How To Build Trust At Work

Image Credit: Trust by Geralt (

Image Credit: Trust by Geralt (

Without trust, your ability to achieve significant work is limited. Low trust environments operate much slower than high trust environments. The unique pressures of project work make trust even more important. Limited time makes it difficult to accomodate traditional off site meetings and trust building exercises. Before you become discouraged at building trust, let’s consider the following points on trust

What The Research Says About Trust

  • 39% of Canadians trust what their senior leaders say and less than four in 10 feel that senior leadership is doing a good job of communicating what is happening in their workplace. (HR Reporter)
  • 64% of American of employed adults feel their organization treats them fairly, 1 in 3 reported that their employer is not always honest and truthful with them. “This lack of trust should serve as a wake-up call for employers,” says David W. Ballard, PsyD, MBA, head of APA’s Center for Organizational Excellence. “Trust plays an important role in the workplace and affects employees’ well-being and job performance.” (American Psychological Association)
  • ” It takes evidence of only a single lie for a manager to be branded a “liar.” In contrast, a person has to tell a whole lot of truth to qualify as a “straight shooter.” Credibility, as we have all seen, is slow to build and quick to dissipate. A generally straightforward manager who is caught breaking an important promise will likely have trouble recovering.” (The High Cost of Lost Trust, Harvard Business Review)

We know trust is important. The Harvard Business Review study also found a link between integrity and increased revenues. These findings give us compelling evidence on the value of trust. That leaves the question – how exactly do we generate trust? I suggest breaking trust down into its component parts.

The Trust Framework

In my approach to trust in this article, I am indebted to the Skillsoft course “Building Trust.” I recently took this course as I have become more interested in interpersonal skills. The course was well worth the effort to study. I’m happy to share my notes and reflections on the course material with you. If you have found trust to be a vague concept in the past, then you have come to the right place. This framework shows the various behaviors and actions needed to build trust.

Building Trust Through Competence

Your ability and knowledge to complete a task is part of being a trustworthy professional. For growing people who love to learn, this is an important factor to consider. To build trust, it is important to be clear on your capabilities. If you have no working knowledge of Spanish, then it makes sense to decline Spanish activities. Let’s look at ways you can apply the competence principle to build trust.

  • High Confidence Response. In situations where you have a high degree of confidence about your skills, say as much. “Yes, I can get this analysis done for you. I know my way around the software and the data.”
  • Learning Emphasis Response. From time to time, you will encounter new tasks. In those cases, you have to use your judgement to determine if you can learn how to do the task with the time and resources available. You might say, “That’s interesting. I would like to do that and I should let you know I haven’t done this before so I will have a learning curve on this task.”
  • Saying No. In some situations, it makes sense to say no. However, you can go further to help the person making the request. You might say, “I don’t know how to do that. Fortunately, my colleague Jane is an expert at regulatory compliance and she may be able to help you.”

Building Trust Through Dependability

At first glance, dependability may seem self-evident. In fact, there are several important practices related to this personal quality. Many agreements are broken because they were never clearly understood in the first place. To improve your dependability, use the following steps:

  • Determine if there is a request. Sometimes others make vague statements that sound like requests. Listen carefully to determine if someone is actually making a request to you.
  • Clarify and evaluate the request. To clarify the request, seek information on deadlines, quality and other key aspects of the work.
  • Be clear. Once you make a decision, tell the requestor what you plan to do.
  • Follow up. Following up is a vital skill (and I admit to having had shortcomings in this area in the past). It could be as simple as sending a short email to the requestor telling them that the work is done.

Building Trust Through Honesty

A reputation for honesty is one of the most valuable qualities in society. All the contracts in the world have no value if there are doubts about your the value of your word. In the context of building trust and teams, there are a few key principles to keep in mind.

