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Have you had a spate of recent interactions that have left you wondering if many of the employees and peers you work with on a daily basis are simply not paying attention? If you have traditionally employed a direct communication style, you might have unknowingly slipped into an offshoot that encompasses a more aggressive and blunt characteristic.

If longtime colleagues you have historically put your faith in are expressing their concern with your effect (or lack of effect) on the team’s morale, it should concern you enough to contemplate the possibility.

Have you noticed your comments and explanations becoming more and more abrupt? For many personality types, this can come across as anger directed at them. Do you find yourself tuning out valuable theories or helpful suggestions, only to discover, when you truly study it, that you have just been waiting for your chance to speak?

If you’re not even listening to your trusted advisors, you need to take an honest look at yourself and your behaviors and consider that you’re bullying people without even realizing it. If even your friends tell you you’ve been acting pushy and hardheaded, you’ve probably crossed the line from straightforward into uncompromising, brusque territory.

In their book Words That Work in Business: A Practical Guide to Effective Communication in the Workplace, Ike Lasater and Julie Stiles point out, “We believe the people around us expect us to act a certain way, and often we react to this by confining our behavior and communication within the narrow bounds of our beliefs about their expectations.”

If this is the case, it’s possible that you haven’t even initiated the behavior change. Are you experiencing an especially challenging situation, such as the serious illness of a family member or a loss of income in these tough times? Have you recently acquired a new boss who is herself harsh and uncompromising and pushing you to mimic her behavior to get the “troops” to fall in line? Are there recent additions to the board of directors who are setting new company goals that are impossible to meet? Any of these situations or something similar can throw off your leadership style and disrupt your otherwise orderly life.

What steps can you take to get back to your formerly successful direct form of management? If you were previously prone to prompt but orderly action and found decision making a quick and easy process, it stands to reason you’re longing to return to normal. If you’re willing to make the effort to get out of your recent rut, you might as well go the extra mile and actually improve your leadership method.

One change you can make, although it will likely take effort on your part, is learning how to actively listen when communicating with your team and your co-workers. To accomplish this, you will have to learn to control your tone and your nonverbal cues. Don’t be inattentive, don’t let your mind wander and most of all, really listen. Don’t just be planning the next thing you’re going to say. Do not interrupt the other party even if your mind has already raced to the speaker’s conclusion and you’re ready for a constructive rebuttal.

As Jay Sullivan explains in his book Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond, “If we put the focus on what the other person is trying to gain from the exchange, we will do a better job communicating, because we will select more pertinent information, drill down to the desired level of detail, and make the information we are sharing more accessible to our audience.”

Consider that not everyone is like you. Even though you say what you mean without any added fluff, other people may actually need at least a modicum of common pleasantries to be effective in the workplace. With something as painless as a “good morning,” you will gain more of their attention — which is a big part of effective communication.

You’ll need to find some common ground when interacting with another individual or even a group. Don’t show your impatience with allowing them to veer off topic slightly. However, feel free to redirect their conversation after a couple of minutes to the problem at hand.

Another suggestion for more effective communication for people with a direct style of interaction is to not just point out the issues to your team members without offering some solutions for a better, more efficient resolution. No one wants to work diligently on a plan only to be told they’re completely wrong.

When you’re offering constructive feedback to an employee, ensure that you are directing your comments and suggestions to the situation at hand and the work that was done. Don’t direct the criticism to the employee because it will come off as a personal attack.

If you decide it’s worth your while to attempt even a few of these suggestions, I believe it will ultimately be to your advantage. In my career, I have worked with many executives who had a direct communication style, and I can tell you that the majority of them who made the effort were, in the long run, less stressed and more content with their career progression.

This article has previously been featured on Forbes.

Even if you’ve never noticed because the guidance was so slight in your institution, every company has a corporate culture. Whether you’ve experienced it to a greater or lesser degree during your career, it was always there.

I had a few summer jobs during my high school and early college years and their corporate cultures seemed mild at best. But by the time I was at a large corporation, the values of that corporate entity were obvious and well communicated. During orientation, we were indoctrinated into our new tribe. Those of us in the “new” class were given fairly strict and stringent guidelines of performance and behavior. These were expected of us as representatives of the corporation. I was young and excited to be part of the team — I was proud to be part of the “family unit” they promoted.

The more mature I became in my career, which involved some corporate shifting — from company to company to position to position — the more I became aware of the importance of living the values of the corporate culture I was involved with.

As my experience grew, it became easier and easier to discern the slight differences in the stated corporate philosophy and the actual behavior of the main players. Make no mistake — leadership is consistently from the top down; especially emotional/inspirational leadership.

With hindsight, I’m able to acknowledge the difference between the good companies I’ve worked for and the great companies I’ve worked for. Thanks to my experience, I now know how to assist the mediocre corporation to attain greatness. It’s not magic. It’s awareness.

You must lead by example. The leader of the organization is constantly being watched. Not only by his colleagues but also completely scrutinized by the everyday employees. If you are in the top chair, it’s your responsibility to always, always reinforce the company values.

