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Leadership

How Remote Work Is Improving Diversity

By | Executive Assistant, Leadership, Training | No Comments

The events of the year have shone a light on the importance of remote work. As we move forward, remote work has the potential to increase diversity in the C-suite. What companies need now more than ever are talented teams that have the ability to swiftly adapt to changes. Below we’ll explore how remote work is improving diversity.

Significance of Remote Work

In the aftermath of COVID-19, remote work is likely to gain in prominence. More companies now have the technology, resources, and policies necessary to support remote work as part of their culture. Companies have also had the opportunity to experience firsthand some of the advantages of remote work, such as improved flexibility, work-life balance, and access to a larger talent pool.

Remote Work and Diversity

One of the best aspects of remote jobs is they can be performed anywhere. As a company, having the infrastructure to support remote work gives you the opportunity to hire better talent because you are no longer limited by geographic restrictions. You have access to a more diverse candidate pool in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, and ability. There are also talented individuals out there who struggle in an office setting but excel in a remote environment.

At the end of the day, your company needs the best talent possible on its team. Having a compatible, high-performing team allows your company to grow. In the realm of the C-suite, this is even more important. When you have the ability to hire employees from anywhere in the world, it is easier to recruit a team that has the right balance of skills and personalities.

Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace come with proven benefits. When your team members have a wide variety of experiences, they can approach problems from many different angles. Diversity on a team improves creativity, innovation, and problem-solving. Diversity also allows for increased flexibility. Teams can adapt to changes and challenges more readily when they have a wider range of skills and backgrounds. Diversity also helps contribute to a company culture that encourages people to feel accepted for their differences.

The pandemic has forced many companies to switch to working remotely. While this has caused some confusion, it also presents an opportunity for businesses to double down on their inclusivity initiatives and to continue to build teams that have diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

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The Illusive Work-Life Balance

By | Executive Assistant, Leadership, Training | No Comments

As we approach the mid-year point, hours of daylight increase, outdoor activities and vacations are abundant, yet the demands at the office do not wane. The subject of providing an environment for work-life balance often resurfaces during the summer, but the topic is one that should be addressed on an ongoing basis within an organization.

Numerous management consulting companies have performed exhaustive research in this area and have found that over 40% of employees claim they do not have suitable work/life balance, and more than one in four dissatisfied employees plans to leave their employer within the next two years.

The Definition of Balance

There are many articles and books written about finding work-life balance in life, but while many discuss the need to find balance, most do not define exactly what this means or how each of us can find the right combination. In order to figure out our perfect balance, we must start with the definition of what areas make up the various facets of life. Possible domains include:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Spirituality
  • Self-Development
  • Self-Indulgence
  • Physical
  • Work
  • Charity

Having a balanced life means ensuring that life itself is multi-faceted and those facets are defined. We need to apportion the correct amount of attention to each area. Prioritization is then determined by attention allocation rather than intention of attention allocation. In each area there are activities with varying degrees of urgency and importance; if urgency always rules decisions, one will easily feel out of balance. Important activities, while not immediately urgent, are frequently better uses of time than urgent ones. These eight areas compete for the one commodity we can offer, which is time.

Analyzing the Allocation of Time

There are 168 hours in a week. Removing the amount of time an average person sleeps leaves roughly 120 hours per week to allocate attention and focus. Think about your last week and ask yourself, “Where did the time go?” Did it go there because you planned it that way, or was it simply the result of going through the motions? If we can learn to plan the allocation of our most precious resource (our time), then we may value it more. Therefore, we must learn to become focused and productive while in one dimension, and still allow for enough time in other dimensions.

The following is an eight-step formula for implementing this process:

  1. Determine if and why you care about each of the eight domains. What does it mean to you and how important is it? What are the consequences of the lack of quality time and what are the benefits of proper attention allocation?
  2. Determine and quantify the gap between desire and achievement.
  3. Create a specific action plan to close the gap.
  4. Determine the amount of time needed in each area to achieve your desired balance.
  5. Create an “attention plan” that details this time.
  6. Identify potential hijackers and distractions of the plan and create solutions to minimize them.
  7. Track and review periodically (once per week, perhaps).
  8. Periodically re-assess, re-prioritize, and repeat.