  • Omissions. Holding back critical information prevents others from effectively making decisions. For example, if you hold back data about a decline in the quality of a vendor’s work, then you would likely be considered dishonest.
  • Facts vs Non-Facts. For others to understand and evaluate our comments, it is important to know our facts. Specifically, this means admitting to speculation. For extra credit on this point, it is a best practice to have references and sources available for facts you state. There is nothing wrong with communicating forecasts, estimates or opinions as long as they are communicately in a clear fashion
  • Consistent Message. Sticking to one message in several circumstances is key to this quality. If you change your mind, clearly tell everyone affected why. Otherwise, many people may not understand why you changed your views.

Building Trust Through Consideration

Adjusting our communication and actions for others is a key aspect of consideration. In the project world, this theme relates to stakeholder management. It’s natural to focus our attention on friends, family and those with the most power (e.g. our managers). Yet, consideration encourages to think more broadly.

  • Seek to understand other’s interests. You cannot be considerate until you understand what the other person wants. You can use surveys, meetings and other approaches to gather that information.
  • Practice active listening. Demonstrating that you are listening is vital. In a face to face meeting, you can nod and take notes as the other person speaks. In virtual meetings, directly state your understanding of the other person and ask for clarification.
  • Make adjustments as necessary. This is where the rubber meets the road. You may get better ideas and improvements from the other person. In other cases, consideration may exact costs. In either case, concrete action is a good way to show consideration for another person’s viewpoint.

Question & Action:

Which of these principles will you put into effect this week to become more trustworthy?


The Professional Development Tripod: Leadership, Strategic Management & Technology

Continuing Education Requirements (PMI, 2015)

Continuing Education Requirements (PMI, 2015)

On May 6, the Project Management Institute announced exciting changes for continuing education requirements. These changes present an excellent opportunity for us to increase our value. In this article, I will analyze the requirements. You will also learn how these changes will help you to get ahead in your career. The below image summarizes part of the continuing education requirements PMI announced:

Where Did The Education Requirements Come From?

In order to offer valuable education and professional resources, the Institute regularly reviews the marketplace. Unlike law or accounting where many of the requirements are specified in law, project management has greater flexibility to adapt to changing conditions. Now that PMI has done the initial research, it is up to each professional to put these ideas into practice.

Theme 1: Learning Leadership

In my view, leadership skills are the most important area for project managers. Leadership is a broad category to practice and study. For our purposes, let’s consider leadership as being an aggregation of mutually supporting skills (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Negotiation Skills. The ability to understand your needs and the needs of the other side. The best negotiators work to achieve win-win results. For a fresh take on negotiation, I recommend William Ury’s new book: Getting to Yes with Yourself.
  • Decision Making. Leaders make decisions, despite limited information and risk. Fortunately, there are ways to lower the risk in decision making (e.g. using decision criteria or a defined process)
  • Motivating Others. Project managers working in a matrix organization understand that their formal power is limited. That’s why it is important to take the time and effort to understand motivation – you will become a more effective leader as a result.
  • Delegation Skills. Asking people to do work for you is a skill that leaders develop. Simply issuing orders is not enough.
  • Communicating in Difficult Situations. Working through conflict in a professional and effective manner is vital for leaders. This skill could be considered a subset of conflict management skills. The book “Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most” is an excellent resource in this area.

There are many approaches to leadership education. Studying leaders, past and present, through their biographies and autobiographies is an excellent approach (e.g. Career Hacks From Young George Washington). In addition, I suggest seeking out workshops, seminars and training that emphasizes interaction and self-reflection. Where possible, look for ways to build on your strengths in leadership.

