Burnout is the New Normal

Question posed by AZ Magazine reader:
What tips or suggestions would he have for keeping highly talented and creative employees motivated/energized during these tough economic times? — Nachie Marquez, Communications & Public Affairs Director, City of Chandler

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How to Lead the Next Generation of Leaders

Emerging leaders have no desire to lead as they have been lead, this according to Ron Carucci in his fall 2006 Leader to Leader article.

To underscore that point, we at MFI are beginning to see that the leader of tomorrow is following the information explosion. What exactly does this mean? Business is entering a world where leadership, like information, is fluid, situational and purposeful. No longer seen as a static position that one acquires to keep, leadership in the near future will move back and forth to those who run projects or possess or direct valuable information.

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The Flight of the Creative Class

The United States of America is now facing its greatest challenge since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. This challenge has little to do with business costs and even less with manufacturing prowess. And, no, the main competitive threats are not China or India. Our country — for generations known around the world as the land of opportunity and innovation — may well be on the verge of losing its creative competitive edge.

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Achieve Success Through Social Style Versatility

It is impossible to calculate the sales dollars lost when a salesperson misses important clues provided by the customer. Mission Facilitators International, a human performance improvement company, found that Fortune 500 top sales performers possess the ability to identify and respond to their client’s specific social styles.

Studies indicate that when salespeople do not adjust their behaviors to the buyer’s, they experience an 80% rate of failed sales. As financial advisors, identifying your clients’ social styles is imperative to building long-term relationships.

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Not the Cry, But the Flight…

“Not the cry, but the flight of the wild duck leads the flock to follow.” — Chinese Proverb

In preparation for a two day leadership development facilitation I’m re-reading a great book called “The Extraordinary Leader: Turning Good Managers into Great Leaders,” by John Zenger and Joseph Folkman.

From their thorough research here are ways managers can become great leaders:

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Getting Past Fear to Create Positive Change

In what people are calling a year of change it seems appropriate to re-examine how we succeed and how we fail at change.

Harvard business professor and author John Kotter says business leaders are more successful if they connect change to a positive emotion, and more likely to fail if they associate it only with negative feelings, such as fear related to a down-economy.

Granted, it is hard to feel positive when headlines bombard us with news of record foreclosures, bank failures and Ponzi schemes. Some of us have lost our jobs or know someone who has. Fear is in the air — you can almost smell it. Yet, how effective is fear in changing behavior?

Imagine that nine patients are given identical diagnoses of heart disease. All will die unless they improve their diet, lose weight, cut back on alcohol and reduce their stress. How many will make the necessary changes?

Only one, according to a 2005 study authored Dr. Edward Miller, the dean of the medical school and CEO of the hospital at Johns Hopkins University. “If you look at people after coronary-artery bypass grafting two years later, 90 percent of them have not changed their lifestyle,” Miller said. “And that’s been studied over and over and over again. Even though they know they have a very bad disease and they know they should change their lifestyle, for whatever reason, they can’t.” In other words, faced with bad news, even death, most people do not change.

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Too Much, Too Little Wind

A client recently told me that several years ago scientists at the Biosphere II Center outside of Tucson, Arizona found that trees don’t bloom without wind. To solve this problem they installed fans. It seems that a certain amount of stress on the trees in necessary — in this case in the form of wind — in order for it to be healthy. Too much wind would blow the tree over, as in a hurricane.

People, I find, are like trees. They need enough stress in order to exceed their comfort levels. Too much stress and people make mistakes and become ineffective.

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How Creative Makes Us Competitive

As tragic as they were, what lessons can the space shuttle Challenger and Columbia disasters teach us that we can apply in business?

According to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, NASA never fixed the underlying institutional problems that led to the 1986 Challenger tragedy. As a result, many of them played a role in Columbia’s doomed flight in February 2003. “In both cases,” the investigation concluded, “engineers’ intuitions, hunches and concerns were disregarded by top management because of the absence of hard data.”

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Listen to a Rock Lately?

Companies run, grow or die one conversation at a time. Our job is to improve the quality of those conversations. If you follow this logic then being present and listening are the cornerstones of quality conversations.

Listening is hard work because it is a conscious act in losing control. We have to ignore our egos. When we truly listen our agendas and ideas are not the most important. It’s the relationship that is the focus. It’s like canoeing down a river: We may guide the boat slightly, but the river (the relationship) has its own direction and flow.

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