Good boss, bad boss

A few days ago I realized that this year marks a decade of my career in Human Resources. Over this past decade I have had the opportunity to work with a variety of bosses and in some of my roles, I have had the opportunity to manage teams.

So I wrote down a few points about the different types of bosses that I have had and how they have influenced me. Of course, it was almost easier to remember all the annoying traits and the more I thought about them, the more it became clear to me that I have been all those annoying traits to someone else. But first a little more about these amazing boss traits. 

Amazing bosses really led their team to excellence and did it with compassion. They were not afraid to fail, they gave solid feedback to help people improve, and they invested time in mentoring. They let their teams own their projects, encouraging innovation and leadership.

They measured outcomes against high standards. Trust was common. These leaders helped their team shine before their own bosses and were comfortable leading with a servant heart. They stood up for their teams, protecting them from fruitless labour. They didn’t feel threatened when their teams knew more than them and were able to accept their mistakes. They created a growth attitude and pushed their teams to new challenges to enable them to become stronger.

They bought treats for their teams out of their own pocket. They let their teams rest on vacations and weekends. They knew their families and bothered to ask about them sometimes. They discouraged gossip and kindled a culture of respectful feedback. They knew how to celebrate successes. These are the leaders that have impacted me so deeply and I strive to be like them.

Now on to some funny traits:  

20180421_160343

I am always stressed out – I work all the time and expect my team to do the same.

I stress over minute details and I need to please everyone! What if they don’t like me?! is my greatest fear. As a result, I can’t give thorough feedback, can’t handle feedback about myself, but end up making my team rework everything just because someone suggested it.

I am competent so I micromanage. I am always late to meetings because I always “need” to finish “one more thing”.

20180421_160314I know more than you ever will – how dare you try to teach me! I need to reply to all emails immediately – even during sensitive meetings.

You can’t expect me to remember everything and I can’t bear any blame. It is always someone else’s mistake. Be diplomatic with me and praise me all the time, not because I need affirmation but because I truly deserve it – I am the best.

Every one likes me – what’s not to like? I am full of life and I know everything.

20180421_160302I hear no feedback, I change nothing! Don’t innovate and just do it my way.

I can show strategic compassion to make my team feel valued. If someone in my team knows more than me, they will be favoured above the others.

If you make a mistake, I will reprimand you in front of the team so that no one ever thinks of repeating that mistake ever! I love gifts, initiative and people who follow instructions impeccably. 

 

20180421_160322I am laid back and I am awesome. I have a new vision speech every week but can’t seem to follow through on any plans. I think it’s because I am a perfectionist and if I cannot do it perfectly, I won’t do it at all.

I borrow ideas and spin it off as my own, taking credit for work I didn’t do. If I am leading a project, I cannot delegate because no one else can do it a perfectly. It’s okay if I miss important deadlines that impact my team.

I hate confrontation but you can pick up hints from my passive aggression.


I guess we are all combinations of some good boss and some bad boss. Being self aware can help us become better bosses and have lasting impacts in the lives of our teammates. If you have had a good boss, remember to send them a thank you note today.

 

How to be More Creative at Work

This year’s Global Leadership Summit included a session with author Fredrik Haren (author of The Idea Book).  Haren is a business creativity expert from Sweden who, according to Forbes, lets people stay on his private island for free. His session during the summit got me thinking a little more about business creativity.

He made an interesting point during this talk. He said when you ask people if they are creative most people say that they are not. Creativity is connected to crafts, artists, and musical talent. But creativity has so much to do with the what we think  and do everyday.

I decided to try something new. I scheduled an hour of Creative Space into my week.  The idea is to intentionally nurture creativity. During this hour, I do one of the following: think of a new project, read about a topic I wouldn’t normally read about, learn something new, create something, write something, compose something. Needless to say I am enjoying this new habit because it’s just fun. Its an hour of intentional creative growth each week.