Time and attention allocation are not the sole determinants, though, of work-life balance. Focus in that time is equally important. Multi-tasking is the curse of focus. We are most productive and fulfilled when we give our undivided attention to the domain we are in.

With 120 hours each week, plenty of time exists for quality in each domain. Life may go through periods where a short-term imbalance serves a long-term balance, but this is sacrifice. Some individuals consciously choose to dedicate all their life to one or two domains, while others do not want to be the world’s best sprinter or hurdler but want to be a decathlete. Start first with what you want, which is based on your “why.” When you know your “why,” you can begin building the bridges to close the gaps between desire and achievement.

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Continuous Advancement and Perpetual Growth

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One of the strongest propositions of value a leader can give to an employee is the ability for that individual to grow perpetually in all dimensions. Obvious dimensions include professionally as well as personally, but do not overlook the importance of financial, mental, and spiritual growth as well. In nature, plants either grow or decompose. They do not stay the same. In an organization, nourishment is supplied by what is referred to as training, but a more accurate term for it is learning. What is being done within your organization to foster learning, growth, and new perspectives each week?

It is important to note that even with access and exposure to new tools and resources, not every employee is going to be open to learning. Unfortunately, organizations will always have “prisoners” in their camp or perhaps self-absorbed individuals who already think they know everything. This is a fact of life!

Therefore our focus in this article will be on the core of your office or team that is open to learning and being mentored if properly challenged. The key is to defy the old adage, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” If you limit yourself to that belief, you are limited by your current capabilities. Where you, your team, your organization is at this present moment is as far as you will go. Think of all the innovations that came about because someone was creative and resourceful enough to take something that worked well and make it just that much better. Keyless entry for vehicles, wireless mouses for computers, and the iPhone are just a few examples of modernizations that would have not been created had their inventors been okay with the status quo. Have the same outlook on your own business. Constantly evaluate what’s not working, and even with what is working, be open to how to make it just a little more effective, innovative, or differentiated.

Where to Begin

A good step is to create a one-year learning plan for yourself and everyone at your organization. It should cover all dimensions of one’s life and have elements that can be measured quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily. To summarize this continual learning process, conceptualize two things: where you are today, which is your achievement, and where you could be, which is your potential.

Even if it’s only 30 minutes per week dedicated to learning and development, that 30 minutes begins to build a bridge to get you from your current achievement all the way over to your future potential. To use an example, one of the most renowned pieces of sculpture in the world is Michelangelo’s statue of David. When Michelangelo was asked how he created the magnificent statue David from a block of stone, he replied that he did not create David from the stone, but rather he saw David in the stone and merely chipped away at the unneeded pieces until David emerged. We are the same way. Underneath all the things we currently know and do, lies an undiscovered statue in each of us. Like Michelangelo chipping away at the stone, devoting time each week to ongoing development or fostering a learning environment with your team will begin to uncover the statue underneath. Like the unveiling of David, this does not happen overnight. It takes patience, dedication, and commitment to build a bridge from current achievement to underlying potential.

Resources to Support Growth

There are numerous resources available to augment a continual learning process. Initially, poll your staff to solicit feedback in which area or areas they feel the greatest needs exist. You may find group energy surrounds subjects such as personal development, public speaking, leadership skills, technological training, or financial planning. Remember that once the desired issues have been raised, the internal team does not necessarily need to be the only solution to deliver content. The old saying “you cannot be a prophet in your own land” comes to mind. Consider seeking outside experts to speak on the subjects in which they are proficient. Creating a comprehensive year-long learning plan for an entire organization can be just as influential as empowering each employee to construct a personal learning plan.