It’s not only important for the leader to promote the company values. It can’t stop at that. The training department, the human resources department, the senior management, the junior management and the employees must all be pulling in the same direction for the corporate culture to be effective.

It is crucial to communicate the company vision and the core values at every turn. The culture and values must be communicated early on. New hires should have already been picked via a hiring process that includes an explanation of the values of the corporation. These persons should be deemed potential proponents of the values the company espouses.

In any successful company, there tend to be rituals and routines thst promote the company values. Most institutions have a similar code of conduct and behavior for their employees. Some of the universally agreed on behaviors for managers and workers in the corporate culture are:

• Commitment to customers and employees

• Integration of ideas and people

• Accountability and honesty from management and staff

• Inspiring others as a means to growing a profitable and successful company

Let’s be brutally honest: If you are in a leadership position and you simply mouth the words instead of living the values, everyone from the C-suite to the mailroom will know the difference. They will lose respect and the company will cease to have a visceral meaning to them.

As Oleg Konovalov describes in his book The Vision Code: How to Create and Execute a Compelling Vision for Your Business, “For visionaries, not being true to oneself is fatal. Vision helps people to connect to their true selves and become better leaders who make a positive difference for others. In other words, vision connects your inner universe with the external world.”

If you are senior management and you have an employee who consistently does not live the values of the corporation, the situation must be dealt with. If you keep people who, although they bring in the money, do not meet the behavioral ethics of your company, you are doing no favor to your organization.

In their book Corporate Culture: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life, Terrence E. Deal and Allan A. Kennedy explain, “Whether weak or strong, culture has a powerful influence throughout an organization; it affects practically everything — from who gets promoted and what decisions are made, to how employees dress and what sports they play.”

In difficult times, living the values of your corporate culture is more important than ever. They cannot be over-communicated. Find a way to weave these values into your conversations, meetings and various communications. As examples, hold up employees who champion those values and embody the corporate culture. Remember a good example is worth much more than a stack of memos and emails.

This article has previously been featured on Forbes.

Have you had the experience of working with or for an individual who only seemed capable of operating in an analytical mode? They want facts and figures, details and solutions. It may never even occur to that person to ask you how you are.

On the other hand, you’ve probably also had the experience of working with a colleague who values creativity, compassion and group unity. It would never occur to this person to not ask you how you are.

There isn’t a right or a wrong here, just a dominant use of the individual’s analytical intelligence or emotional intelligence. The point is for leaders to be able to recognize the difference and for them to cycle from one approach to the other depending on the needs of the moment. If your dominant mode is being used too often, you’re missing out on the benefits of your minor mode.

Emotional intelligence can assist you in employee coaching sessions and negotiation and help you be open to new ideas. Developing a social connection with your team or coworkers can build trust and camaraderie. It’s a great way to improve morale. Paying attention to your feelings about your career path, your current projects and your motivation can pay impressive dividends. If you make the time to be self-aware you’ll be able to create the space to consider new ideas or new ways of doing things.

In his book Emotional Intelligence at Work, Hendrie Weisinger, Ph.D. explains, “You can maximize the effectiveness of your emotional intelligence by developing good communication skills, interpersonal expertise, and mentoring abilities. Self-awareness is the core of each of these skills because emotional intelligence can only begin when affective information enters the perceptual system.”

Your emotional intelligence can be utilized for very positive results. In his article, “When It Comes To Success In Business, EQ Eats IQ For Breakfast,”Chris Myers offers, “People buy emotions, not products. Teams rally around missions, not directives. Entrepreneurs take on incredible challenges because of passion, not logic.”

Analytical intelligence is a key skill when you need to solve a problem or make a decision. Seeking out concrete facts and being detail-oriented is essential to completing complex tasks. It’s also an invaluable skill for planning projects, timelines and assigning resources.

Most people are capable of flowing back and forth, even if it isn’t natural or comfortable. Some people do tenaciously cling to one mode, refusing to be flexible — usually to the detriment of their long-term career possibilities.

I once worked with an associate who was firmly entrenched in the analytical approach. He was a wonderful resource when data analysis was needed or facts needed checking. He left nothing to chance and was very thorough. I never had to question the quality of his work.

All of these traits served him well, but he was incapable of toggling over to emotional intelligence mode and consequently was constantly being reprimanded for treating customers badly, and he had a stubborn inability to cooperate with his teammates. He wasted so much of his manager’s time by having to be chastised on a regular basis. In the entire time I worked with him, he never advanced in the company.

Obviously, the inverse situation of solely depending on emotional intelligence is equally detrimental. At another company, I worked in the same project team as a coworker who took everything personally and would sulk because of any real or perceived criticism. She also craved personal interaction even during times she was supposed to be working on her assignment. She disrupted the team so frequently that the project manager had to terminate her. It was unfortunate because she was quite good at what she did.

There is scientific proof that people’s brains process emotional and analytical information differently. Research by Anthony Jack and his colleagues has shown that the analytical network of our brains and the empathetic network work mostly independently. When we’re in one mode, the other mode is suppressed, so the ability to cycle between the two is optimal.