Theme 2: Strategic & Business Management

Management skills make the difference in getting work done. Vision is essential but it is not enough. In developing your management skills, there are several approaches you can take, though claiming PDUs may not be possible in all cases. Here are some learning strategies to consider in developing management skills,

  • Finance for Management. Understanding how to speak the language of finance is helpful. It’s not required to become an accountant to be effective. At a minimum, I suggest an introductory book such as the HBR Guide to Finance Basics for Managers or a course. Alternately, you can take a finance minded colleague to lunch and pick up some of the basics.
  • Strategy. Strategy is an interesting area I first explore on this site in 2014 (i.e. Strategic Project Management). Strategy includes setting goals for your project that align with the organization’s goals. Many colleges and universities, especially those with business schools, offer night and weekend courses in strategy.
  • Staff Development. Developing staff is an area that becomes relevant in certain situations. If one has a relatively stable team with long assignments (over 6 months), then it makes sense to look for ways to develop staff. There are various approaches to learning how to develop staff. Consider looking into courses on leadership and coaching.

The broad area of management offers many opportunities to increase our skills. Specialized skills such as Lean Six Sigma and business process improvement also follow in this area. Project managers may also want to look into studying other PMI certifications such as PMI Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP).

Theme 3: Technology

The majority of project managers I have met over the years bring deep experience in technology. For example, it is common to see professionals start their careers in software development or business analysis and then transition to project management. This expertise is valuable because it produces expertise power. In addition, technically aware project managers are better able to ask good questions. Like the areas covered above, technology is a vast area. I will highlight a combination of standard and cutting edge technology areas to study.

  • Vendor Certifications. Several large technology companies (e.g. Cisco, Microsoft, and Oracle) provide specialized training and certifications on their software. Recently, I have been looking into some of the Microsoft certifications.
  • IT Methodology. There are many management approaches to IT that one can learn. For example, one can earn the ITIL certification or the Scrum certifications. If you are based in a large organization, it makes sense to learn the methodology that is most popular (unless you relish the challenge of introducing a new approach!).
  • IT Security. Keeping data and technology safe from misuse, theft and attacks is becoming more and more popular based on the IT salary surveys I have read. The ISACA organization is a recognized leader in the world of IT security
  • Big Data. What happens when you combine computing power, large volumes of data and statistical analysis tools? You get the Big Data trend! From my study of this trend, Big Data approaches can be used to improve marketing, improve anti-fraud measures and other purposes. For professionals looking for cutting edge technology to learn, Big Data is an excellent area to study.

Question and Action:

What is on your agenda to learn new skills? Of course, learning new skills yields many benefits. I will close with one of my favourite quotes on learning from “The Once and Future King” by T.H. White :

“The best thing for being sad,” replied Merlin, beginning to puff and blow, “is to learn something. That’s the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honour trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting. Learning is the only thing for you. Look what a lot of things there are to learn.”


Leading Yourself With Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

In 2015, David Allen published a new edition of his classic business book “Getting Things Done.” I’m taking this opportunity to return to this outstanding methodology and share some of my observations with you. Personal productivity and organization are key resources we use to lead ourselves to success. Returning to these ideas from time to time is important because productivity habits and systems often decay without deliberate work.

For those new to Getting Things Done, here are a few key points to know about David Allen and his work.

  • Amazon Reviews: The original edition has attracted over 1400 Amazon reviews with an average rating 4.4 out of 5 stars.
  • LinkedIn group: Getting Things Done® – Network of GTD® Enthusiasts group has over 21,000 members (as of April 2015)
  • Getting Things Done Media Coverage: David Allen and his methods have attracted media coverage around the world (e.g. CNN, The Guardian, and Harvard Business Review).

My Getting Things Done Journey

I first discovered “Getting Things Done” at a conference in 2008 or so. Though I was excited to pick up the book, I will admit that I did not finish reading at first. A few years ago, I finished reading book – it was outstanding. Much of the appeal of Allen’s book lies in the excellent tactical productivity suggestions (e.g. the two minute rule: if an email or other item comes across your desk that can be solved in two minutes or less, it is best to complete it immediately). However, specific tactics are only part of the story. “Getting Things Done” is a system of habits and a way to look at the world that is designed to balance control and perspective. More recently, I have deepened my understanding of “Getting Things Done” by reading the 2015 edition of the book and listening to Allen’s audio books. Every time I work through this material, I improve my effectiveness.