Creative thinking and creative problem solving are valued very highly in terms of getting ahead at work. Creativity plays an important role in time management, prioritizing multiple demands, negotiation skills, and basically staying sane during stressful work weeks.

Creativity and Innovation are close associates. Innovation means doing something new by making a new combination of things that already exist. In his speech, Haren reminds us that God alone can make something out of nothing so that’s not something humans need to worry about. We can make new things from other existing things. That made this whole creativity and innovation business more manageable.

The other concept that I re-read recently and that resonates with my personality is this: One needs to be structured in order to be creative. Creativity doesn’t flow from complete chaos. Let’s rephrase that a little – for meaningful creativity to flourish, there needs to be some structure even in chaos.

The SCAMPER principle is a structured guideline to develop creative:

  • Substitute
  • Combine
  • Adapt
  • Modify
  • Put to other use
  • Eliminate
  • Reverse

To have a great idea, have a lot of them (Thomas Edison). Creative experts recommend divergent thinking while problem solving. Instead of finding one solution to solve multiple problems, think of multiple solutions for problems. This prevents tunnel vision, which is often the enemy of creative thinking. It is also important to take a break when tackling problems and let your ideas incubate to help you in picking the best solutions.

Think about how creative entrepreneurs got their ideas. Here are some examples from the November 2017 edition of Inc. Magazine, Koel Thomae launched Noosa Yoghurt after tasting a new kind of creamy, full-fat yogurt while visiting her mother in Australia. Paul English started Kayak, inspired by his trip to Haiti, to make online travel search easier. Blake Mycoskie started TOMS because of the impact that his trip to Argentina had on him. He was moved by the difficult life of rural children, many of whom had no shoes. That was the genesis of his shoe company and its buy-one, give-one model. Kombi Vans in South Africa inspired Logan Green to start his company Lyft.

There are endless stories about entrepreneurs who were able to use inspired creativity to innovate. The key to their success is that they were not afraid to fail.

As a manager, provide opportunities to your team to grow in business creativity. Instead of giving them answers to problems, challenge them to come up with solutions. As a manager don’t crush your team when they fail or you will stifle creativity and innovation.

We wish ideas would just flow naturally while we are sleeping or enjoying some macaroons with coffee. But business creativity flows when we show up to work. Show up and start brainstorming solutions and ideas. Creativity is a combination of imagination, curiosity and knowledge.

Creativity is what sets you apart as a leader in your workplace. “If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old.” (Peter Drucker)


What helps you nurture creativity? Email your stories to editor@theoverseasmagazine.com 

Learning and Innovation

Over the last few months I have had the opportunity to lead pilot projects related to Learning and Innovation. The exposure that these projects have provided in terms of Knowledge Management has been significant.

Innovation is often connected with big inventions, technological breakthroughs, and super smart people even though we know that in reality that it is also so much more about everyday functions. It is in capturing knowledge that we can discover what our teams already know and use that knowledge to be more innovative.

When I started working on the projects, I had to set aside a full day just to understand the concepts of Knowledge Management. Not only was the subject fascinating, the significance of Knowledge Management being such a vital step to Learning and Innovation became very obvious.

You might already know what Knowledge Management is but I am going to try to describe it here. It is defined as the efficient handling of knowledge – not data or information – but knowledge. That includes the tacit insights that are a consequence of working in a field or role for some time. But how do you work to capture that within your company was the question we were trying to address for our organization.

We designed pilot projects to try and capture knowledge points within the organization. The pilot projects were collaborative and one was competitive. The projects were designed to encourage knowledge sharing in different ways. The projects were designed following the principle of Human Centered Design, keeping the end-user involved and gathering feedback throughout the pilot.

The collaborative projects included Communities of Practice which allowed teams to engage in intentional yet informal in a shared domain. We used some virtual meeting platforms since global teams participated. The competitive learning platform was an Innovation Forum competition, which offered global teams the opportunity to present innovative solutions they had tested in the last two years. The responses to all the projects was very positive. These projects were bridging learning gaps that would allow teams to be more efficient and agile.