In the book Helping People Change: Coaching with Compassion for Lifelong Learning and Growth by Richard Boyatzis, Melvin Smith and Ellen Van Oosten, the study is discussed in detail. They reflect on how subjects who received a coaching session involving analytic questions and were reminded of it while having their brains scanned had different sections of their brains show activity than the subjects who were given questions based on emotion during their coaching session.

The main takeaway here is to understand when one process is more useful for the situation than the other at any given time. Successful leaders are those who can switch back and forth quickly and with little effort. If that isn’t your strong suit, set aside some time every day to work on it. Like anything else, practice makes perfect.

This article has previously been featured on Forbes.

A successful leader is one who can comprehend people’s motivations and what drives and inspires them. They understand how to recruit the participation of their employees in a manner that combines the interests and needs of the individual with the purpose of the group. Of course, this takes time and energy.

In 2018, Harvard Business Review published findings from a study that tracked how large companies’ CEOs spent their time. On average, they worked 9.7 hours per weekday, with many putting in nearly eight hours of work on the weekend. In total, the average number of hours worked came down to 62.5 hours a week. With so much to do and so many skills to master, it’s a wonder there is any time left over to sleep.

Why is this important? In my experience, there are time management techniques that CEOs can utilize in order to be more effective and productive leaders. And it’s not just CEOs that benefit either — whether you’re a project leader, a team leader or a division leader, other leaders often face the same types of challenges. Here’s how to make the most of every workday:

Rein in meetings.

That same Harvard Business Review report shows that 72% of CEOs’ work time in a typical week was spent in meetings. It’s in the CEO’s best interest to rein in those meetings, especially those that can be delegated. Of those that can’t be delegated, it’s advantageous to shorten the meeting times. Very often a one-hour meeting could be conducted in half that time with an increase in the quality of information conveyed. If the other participants know their time is limited, they’ll get to the point quicker.

Make time for you.

By limiting meeting time it also becomes easier to make space during the day for “alone time.” That block of time can now be used to work on setting future strategy goals and assessing the results of the current strategy. Planning is so important when molding a successful future-oriented organization.

Be an ambassador for the company’s purpose.

Being a CEO is comparable to being an ambassador in several ways. They are responsible for representing their company to customers, employees and the public in general. Diplomacy is necessary to ensure the smooth stewardship of the company.

Living the company values shows executives and employees alike that the company culture is a reality, not just pretty words in the employee handbook. In my work, I’ve met CEOs who truly embody the morals, ethics and ideals of their organization and it engenders honest respect and high esteem. I’ve also worked with CEOs who were very good about talking the talk (especially during meetings and company-wide presentations), but, in reality, failed to walk the walk. The deception is terribly transparent and corrodes the authority of that leader.

Overall honesty goes a long way toward creating and maintaining a value-driven organization. A skilled CEO understands that running a business with principles and integrity will ultimately result in a respected workplace where top-quality people want to work. That makes the recruitment of quality hires a more straight-forward process. It also creates an environment conducive to the retention of valuable personnel.

In their McKinsey & Company report, “The Mindsets and Practices of Excellent CEOs” authors Carolyn Dewar, Martin Hirt and Scott Keller note, “Excellent CEOs spend time thinking about, articulating, and championing the purpose of their company as it relates to the big-picture impact of day-to-day business practices. They push for meaningful efforts to create jobs, abide by ethical labor practices, improve customers’ lives, and lessen the environmental harm caused by operations.”

Prioritize face-to-face interactions.

The Harvard study found that face-to-face interactions took up 61% of CEOs’ work time — and for good reason. “Face-to-face interaction is the best way for CEOs to exercise influence, learn what’s really going on, and delegate to move forward the multiple agendas that must be advanced,” wrote the authors of the study, Michael E. Porter and Nitin Nohria. “It also allows CEOs to best support and coach the people they work closely with. How a CEO spends face-to-face time is viewed as a signal of what or who is important; people watch this more carefully than most CEOs recognize.”

With such constrictions on the CEO’s time, it’s important to show employees and customers that you care about them; not just the profits. An effective CEO is empathetic and creates time for guiding and coaching. Since you set the example, if you stress the importance of these actions to your direct reports, it becomes easier for them to create the same environment and expectations for their direct reports. If you involve your associates, your employees, your customers and even the board in your vision for the company it encourages them to get on board sooner rather than later.

Don’t be afraid to delegate.

One extremely important skill to cultivate and nurture is delegation. I’ve worked with many CEOs who are good at their job. It’s not uncommon for them to believe they are the only person capable of handling every decision, every project and every problem. That’s how to get on the fast track to burnout.

When you have confidence in the people around you, assign them the work you know they can do and also assign them work that will stretch their abilities — otherwise, they’ll never develop. If you don’t learn to delegate effectively, you’re only hurting yourself. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

There are many skills and traits that make up a successful CEO, but like most things, it’s a work in progress. Everything is always changing — both you and your business. Make the most of the opportunities presented to you along the way by effectively managing your time.