Why Getting Things Done Matters For Your Career

There are numerous productivity and time management approaches available. Here are a few reasons that I recommend this specific approach over others I have used. As an aside, the GTD (i.e. the abbreviation of “Getting of Things Done”) approach is also effective at managing non-business/career matters (e.g. household, planning trips and more).

  • Personal productivity is under your control: For most of us, we have considerable discretion to choose what to do, minute by minute. This reality means that you can use systems and habits to become more effective. Besides, it is helpful to focus on areas where you can improve rather than complaining about problems that are difficult to address.
  • Perception is reality: The increased control and perspective one obtains from using Getting Things Done will improve how people see you. This point is especially important if you have been frustrated at forgetting appointments, tasks and related activities.
  • Reduce unproductive time: According to KM World, knowledge workers often spend 15-25% of their time searching for information. Just imagine if you could cut that time in half by using GTD. It is certainly possible as you master the methodology.

In addition to the points mentioned above, `Getting Things Done` makes it easy to focus on high value activities. That`s one of the greatest benefits of adopting the system. Of course, there is work involved to reach those benefits. You need to read the book, put a few days aside to put the ideas into effect and then maintain it.

4 Ways To Lead Yourself with GTD

Here are five specific ways that I find that GTD improves your capacity to lead yourself. My approach here is informed by a focus on project management. Other people will be able to apply these ideas with some small adjustments.

1. Bottom Up Approach to Your Information Frees You From Clutter and Confusion

In the project management world, we all know that bottom up estimation as one of the most effective ways to budget projects. Unlike other systems, David Allen recommends starting out by simply collecting and noting whatever has your attention. This initial art of collection and emptying your mind is important. Only once you see all your preoccupations, tasks and concerns on paper (or a screen) can give thought to priorities.

2. Keep you humble by admitting the limits of your memory

“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them” – David Allen

As Karin Hurt’s blog has reminded me, it is important for leaders to stay humble (and yes, you can teach humility). As I have learned GTD, I have learned just how important it is to capture information in a trusted system. This activity is leadership because it improves your reliability and ability to deliver. Enhancing your credibility to achieve results shows you can take on greater leadership responsibilities.

3. Increase your perspective with weekly review

If I had to name a single GTD tool that has made the greatest difference, I would choose the Weekly Review. In fact, I have a template Excel file that I use to guide me through the process. The weekly review involves reviewing your calendar (past week and current week), achieving inbox zero and related activities. On occasion, I miss the Weekly Review and it hurts my effectiveness. If you would like more details on my Weekly Review template and process, please write a comment and I will cover it in a future blog post.

4. Demonstrate leadership with others by outcome thinking

What if you could be your own coach or consultant? That’s difficult to achieve. Fortunately, you can experience some of the benefits by using what Allen calls “outcome thinking.” When faced with a problem, dream, responsibility, it can be difficult to get started. You can ask yourself questions such as: what does this mean to me?, what do I want to be true about it? and “what’s the next step required to make that happen?” During a meeting or discussion, it is easy to get focused on the problems and everything that is going wrong. You can demonstrate a leader’s perspective by focusing on the outcome you want, rather than the problem you don’t want.


How To Renew Your Leadership This Spring

Image Credit: Tree by 899473 (

Image Credit: Tree by 899473 (

Spring is the season of renewal and change in nature. For many people, spring cleaning is a part of their household routine. You may have a habit of reorganizing your garden after winter or starting to plan for the summer.

Today, I suggest you use this season of the year to renew your leadership. According to author John C. Maxwell “leadership is influence.” Our ability to influence others is an important capability. Like any capability, it can be improved and developed further. Yet, many refuse to pause and seek out ways to improve.