The projects we led were successful but we realized that the real challenge would lie in developing and sustaining an innovative culture within the organization. That would need a shift in the way we function. Certain bureaucratic systems would need to be eliminated. More trust would have to be established. Failure will need to be considered as more of a learning step instead of a taboo or it will hinder success. We will need to be smarter about recognizing  successful innovation and rewarding it. This would encourage people to continue innovating.

Most of the pilot projects continued on to become ongoing initiatives at larger scales. This is just the beginning of a cultural shift towards innovation and the possibilities are exciting!


Share your experiences with TOM. Email editor@theoverseasmagazine.com

Flying to the US? Learn more about the latest electronics ban

Flying to the US with electronics just became a lot more inconvenient. Major airlines flying via countries in the Middle East and Africa will no longer allow electronics larger than a cellphone in a handbag. Passengers will be required to pack them with their checked luggage.

This step was taken by the US to avoid the risk of passenger planes being targeted by terrorist groups who might smuggle explosives in electronic devices.

Medical devices might be allowed on the plane after thorough screening.

Airlines impacted:

Egyptair, Emirates Airline, Etihad Airways, Kuwait Airways, Qatar Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Royal Jordanian Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Turkish Airlines.

Preparing for flights to the US:

  1. Check with your airline to determine how the electronics ban will effect you and pack accordingly.
  2. If you have medical devices, let your airline know in advance so that they can be prepared to screen them and allow them on the plane with you.
  3. Estimate longer layovers because of additional screenings. Pack some dry and permissible snacks and perhaps some reading material to make long layovers less painful.
  4. Prepare to be searched thoroughly, exercise patience and cooperate with officials.
  5. If you absolutely must carry electronics in your handbag, book tickets with airline who are currently unaffected by the ban.

 

Did the ban effect you? Write to us: editor@theoverseasmagazine.com

Read more about the ban here.


 

Nonprofits: It’s time to design your fundraising strategy

Does your nonprofit have less than 1000 donors, then this post is for you.

The beginning of the year marks the beginning of financial years for a large number of nonprofits. As a nonprofit, your organization must have set aside a fundraising budget for the year. Now is the time to set a strategy in place to make the most of that budget.

We know the basics. Thank donors and ask them for more money. But a systematic strategy can help you better engage them. It’s not just about increasing the number of donors you have, proactively managing the ones who are already on board is equally important. 

Your goal precedes your strategy:

Set a higher goal than the previous year. Its goes without saying that unless an organization keeps challenging itself to outperform its own successes, it will be get harder to outperform a competitor. In the nonprofit sector, competition is usually not openly advertised. But multiple nonprofits compete for the same resources from the same foundations and donors. 

This year set a realistic percentage increase in your fundraising goal. Then use it to drive your donor and fundraising strategy.

Guidelines for strategically planning your fundraising:

nonprofit-strategy

  • Get to know your donors as people and not simply as funding sources. The more engaged you can make them feel, the easier it will be to ask for support.
    • A few online databases offer some helpful features to assist you in getting to know your donors. These databases have sections where you can complete a full donor history so that you can remember donor birthdays, their place of work and their giving history. If you can’t afford to pay for an online database, Microsoft excel combined with great organizing works just fine.
  • Pick a theme for every communication tool and events for the year. Set one theme to communicate to all the donors instead of talking about everything that you do. The lesser the information, the more likely it is to be remembered.
    • Color: Colors can power your messages. Pick a color variation that continues to reflect your brand color. If your brand or logo is blue, shades of blue can be the variation that you pick for all your communication and media. The idea is to get them thinking about you when they see the color even elsewhere. 
    • Slogan: A short catchy slogan is remembered for a long time. Pick something catchy and short that can be applied to every aspect of your organization. Then remember to include it at campaigns so that people associate the slogan with your organization for the year.
  • Events throughout the year. Your organization can appeal to a wider audience with events where they can participate instead of simply asking for donations. You could appeal to businesses through motivational speaker sessions, golfing or skiing events. You could appeal to others through runs, hikes and walks. Others might commit to a ‘dine and donate’ event.
    • The events can be spread throughout the year and with the right team in place to plan and lead them, this could be an easy way to engage more people and raise more funds.  
    • If you are partnering with companies and other organizations, reach out with your plans sooner than you think you should. You will avoid the risk of getting turned down because you waited too long.
    • When you invite donors to events, be a great host to them. A small acknowledgement goes a long way!
  • Communication tools keep donors engaged throughout the year. There are some organizations that bombard donors with too many mails and requests. Then there are some who only send reminder newsletters when it’s time for end of the year fundraising. Neither of these extremes are very effective strategies. Different sets of donors prefer different approaches to communication.
    • Evaluate your donor database and determine who would prefer printed newsletters and the percentage of donors who would prefer to keep up with you simply over social media and occasional emails. Now plan your communication strategy accordingly. Keep your social media page active and relevant. Encourage your donors to help your page grow. Your staff, volunteers and board can be your free advertising tool.

Which of these designs will make a greater impact? The one with just the right amount of information.

  • Budget for good presentation and marketing. This is an area where nonprofits often become stringent. When assigning a budget to your marketing efforts, remember this: Unless your stories get told in a manner that further engages your current and future donors, you will not be able to attract more donors to support you. The content, frequency and presentation skills will reveal how serious you are about the work you do. Donors judge based on the quality of messaging that you send through your communication media.
  • Measure your fundraising strategy outcomes every month or once a quarter depending on how robust your fundraising strategy is. It’s not just about how much effort you are putting into fundraising, it’s about getting results. 
    • Did we hit our fundraising goal for the month/quarter?
    • What was the percentage increase in donor participation during events?
    • How many new donors did we acquire this year?
    • Is our fundraising strategy still relevant for the rest of the year?

Helping the strategy succeed: 

  • If you don’t already have someone in-charge of implementing your fundraising plans for the year, hire someone to get it done. Give your strategy a fair chance to win/
  • Set up accounts for easy donations. If your donors prefer sending checks, have a mailing address in place and communicate it through all your communication tools. We recommend having an option to pay online as well. Make it easy for donors to give. List out your needs and the impact their gifts would have. 
    • According to The Blackbaud Index, online charitable giving increased by 15.3% in 2016. More than 4000 organizations were compared to establish this number. 

Managing donors is one of the most important components of running a non-profit. Without a functional donor management strategy, sustainability of funding sources can take a serious hit. Commit to a great strategy and let us know if it worked.

If you have questions or need assistance with your fundraising strategy for the year, get in touch with TOM!


final-3

Author: The Overseas Magazine Editor

Staying organized throughout the year made easy

Staying organized is a result of building habits that are simple and sustainable. This post recommends a few habits that can assist you in staying organized throughout the year.

If you are not a naturally organized person, you can set a reminder for yourself to help you get better at it. Be patient through the small changes and failure. If you’ve never been organized before, the change will not happen overnight. Let’s get started!

Clutter 1.16.17.jpg

Habit 1: Purge.

A great start to being organized throughout the year is to begin by purging. Depending on how special of a hoarder you are, schedule either a few hours or several days to get this done.

Things you will need:

  • 3 boxes (medium or large cardboard boxes will do)
  • labels
  • markers
  • trash bag(s)

Tip: It’s better to estimate more time than less because purging usually always takes longer than anticipated.

Focus on one zone at a time. Start with a smaller area, which could be just your backpack or the top of your dresser and then move on to bigger areas like your closet. The idea is not to let a huge pile of clutter demotivate you from finishing the job.

The three boxes:  

Assign and label a box to contain items that you need time to think about. Keep the filter thin so that you don’t end up putting everything that you have in there. Items of sentimental value, like cards, letters, trinkets can go in there.