This article has previously been featured on Forbes.

When we discuss and make plans to promote the important issues of diversity and inclusion there are a few concepts that consistently rise to the forefront of the conversation. While cultural, gender and age-related challenges and those of racial and sexual identity exclusion are often considered, some concepts tend to get regulated into the background. Two of those are accessibility and equity, but they are equally important to consider when implementing a comprehensive diversity initiative.

When you think of accessibility, what comes to mind? Ensuring your place of business complies with the American with Disabilities Act?

Has your company considered other factors, such as the importance of web accessibility? You may have employees with neurological, visual or mobility impairment that find it difficult to operate your company-specific software which puts them at a distinct disadvantage. It might be a temporary condition such as a broken arm that doesn’t allow the user to manipulate a mouse. These scenarios should be taken into account to ensure inclusion.

In Michael Bach’s book, Birds of All Feathers: Doing Diversity and Inclusion Right, he explains, “Accessibility is often forgotten about when speaking about diversity and inclusion, but it is the missing link. You can have the most diverse workforce and the most inclusive workplace, but if anyone experiences barriers to access—be they physical, institutional, societal, or the like—then you haven’t ensured inclusion for all.”

I once worked with a large corporation on their diversity challenges, and the director who was tasked with choosing the software the company would use for the HR department thought she had made the best choice and stood by her decision. I questioned whether she had considered accessibility when making her choice, and she seemed ruffled at my inquiry. A short two weeks later, after a car accident which resulted in her temporary inability to see fine detail, she understood my concerns in a very personal way.

Accessibility also applies to opportunities, equipment (perhaps modified), cross-training, mentoring and something as obvious as making the interview process accommodating to everyone. Does your interviewee need a closed-captioned interview? Make that possible! Can someone apply via a teleprinter or teletypewriter (TTY) conference? Why not?

A second important focus is equity, which is easily confused with equality. To understand the difference, it might help to think of equality as giving everyone a house to live in. Equity, however, is giving people in the tropics houses that feature good ventilation, windows with screens capable of keeping out mosquitos, and sufficient shade from the heat. In contrast, you would give people who live in arctic climates houses with good insulation and an efficient heating source.

Although equality is a vital goal to strive for and is certainly better than not trying anything at all to level the playing field, it is simply not enough. It doesn’t take into account the individual and personal nature of each person’s struggle to feel as though they’ve had a fair shake.

In his article “5 Reasons to Focus on Workplace Equity Alongside Diversity and Inclusion,” Chiradeep BasuMallick clarifies when speaking on the fairness of corporate entities whose policies only focus on equality: “Equity, on the other hand, attempts to identify the specific needs and requirements informed by demographic traits such as ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, etc. It then tries to address the differing needs of each group by bridging the gap between minority and majority groups. This makes equity central to the genuine empowerment of minority groups (and not just theoretical equality).”

When an institution offers equity in the workplace, word spreads, and that kind of publicity and goodwill can’t be purchased. Employee morale, productivity and employee retention increase while associates not provided with equity can clearly see the reason to desert the (soon to be) sinking ship.

If your company makes it quite clear that it understands that while few obstacles exist for some in the organization, many obstacles exist for others, it can be a great recruiting tool and a fantastic way to keep everyone motivated. Correcting for the obvious (and subtle) disparities between different individuals can make the difference between a slog through the workday — while the employee spends all his free time looking for other employment opportunities — and an inspiring, spirited, focused contribution to the company for a full shift.

A theme that neatly dovetails with the subset concepts of accessibility and equity in the workplace is one of our main goals: inclusivity. If employees don’t feel seen or heard, the results are disheartening. In my experience as a leadership coach, one of the most soul-sucking experiences for colleagues of all levels in an organization is feeling like a cog in the giant corporate machine.

In the book Inclusify: The Power of Uniqueness and Belonging to Build Innovative Teams, Stefanie K. Johnson offers this insight: “Faking who we are to fit in is exhausting and we feel most at ease when we can just be ourselves. Even more to the point, we want to know that our unique talents are valued and that our voice is heard and respected. When we feel that these two drives — uniqueness and belonging — are in balance, we feel included.”

We all want to feel that our contributions are important, respected and special. If our workplace allows us the basic respects of equity and accessibility, it allows us to feel proud of the work we do, and that is a basic need that must be fulfilled.

This article has previously been featured on Forbes.

During a time of crisis or disruption, our first reaction may be to panic. It’s a completely natural, built-in human reaction. The flight-or-fight instinct kicks in — which is a helpful response to have if you want to avoid being dinner for a tiger, but not so helpful in an emergency situation where cooler heads must prevail. This is a very important component to successfully riding out the situation and getting through to the other side.

Don’t underestimate the value of structure and order in times of uncertainty. In the book The Art of Crisis Leadership, authors Rob Weinhold and Kevin Cowherd offer this advice: “When faced with an urgent situation, slow the process down and act nonemotionally. People often want to react with the same velocity with which crisis hits — do not. Slow the process down and make sound decisions that will benefit for many years to come.”