Let’s think on these findings and observations:

  • “Three-quarters of respondents reported that they have worked at an organization where the leadership team was out of touch and operated as though it was stuck in a bubble.” (American Management Association)
  • ““Fresh air” is important to the make-up of leadership teams to prevent their perspectives and decision-making capabilities from becoming stale… 41% of the top-performing companies (but just 20 percent of low performers) have introduced executives from other industries into their leadership team.” (Accenture)
  • “Lose Weight and Getting Organized” are the top most popular New Year’s resolutions according to research from the University of Scranton.

There is a connection between the personal achievement and organization of leaders and their ability to lead others.  The following seven strategies will help you to renew your personal effectiveness and leadership capabilities.

 1. Review The First 90 Days of The Year

By April, we already put ninety days of the year behind us. While winter is one of my favourite seasons, it is a challenging time in some respects (e.g. less natural light). Our enthusiasm to accomplish more will go a long way in January. Unfortunately, we may have lost track in February or March.

To review your progress for the year, ask yourself the following questions:

What am I most proud of so far this year in my professional life?

What habits did I want to establish this year (e.g. a new health habit) and what has gotten in my way?

Imagine you are about to depart on summer vacation: what accomplishment would give you piece of mind (and perhaps a need for some relaxation)?

2. Review Multi-Year Goals For Relevance?

Working on a single goal over several years is challenging. Simply keeping up the energy year after year becomes challenging. If you are struggling with a multi-goal, spring is the time to take a new perspective.

First, reassess whether the goal is still valuable. Business conditions may have changed. Your personal responsibilities may have changed. Ask yourself, “does it make sense to continue working on this goal with the information I have now?”

Second, if the goal is still worthwhile, reiterate why the goal matters in writing. In researchers at Northwestern University found that hat human beings—even rational ones—have a limited capacity to remember the original reasoning behind their decisions. If that capacity is exceeded, the information could be lost—so we need a mental placeholder that can remind us of why we decided something, just as tying a string around your finger reminds you that you need to pick up milk on the way home from work.

3. Are Your Management Skills Supporting Your Leadership Vision?

In reading and reflecting on leadership, one often gets the impression that management skills get little attention compared to the glory of leadership. However, management skills are what enable you to translate your vision into reality.

Take time this spring to check whether your management skills support your leadership:

Does my vision have support from people in my department and elsewhere in the organization? How would I know? (e.g. are people volunteering to provide help?)

Do I sometimes feel stuck in the clouds?

4. Read A Good Leadership Book

One of my favourite quotes on reading comes from Charlie Jones: “You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read.” It is an excellent observation. Over the next few months, I encourage you to read a book on leadership.

There are two ways to approach reading to grow your leadership: biography and leadership models.

For years, I have been a fan of leadership. Over the past few years, I have read three biographies of leaders that I have found highly valuable:

  • Churchill: A Life by Sir Martin Gilbert
  • Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller Sr by Ron Chernow
  • Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

For more inspiration in biography, look up Ryan Holiday’s excellent article 25 Recommendations For Life Changing Biographies For The Voracious Reader In You.

Regarding books on leadership models, there are several approaches to consider. You can read about a specific leadership skill set (e.g. presenting or communicating: last year, I read “Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds” by Carmine Gallo). Alternately, you can read a book such as “Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow” by Tom Rath to obtain a whole new model.

5. What Have You Done For Your Network and Allies?

Are you a “net giver?” I recently heard this phrase from a friend who mentioned that it was a criteria to join a high level Mastermind group. In essence, a net giver is someone who gives more – information, introductions, resources, advice etc – to their network than they ask in return.

As leaders and project managers, we can only get work done through other people. However, much of the time it is necessary to get help from people in different departments or organizations. That means we need relationships with those people. Spring is a great time to review your professional relationships and see what you can do for others.