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The Next Generation of Leadership

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The success of any organization is largely reliant on the strength of its leadership. Conveying a vision, formulating strategy, and ultimately driving the direction of a company is no small task. Thus, having a sustained and committed leadership development program can be a key differentiator in the trajectory of a firm. Although bringing in talent from the outside has advantages including fresh ideas, competitive insights and diversification, there is nothing like a home-grown leader. Talent from inside the organization is well versed with the history, processes, systems, structure, and culture already in place. Home-grown talent is also aware of the organization’s strengths and perhaps even more importantly, weaknesses. This allows them to make better and more informed growth-oriented decisions. How does one start to identify the next generation of leadership within the firm? Instead of relying solely on tenure, keep in mind that your future leaders of your company may be hiding in plain sight. How do you bring them out into the open?

Potential vs. Performance

Quite often, raises and promotions occur based on outstanding performance and the achievement of quotas or goals. Employee performance defines ability and expertise, which is important. However, place equal weight on an individual’s aptitude, desire to grow, and overall potential.

Just because an athlete is one of the best football players of all time does not mean that individual can be an effective coach. Some individuals are not cut out to be leaders, although their performance is at the higher end of the scale. They don’t have the capacity for leadership roles, they may lack the visionary ability required, or they enjoy the spotlight so much that they will rarely redirect it to others. This is why potential should outweigh performance as a factor when zeroing in on a possible future leader.

Rules of Engagement

Be on the lookout for those employees who have a natural ability to make things happen. They gravitate towards making decisions rather than waiting to see what the status quo will be. Specifically, look for individuals who take action and can speak to how they have tried as opposed to what they think someone else could, or should, do.

A future leader will have a tendency to make suggestions for overall process improvement, rather than asking questions to clarify what is expected of them. Future leaders will take the time to be overly prepared for meetings, projects, and responsibilities. Take the time to identify individuals who take things seriously. They understand the importance of any task that has been entrusted to them, no matter how small, and seize it as an opportunity to perform.

Additionally, how does an employee act in a meeting; are they attentive and composed, or distracted and ready to “get back to work?” True leaders are too intensely focused to get restless, too engaged to be nervous, and too invested to be bored.

Necessarily Nimble

We tend to categorize multi-tasking as the ability to juggle several activities simultaneously. Think beyond multi-tasking with activities, and instead look for those who can multi-task with responsibilities. Leaders need to be agile as they can at times be relied upon to light a fire within one group while simultaneously putting out a fire with another. They must not be flustered by an abrupt change in direction or by seamlessly picking up balls that have been dropped, all while still delivering on the core functions of their role.

Put your prospective future leaders to the test and give them some extra responsibilities or perhaps an assignment with a quick turnaround time. Do not be afraid to throw them in at the deep end and keep tabs on how well they swim. Can they handle the extra tasks you have assigned, or are they finding it difficult to be nimble and adapt to the pressure? Do they have a “do whatever it takes” attitude and can stretch when pulled, perhaps even putting in extra hours or soliciting the help of others for direction and support?

Extroversion versus Emotional Intelligence

Particularly in a leadership capacity, one must have a genuine demeanor and a connection with those around them. Not all great leaders are extroverts, so do not make the mistake of gravitating to the loudest talker in the room. Instead, look for those who have a high degree of self-awareness and who take the time to interact with other employees outside of their immediate hierarchy. Future leaders will not be consumed by negative emotions such as fear or victimization, nor do they make excuses for subpar results by blaming a litany of extenuating factors that no normal human could possibly have overcome. When individuals with high emotional intelligence make a mistake and get criticized for it, it does not send them into an emotional tailspin; they view it simply as a fact to be noted, studied and corrected.

Seminary professor J. Carla Northcutt once stated, “The goal of many leaders is to get people to think more highly of the leader. The goal of a great leader is to help people to think more highly of themselves.”

A mark of a future leader is someone secure enough personally to help others advance in their careers. They are confident without being arrogant. They are humble but have a high sense of self-worth. They are comfortable in their own skin without being blasé. They are good listeners but do so with purpose and intention. They can deliver a tough message with a soft hand. They care not about wealth or fame, but about achievement and potential.