Here are some tips for how to introduce structure and order to your day in a time of disruption:

Establish a routine.

This helps to tame the anxiety, which in turn increases your productivity. It’s difficult to accomplish anything important if you’re constantly running in circles. Take a deep breath, or 10, and write out a list of what you need to accomplish. Focus on things that are in your control, not on things you can’t control. Determine the most crucial problem you face, and start there.

Make and follow a schedule.

Whether it’s hourly, daily, weekly, monthly or all of the above, it’s vital to keeping your sanity. Think realistically, and don’t overburden yourself — it will only cause your anxiety level to rise and your morale to fall.

Overcommunicate.

If you’re used to working in a large place of business with a great deal of human interaction and you now find yourself working from home, you’ll need to get that human interaction in a different way. It’s important to stay connected to family, friends and co-workers. If anything, overcommunicate. A lot gets lost in translation in email. Take advantage of video and telephone calls. There is so much more information you can deduce from tone of voice and facial expression.

Set up a quiet, uncluttered, positive place to work.

If you have a home office, that’s great, but if space is limited, the kitchen table may have to do. Set and enforce rules and time frames if you cohabitate. The people you live with will have to agree that you (and they) need some quiet time with no distractions.

Prioritize self-care.

Physical wellness is especially important when you can’t get to the gym or follow your regular exercise routine. If you sit at a desk all day, in a short while, your body will let you know with aches and pains caused by inactivity. Set a regular time to do some physical activity every day. Even if you only take a 10-minute break every hour to stand up and stretch, you’ll reap the benefits. Remember to eat at regular times. It’s easy to start grazing when you’re only a few steps from the refrigerator.

It’s also imperative to safeguard your mental health in a time of disruption. Think realistically and pace yourself. Take time out to meditate or read something inspiring. Watch a video that’s funny or inspirational. Celebrate your victories no matter how small they may seem. Work hard to bring new forms of joy into your life. Watch or read enough news to keep well informed, but don’t obsess over it or binge on it. That will only increase your anxiety as you worry about all the problems of the world. I derive a great deal of pleasure from simply eating dinner on the balcony.

In their article “How to Demonstrate Calm and Optimism in a Crisis,”Jacqueline Brassey and Michiel Kruyt offer this insight: “Self-care goes beyond making sure to have a good regimen of sleep, eating, and exercise. It is also about letting up on the self-criticism or perfectionism, to be able to connect with core intentions and purpose. Practicing this yourself also enhances your capacity to be empathetic with others.”

Seek out and provide inspiration.

Take some time to learn a new skill. Read those management articles you keep meaning to read. Make a list of all the positive things you can do to improve your career, and then actually schedule time for them on your calendar.

If you’re in a management position, spend the time it takes to inspire your people. Motivate them to be their best selves. Check on them often, and remember to ask them how their lives are going during the chaos. A little empathy goes a long way.

In Bill Tibbo’s book Leadership in the Eye of the Storm: Putting Your People First in a Crisis, he writes, “Implemented properly, a people-focused approach to crisis management will not only ensure the recovery process goes well, but can also lead to greater solidity and community than what existed prior to the crisis, including increased loyalty, decreased absenteeism, improved morale, and a strong cohesive team.”

Structure is a necessity when it comes to feeling in control and grounded. Give yourself the tools to weather this time of disruption.

This article has previously been featured on Forbes.

The chances are extremely high that during your lifetime you have experienced a microaggression, if not hundreds. Whether you’ve been the target, the victim or the microaggressor, we’ve all been there, and it’s not comfortable. We’d like to think there’s some perfect world, country, organization or team, but up until now, it’s a mythical place.

It would be wonderful if we could all live in perfect peace, harmony and cooperation, but until that happens, as human beings, we need to begin to consciously recognize the microaggressions that happen all around us every day. Until we train ourselves to really pay attention, listen and observe the interactions happening all around us, we won’t make much progress.

According to the authors of the book Microaggressions in Everyday Life, Derald Wing Sue and Lisa Beth Spanierman, “Microaggressions denote some sort of interpersonal interaction involving a perpetrator and a target (marginalized group member). Second, we must keep in mind the term ‘aggression.’ Most often, socials psychologists have defined aggression as verbal or nonverbal behavior intended to harm.”

Some of these comments or actions are overt, and sometimes they can be quite subtle — which only makes recognizing them more challenging. My interactions with people of many different races, gender identifications, economic levels and education levels, and the array of microaggressions I’ve witnessed, have been bewildering.

In my experience, the quickest way to identify a microaggression is when it is directed at you personally. At that moment, your gut reaction is usually correct. What’s left to assess is the level of the offense. How did it make you feel? Uncomfortable, weak, powerless, marginalized, or…?

I’ve had microaggressions directed at me that were bizarre (a male blatantly touching my hair without permission), obvious and demeaning (“Are you missing your family pet?”) and, in my younger days, deliberately hurtful (“You’re young yet, and you don’t get how the corporate structure works”).