Not sure where to start? Here are a few ways you can help other people in network:

  • Make an email introduction. I have recently introduced some people I know through my volunteer role at the University of Toronto. I have also asked for introductions – my expectations were surpassed! In both cases, excellent conversations were had and networks deepened.
  • Invite a friend or colleague to an event. From time to time, I have extra tickets to film festivals and other events. In those cases, I look to give them out to friends who might appreciate them.
  • Take someone out for lunch. This part of the wisdom covered in the classic networking book “Never Eat Alone.” I don’t do this as much as I would like.
  • Take someone out for coffee. It’s simple and affordable. Many people emphasize this approach to meet new people but you can also use it to strengthen existing relationships.
  • Send a thank you card. Sending a thank you card – preferably via postal mail – is an excellent way to make an impression on someone. In less than 15 minutes, you can make someone’s day and cultivate the gratitude habit at the same time. (Tip: Manager Tools has published good guidance on thank you notes: How To Write A Thank You Note).

Question & Action:

What action will you take in the next month to refresh and renew your leadership this month?

Why Showing Appreciation To Your Team Makes A Difference And 5 Ways To Do It

Thank You Note (Image Credit: GingerQuip,

Thank You Note (Image Credit: GingerQuip,


It is a powerful way to strengthen a relationship, in the office and elsewhere. When you show appreciation, you shift your focus to the other person rather than yourself. In many cases, your efforts at appreciation make the difference between an awesome day and an ordinary day.

As a project managers, you can get work done through other people. While you may pitch in with your team from time to time, that’s not the focus of your role. Instead, leading project managers focus on leadership and supporting their team.

An unappreciated team member is unlikely to be highly effective. Unappreciated staff are more like to resign; those unappreciated staff who remain are likely to be less effective.

What The Research Says About Appreciation

  • The Society for Human Resources Management found that “appreciation by a direct supervisor” has the greatest impact on employee engagement (71% of those surveyed named this factor). (SHRM/Globoforce Survey: Employee Recognition Programs, Spring 2013)
  • 94% of HR professionals believe that positive feedback has a greater impact on improving employee performance (SHRM/Globoforce Survey)
  • “More than half (58%) of British workers don’t believe employees are thanked enough in the workplace” according to a recent survey conducted on recruitment website Monster UK (HR Magazine)
  • According to research firm Gallup: “But in a company with moderate to strong engagement levels, teams that report they receive adequate recognition have 19% less turnover than teams that say they don’t receive enough recognition.” (Turning Around Employee Turnover)

The above data shows that appreciation is an important tool in the workplace. It is even more important for project managers because they have less time to build relationships with staff and often have limited access to traditional management tools such as performance reviews. The lack of traditional management tools simply means that project managers have to find other methods to inspire their staff and achieve results.

Five Times To Show Appreciation On A Project

Often, we get into the habit of thinking that appreciation is only relevant in extreme or unusual events. However, we can gain from looking at a broader set of circumstances. Here are some examples to get your appreciation muscle in shape:

1. Expressing a dissenting viewpoint in a professional manner

Bringing up a dissenting viewpoint in an effective way is challenging. This goes beyond simply pointing out problems or vague doubts. When a project team member has the courage to express a different viewpoint and help the team work through it, that deserves recognition.

2. Showing empathy and patience with a customer or user

Customer service is important on projects because it is often a key value for the organization as a whole. However, working with an angry or disappointed customer is challenging. When you see or hear about a team member who has successfully worked through a challenging customer service problem (e.g. during a testing session or during after-project support), their efforts merit appreciation.

3. Working an extra hour to complete an important work package

From time to time, the only way to achieve results is to work longer hours. Few project managers enjoy asking their staff to stay late. In those cases where an individual steps up to work an extra hour to finish an important work package, it makes the difference. Working all night is after a full day is rarely worth the effort, but an extra hour can make a world of difference.

4. Providing support to a novice team member

Several years ago, I joined a new department at a large company. It was quite an adjustment! Fortunately, there was a senior professional on the team who provided advice, training and other support to me. It made the difference in helping me to become successful in the role. As I mastered the tasks and activities he had trained me on, I sent him several recognition notes. In the project context, keep an eye out for these opportunities. In fact, you may wish to organize these buddy or mentor arrangements to reduce the learning curve for new team members.