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Rise to the Challenge: Leadership During a Crisis

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Leaders show their true colors in unprecedented situations. As companies around the world struggle to deal with the biggest global health crisis of the century, leaders are rising to the occasion keeping team morale high, ensuring the safety and health of employees, providing guidance and support, and making difficult but important decisions. This is what strong leadership looks like in an emergency. Below are some of the ways you can rise to the challenge and provide strong leadership during a crisis.

Be Quick and Decisive

Leaders don’t have the luxury of indecision when the world is in the middle of a health crisis. The situation changes daily, so leaders need to react to these changes promptly. As new information is made public, leaders need to be able to make sense of the information and confidently make decisions that are in the best interest of the company and its employees. This isn’t easy because in times of uncertainty information isn’t always complete or accurate. Plus, your anxiety is likely higher than usual. It helps to continuously examine and identify the top needs of your company and identify obstacles. Once you understand what you need to succeed in the short- and long-term, it will become easier to make quick decisions.

Understand How Employees Are Feeling

Your employees likely feel anxious and afraid right now. But it is a good idea to ask your employees how they’re feeling so you have an accurate understanding of their mental state. As a leader, your job is to understand what your employees are going through and do everything you can to ease their worries by being transparent with them, and providing them with the resources they need to work from home successfully. Reassure them that you will work with them to overcome obstacles and solve problems related to COVID-19.

Keep Employees Engaged

You have to understand that your employees are working in completely different environments. They likely have more distractions and more responsibilities. This will make it harder for them to stay engaged as they work. They are also interacting less with colleagues, which can also affect engagement. You should make a point to contact your employees regularly and pay extra attention to communicating goals and priorities. Video calls can help employees feel less isolated and more connected to the team. You also should take the time to highlight positives, such as the successes of your employees or other achievements. This will help keep spirits high.

We’re experiencing a health crisis unlike any of us has ever witnessed before. While COVID-19 poses many challenges to companies around the world, this is a chance to show your team you have the ability to lead with strength and courage.

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Fostering Fear: Lead Your Team to Break Out of Their Comfort Zone

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“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.” You may have an immediate connection to that statement, with your own delinquent “to-do’s” catapulting to the center of your attention. It was entrepreneur, author, and investor Timothy Ferriss who most recently voiced this assertion in his book The 4 Hour Workweek. However, the emphasis of this blog post is not focused on you as a culprit, but instead on you as a leader. Reflect on the statement with your focus on the individuals you have a responsibility to lead and mentor. No matter the situation, many people would agree that it is outside of a comfort zone where the most opportunity to flourish professionally, personally, and financially exists. As leaders, we are responsible for the careers and development of others. That is a significant responsibility, and we owe it to those we lead to help them understand how shedding the cozy blanket of security should become the comfort zone.

Appreciating Apprehension

How can fear become a comfort zone? It begins with cultivating the skill of being comfortable with the uncomfortable. There are many situations in which we experience pain and embrace it, like lifting weights at the gym. The burn within our muscles is not viewed as a negative, but rather that our effort is working. If it is possible for us to feel physical pain and appreciate it for what it is, why can’t that same mindset apply to other areas of pain in our life? Imagine, instead of tackling the things we fear last, we develop an aptitude to flip that fearful feeling and view it as the beneficial burn of a muscle. Instead of dreading it, we jump on the upside of what it means: our effort is working.

Start with an open discussion with those you lead. Help them understand that if you want something in life you have never had, you will likely have to do something you have never done. Additionally, acknowledge that whatever we have identified as what we know we should do, we also have identified as an essential thing to do. If you aren’t afraid of doing something, it generally means you don’t find it very important, or you would have at least some fear. Important work is inextricably linked to valuable responsibilities within a professional setting, and valuable responsibilities are what can cement an individual’s feeling of a high degree of career fulfillment.

Give them permission to flip the script and view pain as a positive. Encourage them not just to survive challenges, but to thrive in them. Inspire change by asking each individual to select a professional situation they fear most, and how they will choose to run towards that fear. Lead by example by going first.