Why any of these perpetrators would even let these dismissive words and acts occur is astounding.

When I give it further thought, my own transgressions over the years come to mind, and I can almost understand. Little looks and comments I have given colleagues, with no intention at the time of causing any harm, sometimes come back to me in widescreen and Technicolor. I believe they were not numerous, and perhaps not as dramatic as I remember, but with the passage of time, I can’t be sure.

The point is, I have learned to spend more time thinking about how my speech and actions might affect another. The more I reflect on that, I believe the less damage I unintentionally commit against everyone in my life.

One of the goals of recognizing microaggressions is to understand them from a different perspective. What follows this is education — your own and that of others — especially if they report to you. One needs to separate the event from the person, which helps take the accusatory tone out of the process.

If there is any ambiguity, ask the perpetrator to repeat what was said or done so they have a chance to review it at a slower speed. Remaining calm is a good starting point.

In her article for The New York Times, Hahna Yoon relates, “Discrimination — no matter how subtle — has consequences. In 2017, the Center for Health Journalism explained that racism and microaggressions lead to worse health, and pointed out that discrimination can negatively influence everything from a target person’s eating habits to his or her trust in their physician, and trigger symptoms of trauma.”

There can be many roadblocks to recognize and attempt to resolve the commission of microaggressions. As noted by Tiffany Jana and Michael Baran in their book Subtle Acts of Exclusion: How to Understand, Identify, and Stop Microaggressions, “First, people sometimes think that this is political correctness run amok. They may think that people are being policed for the small things they say, and therefore it is impossible to speak about any challenging issues.”

Besides the roadblocks, there may be landmines disguised as opportunities. In her article for the American Psychological Association “Did You Really Just Say That?,” Rebecca A. Clay writes, “Don’t be fooled by microaggressions packaged as opportunities. When a particular group isn’t well-represented on campus, at work or anywhere else, well-intentioned authorities may keep turning to the same members of that group to speak on panels, serve on committees or mentor other members of their group, thereby overloading the minority students or staffers with all the minority-related work.”

Learning new ways of interacting with our fellow workers and friends is a daunting task for some, and mistakes will be made along the way. Whether you look different to some people or think differently or act differently should not affect your work and life opportunities. This is a serious subject that we can’t take lightly. Going forward, it will become only more important as we try to advance as a society, a culture and a workplace.

This article has previously been featured on Forbes.

During times of crisis, the ongoing issues caused by bias are magnified. As fear and uncertainty increase for individuals or institutions, they can exacerbate existing biases or even induce new ones. As leaders, it is our responsibility to control these inherent biases from spinning out of control.

Many of the predispositions we have are unconscious, so it can be challenging to drag them out into the light of day, thoroughly examine them and see them for what they are. But only then can we begin the hard work of mitigating any harm they are causing to the organization, division, team, individual employees, clients and our businesses.

When the future becomes unclear, the stress makes decision-making processes less logical and prone to flawed thought patterns. It’s not the optimal time to judge which direction to take when emotions are running high.

It’s easy to see that making important judgment calls in a time of economic crisis, worldwide pandemic, protests and political strife is not ideal.

Availability cascade, which is a conformity bias, is a self-reinforcing progression where a belief seems more plausible because of its increasing repetition. A current example would be the idea that the Chinese are responsible for the spread of Covid-19 because the virus is believed to have originated in China. This bias has resulted in acts of irrational violence against people of Asian descent. Another example would be health-care workers being abused because they are somehow believed to spread the virus.

This can also be explained by the bandwagon effect, another conformity bias. This occurs quickly, and the topic can be filled with inaccuracies until logic can prevail. It can be seen in a global situation or something as scaled-down as a team member jumping to a conclusion with questionable data and convincing the rest of the team to back them up.

In his book Everyday Bias: Identifying and Navigating Unconscious Judgments in Our Daily Lives, Howard J. Ross explains, “We are constantly making decisions that are influenced by unconscious biases. In fact, even when our biases seem conscious, they may be influenced by a pattern of unconscious assumptions that we have absorbed throughout our lives.”

There’s the hostile attribution bias, in which a manager might feel persecuted because their idea for a project didn’t go over well in the planning meeting. When other managers pointed out some obvious (to them) flaws in the proposed project, perhaps the manager perceives hostile intent from the other managers when that was not the case.

Another example is the normalcy bias, which makes us believe that events in the future will be similar to events in the past. This can create flawed thinking and lack of planning for unforeseen economic turndowns, which could leave an entire company vulnerable.

I once worked with a company that had a very well-thought-out disaster recovery plan that they actually met and planned for annually. Representatives from each department had their assigned duties, tasks and areas of responsibility. They kept the recovery plan up to date and continued to adjust it as the company grew. They did not intend to fall victim to the normalcy bias.

The framing effect can also be a potential pitfall. It happens when an either/or scenario is demanded. The framing effect can cause a company to keep moving forward or backward without ever considering alternatives like moving sideways if it is best for the business.