5. Solving a difficult problem with a creative approach

“Can we solve the problem with more staff?” is a common response to many problems in the project context. While that is a valid response in many cases, it is not the only response. Instead, you may have a creative team member who finds a way to automate a manual process – an improvement that could save hours of effort. That improvement is well worth your appreciation.

 5 Ways To Communicate Appreciation

Recently, I finished reading “The Success Principles” by Jack Canfield. It is a powerful book full of powerful ideas. In fact, this article was inspired by Principle 53 “practice uncommon appreciation.” The following model I will describe comes from the book. The theory suggests that people have a primary language of appreciation (though we can enjoy all of them to varying degrees). Speaking for myself, I appreciate receiving written notes and gifts.

1. Words of Affirmation

People that value verbal or written appreciation like to see read or hear appreciation express in words. In the work context, this can take the form of a paper thank you card, a thank you email or saying thanks works. For guidance on what exactly to write in a thank you note, I suggest you look listen to the How to Write a Thank You Note podcast by Manager Tools.

2. Quality Time

Expressing thanks through quality time is another way to show people that you appreciate them. In the professional context, there are several applications to consider. For example, one could take the project team out for lunch. In addition, I have seen some companies offer a “free day off” as a reward. For team members keen to grow and who have made outstanding contributions, arranging lunch with a top manager or executive in the organization is another organization.

3. Receiving Gifts

Giving someone a gift is a great way to demonstrate your appreciation. As many organizations have policies and guidelines on gifts, review these prior to making a purchase. As a general guideline, I suggest keeping the gift small and make an effort to connect it to that person’s interests. For example, if you have a reader on your time, you could give them a copy of your favourite business book (with a personal inscription).

4. Acts of Service

From time to time, we all need a bit of help. For people who prefer this type of appreciation, offering to complete a tedious task for them will make an impact. Your ability to use this approach effectively will depend on how well you know the person.

5. Physical Touch

Expressing appreciation through touch is an approach that suits some people. Of course, we have to be sensitive and thoughtful about using this approach in the work place. A gesture such as a handshake or pat on the back can be suitable. If you are in doubt about this approach, choose one of the other approaches such as a well crafted thank you note.

Two Questions For Reflection and Action:

Reflection: what kinds of appreciation make the difference to your work and why? Think of at least two different examples from your past work.

Action: After reading this article, take the time to show appreciation for someone who makes a difference to your work.

Why Knowing Yourself Is Essential To Leadership

Winston Churchill Image

In my study of leadership, I have discovered a number of insights from successful leaders. I have been inspired by Churchill’s determination, writing and his ability to recover from disappointments. In addition, I have also learned the vital role of introspection in leadership. Without self-knowledge and understanding, one’s leadership capabilities will hamstrung by blind spots and slow growth. In this post, I will discuss four methods leaders can use to better understand themselves. Armed with this insight, you will be able to grow your leadership further.

DISC Profile: An Excellent Model To Understand Your Communication Style

I discovered the DISC profile after hearing it mentioned in several outstanding podcasts produced by Manager Tools (e.g. First Steps With DISC). I find this model particularly helpful in understanding different approaches to communication style. Here is a high level overview of the four dimensions of the model and their strengths. If you are curious to receive your own customized DISC profile, I recommend the Manager Tools DISC profile (that’s what I used myself). When I last took the profile, my classical pattern was “Objective Thinker.” I scored high on the C and S qualities.

Note: I am quoting from the “DISC Classic 2.0” for my quoted definitions below.

D: Dominance

“Emphasis is on shaping the environment by overcoming opposition to accomplish results. This person’s tendencies include making quick decisions, getting immediate results and solving problems.”

I: Influence

“Emphasis is on shaping the environment by influencing or persuading others. This person’s tendencies include contact people, entertaining people, and generating enthusiasm.”