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” – John Maxwell

Understanding the Root

Knowing what needs to be done and understanding what is holding one back from doing it are two different assignments. It might be entirely evident for what the looming task or situation is. What someone may not be able to recognize immediately is why they are feeling the way they do. How can you help those you lead better understand the root cause of fear?

More than likely, it is a fear of failure or a fear of not being good enough. Simply, most paralyzing situations stem from one of those two roots. Reflect on the uncomfortable scenario you envisioned when first reading the opening paragraph of this article. Would you agree that the underlying originating fear is one of those two origins?

When we start listening to the doubts of ourselves and others, the voice in our head becomes a breeding ground for negativity. People will always have an opinion. Understanding that those people are entitled to their thoughts, yet disassociating ourselves from those opinions, is an essential step in moving past any fear of being judged. Remember, it’s not the thing itself, but rather the outcome:

  • You’re not scared of public speaking; you’re scared of being criticized by those you’re speaking to.
  • You’re not afraid of taking on a challenging project; you’re afraid of failing at it.
  • You’re not anxious about a difficult conversation; you’re anxious as to how the other person will choose to respond.
  • You’re not nervous about being vulnerable; you’re nervous about being judged for your vulnerability.
  • You don’t fear success; you fear not being worthy of it.

Teach your team to point themselves in the direction of what is most important to them, rather than being hard on themselves for feeling fear in the first place.

Off the Hook?

Although the focus of this post is around those we lead, we as leaders are not completely off the hook. How do you stay in your comfort zone? What is it you avoid doing as a leader? Difficult conversations, delivering criticism, demonstrating empathy, fostering authentic personal relationships, being fully present? Take time to analyze yourself and be your own constructive critic honestly.

Understand that you might be part of the problem, even if unintentionally. Fear is grounded in fear of judgment, and your team is likely acutely aware that the gavel you hold is what rules the courtroom. Don’t resist letting people run, trip, or fall down because you know they won’t be as good as you. You weren’t always as good as you are now. Distance yourself from the “how” of the work and focus your attention on outputs and results.

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How to Prevent Burnout When Working Remotely

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As the coronavirus spreads across the globe, millions of professionals have to adapt to working from home. For many workers, stress and anxiety are at an all-time high. We offer some helpful tips to prevent burnout when working remotely.

Set and Maintain Boundaries

Your mental health will benefit from strong boundaries between personal and professional life. These boundaries are more challenging to maintain when working from home. It is a good idea to set up an official workstation, dress in work clothes every morning, and stick to a schedule if possible. Create some quiet space for yourself where you won’t be interrupted. You may need to establish a quiet time for an hour or more where you cannot be interrupted by housemates or children. For those who have children and other responsibilities, it might be harder to stick to a schedule. It helps to plan your day in advance and balance professional and familial responsibilities.

Stay Active

With millions of people contending with stay at home orders, activity levels are bound to be lower. However, physical activity is essential for reducing stress and keeping concentration high. Stay active! Take short walks around the block, do some yoga, or even just stand or walk around during phone calls. Sitting at a desk all day will quickly lead to burnout. It’s easy to get lost in your work when you work remotely. Set regular reminders on your phone to stand up and move around.

Prioritize Tasks

During this time, you’re likely to be juggling more responsibilities than you normally would. While you’re still performing your regular work, there are competing concerns for housework, and potentially a spouse or housemate working from home as well. And if children are involved you’ll be feeding and entertaining kids, and helping them with their remote-schooling. With so many things going on at home during a quarantine, focus on high-priority tasks. Homes are full of distractions. During this unique time, you may not be able to work as many hours. With all of your other responsibilities and these added distractions, you may only be truly productive for 4 to 6 hours a day, so make sure you focus on completing your highest priority tasks.

Most people in C-Level support are not used to working from home full-time, and even the ones who have experience working remotely aren’t used to having children and spouses at home with them or having the added stress of coping with an international health crisis. Be proactive to maintain your mental and physical health during these difficult times, so you don’t end up burning out.

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How to Outsmart Your Job-Seeking Competitors

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Job hunting in the area of C-Suite support can be challenging. The employment market is more competitive than ever before, and expectations are high. If you want to land the job that is right for you, you need to set yourself apart from the rest and make sure employers take notice of you. Here’s how to outsmart your job-seeking competitors.