A colleague of mine once worked for a national business with several offices. Depending on what faction was “in power” at any given time, they were either in the process of centralizing or decentralizing. It was always either black or white, with no shades of gray. The warring back and forth took its toll on many highly qualified personnel. After years of internal struggle, many finally got demoralized and simply jumped ship. That once-large national business no longer exists.

Something to be concerned about presently is how many employees are working from home. They may be somewhat able to stay in their own little bubble without the normal day-to-day contact with company norms. Without the external influence of the organization’s diversity and inclusion efforts, and the pressure to conform to those standards, will some employees slip back into old patterns of thinking? Will some exhibit the bias of stereotyping others when they return to the office?

When we’re finally able to get back together, it may take some time to rebuild the social structure your company worked so hard to shape. Be on the lookout for microaggressions that employees may not even be aware they are exhibiting toward others they may perceive as being “other” after being cooped up with only like-minded individuals for so long.

Keep mindful of biases your employees fall into so you can coach them to discover more productive thinking methodologies. While you’re at it, be mindful of your own behaviors.

As Tiffany Jana and Matthew Freeman hopefully suggest in their book Overcoming Bias: Building Authentic Relationships Across Differences, “Now is the time when we open our eyes to all of the bias that exists and persists within the systems all around us. We have a moral imperative to understand the origins of institutional bias, how it has evolved or devolved, and how we can create stronger, better, less biased systems.”

This article has previously been featured on Forbes.

Inspire Greatness, jas leadershipIn the hustle and bustle of our jobs, it’s easy to overlook the importance of developing your team members, but it’s one of the most important facets of leadership. If you don’t make the time to inspire greatness, you’re missing out on one of the privileges of management.

In my experience, everyone is great at something. As a leader, it’s up to you to find out what that something is and make use of it. Begin by paying attention to what aspect of the task at hand your team members volunteer to do or what part of the task they tackle of their own volition. People enjoy doing what they’re good at, and using that talent to further your project is the logical thing to do.

I’ve been in environments where work assignments are either randomly tossed out or milestones are given to team members who aren’t the right people for the job. To me, that says that management is either unaware of the talent pool in the team or simply can’t be bothered to take the time to find out the talent that’s at their disposal.

Getting to know your coworkers and your staff — really understanding what makes them tick — takes an investment in time. In my experience, that investment always pays high dividends.

Ask your team members which tasks they’d like to take ownership of. Trust goes a long way in any relationship. You may be pleasantly surprised to find out which responsibilities they pick of their own accord. Given the power of choice, I have found that people will choose what they excel at, what they’re excited about or what they feel will challenge them. It may feel counterintuitive or daunting if you’re a structured, top-down manager to allow your employees to work in a collaborative manner on a new and important project.

It is key to ensure you create an inclusive team. Diversity is imperative for a superior outcome. If everyone comes from a similar background and a similar talent pool, what you’ll end up with is mediocrity.

Drop your insecurity — whatever it may be. If you feel the need to take credit for your team’s accomplishment, don’t. Brag on them to your boss and you’ll never regret it. If you worry about your manager speaking directly with a team member instead of going through you, step out of the way. Your confidence in their abilities reflects the effort you’ve put in to creating greatness one employee at a time.

I’ve encountered managers who were afraid to build the skillset and knowledge base of their team members based on the selfish idea that someone who is well trained will jump ship. If an employee works hard enough to surpass expectations, they should be rewarded and allowed to grow. If that takes the form of moving up the ladder or transferring to another team, it’s only further proof that you’re putting in the effort to lead them to greatness — and that’s your job.

How many times in your career have you been delegated a task, but no authority? How did that work out for you? Stay in touch with the feelings of frustration and resentment that situation causes. Trust your colleagues enough to empower them. There shouldn’t be enough time in your week to make day-to-day decisions for each team member. If you assume the best of others, you’ll usually be right. People have a tendency to step up to the plate when it is expected of them.

Communicate openly. Share your vision for the team, the project, the individual. Listen to what they need from you, and make it happen. If you make a mistake, admit it, and if you were wrong about something, apologize. Honesty is necessary for trust and growth.

Empathize with your team. Human beings have problems, and not all of them are work-related — but they affect the work product. Empathy is essential for inspiring greatness in times of uncertainty.

In his article “3 Things You Must Do to Inspire Someone to Greatness,” Steve Farber notes, “There is no law of physics, no universal rule that I know of, that says your success requires my failure, that your fulfillment requires my emptiness, that your happiness requires my grief. The human experience allows for everyone — literally everyone — to be fulfilled, enriched, enlightened, self-actualized or whatever you care to call it.” He explains his view on leadership as simply this: “The greatest leaders become so by making others greater than themselves.” This is a succinct expression of my own philosophy and one that should be more prevalent than it is.