S: Steadiness

Emphasis is on cooperating with others within existing circumstances to carry out the task. This person’s tendencies include demonstrating patience, developing specialized skills and helping others.

C: Conscientiousness

Those who are strong in Conscientiousness (“high C’s”) like to be precise and keep their focus on key details while working in an environment that values quality and accuracy. High C’s like to be accurate and orderly, and they make decisions in an analytical way. They prefer to control factors that affect their performance and seek opportunities to demonstrate their expertise. They also like to be recognized for their skills and accomplishments.

I will note that all styles are effective; it is simply a question of understanding your strengths and blind spots. For example, a person with a high D tendency may have challenges (i.e. “Bull in the China shop”) when working in organizations that rely on cooperation. In contrast, a high C may have problems due to relying on logic and downplaying other motivation factors.

The Myers–Briggs Type Indicator: A Classic Resource

The Myers-Briggs is one of the most popular and widely used approaches to understanding personality and one’s tendencies. Recently, I used to generate my profile (a free service: paid services also exist for those who are interested in greater depth and advice). My profile for Myers-Briggs is the The Logistician (i.e. “ISTJ). I will note with delight that researchers suspect that George Washington had the same profile as me!

Advantages of Myers-Briggs:

It is a widely used indicator that many millions of people have used (a 2012 article in the Washington Post reports two million people take the test each year). The test is also reasonably robust: the Center for Applications of Psychological Type found that people come out with the same results 75-90% of the time on taking the test again. I also find it interesting that many analysts and writers have developed detailed support materials and consulting to help you make the best use of your profile.

Disadvantages of Myers-Briggs:

The first weakness to the approach is the idea that the world’s population can be simplified into less than twenty categories. In addition, the profile is over fifty years old and it may not agree with the latest research in psychology and related fields. Finally, the very heavy use of the profile mean that some may discuss the tool as “old news.”

In summary, I view the type indicator as helpful for leaders though not definitive. For example, the indicator may suggest some types are better at relating to people. In alignment with Manager Tools and others in this space, I do not view this types as destiny. Instead, this approach simply shows that you may have to work harder in certain situations to be effective.

The Biography Test: Who Inspires You?

As a life long student of history, I have read many biographies. Over the past few years, I have read great biographies of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John A. MacDonald, and Winston Churchill. A highly skilled biographer brings history to life in a compelling way. For example, I found it interesting to learn that Churchill designed his own self-education program while stationed as a soldier in India. In various ways, all of the people I have mentioned above inspire me in different ways. They are also outstanding leaders that achieved a great deal with different strengths (e.g. Churchill’s strength in public speaking and writing, Washington’s strength in quiet resolution under stress and John A. MacDonald’s abilities to forge Canada.

Extraordinary Canadians Louis Hippolyte Lafontaine Robt Baldwin By John Ralston Saul

Extraordinary Canadians Louis Hippolyte Lafontaine Robt Baldwin
By John Ralston Saul

Of course, the biography test will only help you if you actively read about people, past and present, who have changed the world. While I have recently been enjoying long biographies, there is much to be gained from shorter books as well. For example, the Extraordinary Canadians series edited by John Ralston Saul provides biographies of 200 pages or so of the people who shaped Canada.

Questions to ask in reading a biography to build your self-knowledge and leadership:

1. How would I have responded to the challenges this person faced?

2. How did this person respond to their critics and enemies?

3. What blind spots held back this person from achieving even more?

4. What stories and specific incidents from this person’s life should I remember to inspire myself and others? (e.g. the Art of Manliness website has published an outstanding series based on Winston Churchill)

5. What quotes should I note from this person’s letters, books and writings that inspire me or cause me to think in new ways?

 Whether you use formal personality tests, reading from the world’s great biographies or other modes of reflection, it pays to think through your approach to leadership.

Question for the comments:

What leader from history has inspired you to think about leadership in new ways (or change your leadership approach?