Make Your Resume Stand Out

Given the number of resumes hiring managers read, it’s important to find ways to make your resume unique. When they get to the end of a pile, you want your resume to be the one they remember. First, design a resume that is eye-catching. Second, tailor the resume to the specific job for which you are applying. So many candidates submit generic resumes without taking the time to customize them to the role. Don’t make that mistake. Your resume should tell a story and showcase quantifiable ways your skills can benefit the employer.

Nail the First Impression

Managers make dozens of decisions and assumptions about you within the first minute of meeting you. You need to think about how you present yourself. Not only do you need to dress the part, you also need to have the right posture and attitude. Although entirely unfair, women are even more likely to be judged on appearances. In any case, you want people to see you and immediately think you’re professional, serious, and confident. If you show up late with your shoulders slumped, the employer will have a hard time envisioning you as a member of their team.

Think About the Questions You Ask

Don’t focus questions on pay, benefits, perks, etc. Ask questions that show you are genuinely interested in the company and want to bring value to the employer. Your questions should focus on company culture, company objectives, desired leadership qualities, career development, and performance expectations. If you focus on how the job will benefit you, the employer may question your motives.

Follow Up

Many of your job-seeking competitors will follow-up with the hiring manager after the interview by sending an email. You can help yourself standout by sending a handwritten note instead. A handwritten thank you note will feel more personal, while also sending a clear message to employers that you want the job. Plus, handwritten follow-ups are more memorable and will help you improve the overall impression the hiring manager has of you.

In a competitive job market, your goal should be to stand out from your job-seeking competitors. Make your resume memorable, your first impression positive, and intentions clear. You want the employer to know you are serious about working for them and that you have skills and qualities that will provide real value to the organization.

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The Most Pervasive Problems for Women in the Workforce

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Although major steps have been made toward gender equality over the past decade, women still face many obstacles in their professional lives. Women make up half of the workforce, yet it’s harder for them to find employment, earn raises, and land promotions. This is true in many fields and industries. Here are some of the most pervasive problems for women in the workforce.

Hiring Biases

A joint study by professors at Columbia University, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago revealed that two-thirds of hiring managers in the tech industry chose male candidates even if the female candidates performed the same or better than the male candidates. Similar studies showed the same bias is present in the sciences and in the corporate world. People of all genders have an unconscious bias toward men, assuming men are more competent than women even when they have no evidence to back it up.

Promotions

One of the biggest problems women face in the workplace is recognition. Female employees have to work harder than their male counterparts for their managers to publicly praise them. They are also overlooked for promotions. Many female professionals feel like they don’t have a fair opportunity to earn promotions, having noticed that their male colleagues often received promotions before them even if they have less experience.

Gender Pay Gap

On average, men are paid more than women for the same work, even when they have the same educational and professional background, work the same hours, and have the same responsibilities. Since men are often more likely to receive raises, the pay gap experienced often increases over time. A study by the WAGE Project suggests the average woman with a BA will receive a third of what a man with the same degree makes over the course of his career.

What Can Organizations Do?

First and foremost, companies should actively work on making their processes for hiring and promotions objective and unbiased. Many managers are unaware of the biases they have, so the best way to approach decisions is to leave no room for subjectivity. Companies can also establish mentorship programs for women in the workplace and be proactive in hiring women for leadership positions. Organizations with more diversity in their leadership tend to perform better, so it is a win-win situation.

Gender inequality is a huge challenge in contemporary work culture. In most fields, women are less likely than men to be hired or promoted. They also tend to receive less money than men for the same work. If companies want to attract and retain the best talent, they need to rethink their approach to gender equality and take clear steps to reduce bias in their practices.