I had the pleasure of speaking with an old colleague of mine recently. We’ve communicated sporadically via email over the years but haven’t worked together for over 17 years. At the time I was his manager, he was young, and I gave him one of his first corporate “breaks” — a job that was quite a reach for him. He was unsure of his ability to perform in the role, but I had a great deal of confidence that he could, with the right mentoring, excel. He did excel, and it was a tremendous feeling for me to have helped him achieve that goal.

In our conversation, he bemoaned the fact that no one had shown such belief in him since. I offered him my advice, encouragement and a few ideas that might help with further progress in his career, and I hope the effort bears fruit for him.

There are multiple people I’ve worked with over the years in a mentoring role, and I don’t regret one minute of time that I spent investing in their futures. I would be willing to expend time and effort to advise any of them if the opportunity arose. Inspiring people to strive for greatness is my personal “superhero power,” and I use it as often as I can.

This article has previously been featured on Forbes.

Getting organized is tough. We all mean to do it. We all try to do it. Making lists, using planning software and keeping a business calendar in 15-minute increments all begin with the best of intentions. But much like New Year’s resolutions, the dreams of the perfect solution are rarely sustainable.

I’ve found that the problem with organization isn’t so much a lack of willpower as it is the unplanned chaos of the modern workplace. Even if you’re laser-focused, when Dan from accounting drops by your office to ask about your expense report from back in December, your plans go off the rails. Short of locking your door, unplugging your phone and boarding up your windows, what can you do?

One place to start is with an effective to-do list. It’s important to get rid of that long and rambling list that has every to-do task in your life on it. When you’re working on the Smith company sales pitch, you don’t need to be reminded to take Suzie to the soccer game and write that novel you’ve always thought about. No wonder you’re distracted.

I recommend giving each category of your life its own separate list. Use categories that make the most sense for you. Make a list for personal tasks, a list for your children’s needs and yet another for the tasks you need to accomplish at work. You’ll be amazed at the effectiveness of such a simple change.

Another useful tactic is to study the due dates for your projects. If the presentation for the international conference is three months away, don’t put it on your current to-do list. It will only distract you from what you need to work on now.

Limit your list to three to five major tasks per day. If you cram in more than that, you’re setting yourself up for failure and the discouragement that follows. When you have a long-term project, break it down into smaller steps that are achievable.

In his book To Do List Mastery: A Stress-Free Guide To Quickly Increase Your Productivity And Get More Done In Less Time, Allen Donaldson explains, “When setting the goals, take into account the time each step in a to-do list may require. If the to-do list is working toward a goal that is a year in the future, some steps may take a day or a week, while others may take months. Put these in a reasonable order and give them appropriate time lines.”

A common problem I see is taking on work you shouldn’t because you want to be seen as a team player, or because you find it enjoyable or you’re afraid to say no. Pull out your last performance evaluation, or schedule a short meeting with your boss. Determine what you’re actually being paid to do. Understand and internalize those goals, and refuse to allow your to-do list to become cluttered with low-level tasks you should be delegating. If there is a particular task that isn’t in your wheelhouse, outsource it. 

If you constantly find yourself getting off track because of interruptions, phone calls and unscheduled meetings, it’s important for you to take control. Make a schedule and stick to it. Let your team know that you are available at a specific time each day to help them or answer their questions. Put another specific time on your agenda to look at your emails and check phone messages.

Turn off email or instant messaging notifications and let your phone calls to voicemail. Otherwise, you may find yourself acting like Pavlov’s dogs each time you hear a noise and doom your productivity. 

If you have an overflowing email box, you’ll likely waste time combing through it. Consider having different email boxes to keep things simple. For example, send your blog subscriptions to a box you know you only have to check when you have some free time. Separate the wheat from the chaff.

Learn to prioritize. Determine which task for the day is the most important, and do that one first, even if it’s difficult or time-consuming.

Set time limits for each task. Allowing yourself too much time to complete a task can lead to procrastination. If you arbitrarily decide that a report can be finished tomorrow, you’ll be tempted to waste time doing something you prefer but isn’t on your list. Self-discipline is important for success.

Batch similar tasks together. If you are reopening the same program multiple times each day, you are wasting so much time. If you have two tasks that require using the same program, do them both consecutively. 

If a new task comes your way, schedule it. Don’t spend time dwelling on it and don’t stress over it. Schedule it on an appropriate day and time, and then go back to the current task on your schedule.

Set aside a block of time toward the end of the day to evaluate your progress and plan for the next day. Create a to-do list for tomorrow so you can begin your day with a predetermined plan to keep you focused on your priorities.

At the end of the day, spend a few minutes congratulating yourself for your successes, and don’t forget to celebrate what you’ve accomplished. It will give you satisfaction and motivate you to start tomorrow on the right foot.

Damon Zahariades, author of To-Do List Formula: A Stress-Free Guide to Creating To-Do Lists That Work! sums up the importance of taming your to-do list: “A properly-developed and consistently-executed to-do list system will improve your productivity as well as your quality of life. You’ll experience less stress and enjoy more free time to connect with those whom you love. You’ll also enjoy more freedom to pursue personal interests.”

This article has previously been featured on Forbes.