. This ties into something important I think will happen. It’s not that AI will necessarily replace many jobs (although it will replace some); it’s more so that AI will enhance the more “chore-like” aspects of these roles, freeing up people to produce more and use more of their energy to create and innovate.

Apart from the go-to-market departments, roles in development, IT and other technical areas may also be augmented by AI. Consider this—in the past, data scientists spent a huge percentage of their time on model selection, or identifying the right machine learning models for problems. Now, with auto machine learning via platforms like AWS and Microsoft, AI can choose the right models with minimal data scientist involvement.

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In short, executive roles in go-to-market departments will reap many benefits from AI, as will their teams. With these data-driven predictions at their fingertips, they’ll be able to make more nuanced, educated decisions and spend less time reaching those decisions, gaining a competitive advantage in the process.

Going a step further, we’re already starting to see people in chief AI officer (CAIO) roles. Maybe every company in the future will have a CAIO who oversees the role of AI in the organization. Or, maybe chief digital officer (CDO) roles will incorporate more AI responsibilities, developing ethical frameworks for how their companies use AI internally and externally. Perhaps companies will even have an AI robot or two on their board of directors, something a Hong Kong-based VC firm has already done.

When it comes to reshaping jobs, AI won’t be the be-all, end-all. It’ll be more like a team member “hired” to help people in different roles. Think about all the administrative, repetitive parts of your job that you’d love for an AI assistant to take care of! AI won’t stop at transforming roles, either. In my next two articles, I’ll explain how AI will guide changes in the processes and technologies companies use.


Five changes to workplace culture that HR can drive in 2021

As we kick off the year, there is always speculation about what lies ahead for the next 12 months. However given the unknowns, the intrigue and uncertainty this year are greater than ever.

According to a recently published report by O.C. Tanner’s 2021 Global Cultural Report, the year ahead promises to be one of “crisis, opportunity and compelling data”.

Here are the five big changes predicted by the research, factoring in the impact of the pandemic.

#1 Digital transformation continues apace

Getting buy-in from employees is a crucial factor in the success of an organisation’s digital transformation.

“Most organisations assume employees are afraid of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies. The research shows any fear is more nuanced and centres on how the organisation implements new tools,” the report states.

It also suggests that companies perform at their best when they weigh the impact technology will have on the employee experience and work culture.

Employees are ready to get on board with this. Almost two- thirds (65%) are optimistic about new technology at their company, while 32% of companies are culturally ready to embrace new technology.

#2 Increase in transparency

The research revealed that organisations that have increased their transparency since March have experienced and 85% boost to employee engagement and a 152% jump in a willingness to do more.

Conversely, organisations without a formal recognition programme have a 20% higher score in intention-to-leave amid employees, a 49% decrease in engagement and a two-fold increase in fear of Covid-19.

#3 Recognition a crucial factor

Companies with integrated recognition are 73% less likely to have had layoffs in the past year and 44% less likely to have had employees suffering from burnout.

According to O.C. Tanner, “When organisations use programmes and tools that elevate the role of recognition and enable authentic connection, cultural and business success follows. Embedding recognition into culture allows it to become the natural response to great work across the organisation.”

oc tanner recognition

#4 Organisational culture

HR and senior leaders have a key role to play in consolidating the changes to the workplace forged by the impact of Covid-19.

“Leaders will need to find ways to bring people back together, even if it means doing this remotely, and some leaders may even need to strip everything back and re-build a more positive, connected and purpose-driven culture from the ground up,” the research states.

#5 Focus on diversity & inclusion

A number of studies published over the past year have highlighted the fact that many employees believe their companies initiatives in D&I are not sincere. Business leaders need to up the ante and take real action with their D&I programmes.

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What HR needs to know: GDPR and AI

Complete transparency about how your AI technology works, whatever the process, is essential. Without it, employers can run into GDPR challenges and lose the trust and buy-in of colleagues. An impending class action against controversial taxi app developer Uber could have some implications for how such technologies are used in the workplace.

The App Drivers & Couriers Union is currently bringing a legal challenge to courts in the Netherlands over more than 1,000 claims by Uber drivers that they have had their right to work for the company terminated because of fraudulent activity flagged by the app. The claimants believe they were wrongfully terminated, and Uber has refused to give them any explanation over what they did wrong or how the app came to its decision to automatically terminate their accounts.

The core of the Uber driver’s complaint is that there was no human intervention in the termination of their contracts – which is what may be unlawful.

By contrast, HR professionals can legally use algorithms to help them work out who they should be recruiting as the final decision ultimately lies in human hands. Under GDPR and the Data Protection Act (DPA), Excello Law employment specialist Hina Belitz explains: “It’s unlawful to take a “significant decision” solely on an automated basis.”

Using algorithms in recruitment may also fall into an exception to GDPR law that deems, according to Belitz: “It’s permissible to use solely automated decision-making where it’s necessary for entering into, or the performance of, a contract.

“EU guidance suggests that recruitment may be one of these situations. After all, the processing is with a view to entering into a contract of employment. This is called a qualifying significant decision.”

So long as there are safeguards in place to protect candidates’ rights and freedoms, Belitz adds that automated sorting in the job application process is allowable. People must be told that their data is being handled in this way, which also means they have the opportunity “to request a reconsideration or the making of a new decision which has a human in the mix” adds Belitz.

An employer is obligated by law to carry out a data protection impact assessment before implementing such tools. Belitz says: “It would have to consider whether it was really necessary, as opposed to convenient or cheaper.

“For instance, if you get a thousand applications for every job opening – but not perhaps if you get 20 or 30. And it ought also to consider discrimination aspects.”

It may also be possible to positively discriminate using an AI tool. Belitz adds: “Any skewed outcome where an algorithm is used is a possibility [for positive discrimination].”

When it comes to social deprivation though, as it is not a protected characteristic at present, Belitz says: “There is unlikely to be any legal recourse for an individual. The main protection to bear in mind is to ensure there isn’t sole reliance on automated decision making.”

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