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The Stress Test

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Countless articles have addressed one of the most important tasks given to senior leadership within any organization: the ability to identify the next generation of future leaders within the firm. We look for passionate individuals who wake up each day craving success and can channel that passion into actions and results. We seek out creative thinkers who are intensely curious, identifying those who naturally crave answers and alternative ways of approaching problems. The trait of true grit is valued within an organization. We respect those who have the strength to learn why they failed, what to do in the future to succeed, and the willpower to get back on the horse and try again.

Research on the topic reveals another crucial attribute as it relates to identifying future leaders: the stress test. Great leaders always seem to have the ability, at least in appearance, to remain calm during situations that make most of the general population fall to pieces.

Why the Stress Test?

Drama in the workplace is the enemy of productivity. Incessant venting can create an emotionally exhausting experience for all involved. Individuals who react, instead of respond, typically do not endear themselves to others within the team.

Alternatively, good leaders can keep cool even when the situation provokes an emotional reaction. But great leaders also help everyone else stay calm and contribute to the imminent situation and impending objectives. There is a difference between managing one’s self and managing the reactions of others, and the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

Within the workplace it is common for individuals to achieve promotions based on their commitment to personal success early in their careers. As individual contributors, they can produce more simply by doing more. They can choose to work harder and longer, and to be more productive. There is a tremendous amount of control and correlation with the relationship between effort and outcomes. When promoted into leadership, one suddenly becomes responsible for the work and success of others. Leaders’ efforts alone are often insufficient to achieve results, especially if they lack the coaching ability to adequately influence others. Thus, the stress test is relevant not only for one’s capacity to manage personal emotions, but also to transform the dynamic of the entire workplace.

Screening for Stress

It is commonly known that individuals put their best foot forward throughout the interviewing process – both applicants and hiring managers alike. When do you really get to know what is underneath the surface? What combination of behavioral-based interviewing questions and situational scenarios should we use in order to see a candidate’s true colors under stress? The subject of engaging a candidate in awkward situations in an interview is not widely accepted, likely for good reason. Sighing or interrupting candidates while they are talking, acting aloof and not paying attention, or repeating questions to see if someone gets frustrated doesn’t lend itself to an attraction-based recruitment strategy. Consider some of the following questions to evaluate aptitude:

  • It doesn’t seem as though you have enough experience for this role. Tell me why you believe we should hire you, or why I’m wrong in my assessment.
  • I don’t think I understand your answer. Can you please explain it differently?
  • How would you handle putting in a couple hours of overtime after a busy, stressful day?
  • Tell me about a time when you didn’t reach a goal. What happened, and what did you learn?
  • How do you prevent a situation from getting too stressful to manage?
  • What advice would you give to calm down a colleague who is stressed out about a deadline?
  • How would you deal with frequent changes at work? Client expectations change, a deadline gets moved up, new inexperienced individuals joining the team, etc.
  • How do you ensure that stressful situations in your personal life don’t affect your work performance?

Also worth noting is the dynamic between a personality type and the ability to cope comfortably with change or pressure. Some individuals are wired to embrace bold new ideas and the bigger picture, believing that risks are worth taking and love a challenge. Others are pragmatic, drawn by data and facts, and to whom details matter. Although the former may be naturally wired to deal with stress easier than the latter, it is possible to teach a key component of stress management: detachment. Teach individuals to avoid negative self-talk, the “what if” rabbit holes, and to slow down and breathe. It is possible to coach emotional stability, allowing employees to understand how to view a situation with a healthy level of detachment, process what is happening around them, and take helpful and purposeful action.

On the Brink of Burnout

Improving stress management capabilities is one thing but bringing employees to the brink of burnout is another. Create a healthy balance between high achievement and high enjoyment. Be spontaneous. This could be as simple as rearranging office furniture or hosting an impromptu casual lunch gathering. Instead of your next brainstorming meeting being conducted in the office, take a walk instead. You may be surprised as to how the creative moments can flow in a more relaxed setting. Ask individuals what they think. You do not always need to implement their input, but people want the opportunity to be heard. Know their personal and professional goals for the year and take responsibility for helping them achieve at least one or two of them yourself. Make progress on helping uncover the future potential of each player on your team. They put their careers in your hands and it is a responsibility, as a leader, that we should take seriously.

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