The second box could contain things that don’t belong to the area that you are organizing but you don’t have an assigned place for them yet. Again keep the number of items that you put in this box to a minimal.

Get rid of all the things that you don’t need. Sell them or give them away. Put everything that you plan to sell or give away in the third box.

Use the trash bag to throw out anything you plan to throw out and take it out as soon as you are done.

If you have a lot of items in the boxes, sort them out soon after instead of keeping them in those boxes until your next purging session 🙂 Complete one zone fully before moving to the next to keep the workload manageable.

Getting rid of things that you no longer need does not need to be limited to just once a year but in reality it’s better to have time scheduled once a year to get them done.

Habit 2: Contain

It’s usually the small things that create the appearance of clutter unless they are neatly contained.

Things you will need:

  • Boxes/baskets/small bowls
  • Labels and markers
20170114_115249
Empty chocolate box for jewelry. Compartments work great for storing small jewelry.

Use wrapped boxes or baskets to contain trinkets, magazines, stationery, jewelry and small fitness equipment. Organizing does not have to be an expensive affair. Make it a habit to contain piles and stacks to make them stay neat.

Habit 3: Designated storage.

One reason why we can’t find our keys and wallets just when we need them is because they land up wherever we decide to drop them when we get home. Be mindful about picking easy access storage spaces. 

clutter-1-12-17

One important key to designating storage areas is to make them as functional as possible.

Things that are used everyday need easier access than things that you need only once a year. In order to maximize your limited storage space, store things according to the season. For example, umbrellas need to be within easy reach in the monsoon and snow boots need to be easily accessible during winter. Winters need more coats and summers need more slippers. In winter, kitchens might be stored with more soup spices and the crock pot might claim a permanent corner. If you don’t need them for the summer, put them away and reuse the space for them for summer things. So plan to switch things around according to your needs in order to keep your organized system functional throughout the year.

When things are easier to find because of your organizing habits, it will serve as a motivator to stay organized.

20170114_132635-1
Snacks basket will store those multiple packets neatly.

Habit 4: Put things in their proper place immediately.

If you keep throwing things where they don’t belong, it won’t be long before your space is cluttered again. A few extra seconds to put something in its right place will help save several minutes of searching tomorrow. Put things away where they belong right away and they won’t get out of control.

The little foxes ruin the vine.

A few months ago, one of our storage unit covers came off its hinges. Instead of dealing with it as soon as we could, we ended up ignoring it for a while because life got busy. What that resulted in was a pile of random things stacking up all around it. Somehow even the items that did not belong to that storage unit, landed in its messy pile. We finally got the unit fixed and tidied up the corner. 

Being proactive in staying organized will enhance productivity in other areas of your life.

Habit 5: Schedule organizing at regular intervals.

Regularly schedule a few minutes either on a weeknight or weekend to tidy up your space. Some days will be easier than others but staying organized is a result of small changes that you make everyday.

Start with a little at a time.

So go ahead and put aside a few hours for the next few weekends/weekdays to conquer one section at a time. Organizing in manageable portions and consistently managing your space can be life changing.

Do you have other tips that help you stay organized? Share them in the comments below.


final-3

The Overseas Magazine Editor

Entrepreneurial Employees

Entrepreneurial employees – the one consistent wish on every manager’s list. Not everyone with an entrepreneurial mindset end up starting their own companies – some of them work for other companies and are probably part of your team now. 

Habits of employees with an entrepreneurial mindset:traits-of-entrepreneurs

  • They don’t hesitate to take initiative and display strong leadership skills
  • They are constant learners and use opportunities to grow
  • They are driven by outcomes and impatient to succeed
  • They can work independently without supervision
  • They will leave your company sooner than later unless you give them a purposeful reason to stay. 

A manager’s leadership style can influence how entrepreneurial an employee will be. There are certainly some employees who will always just show up at work and do the bare minimum in exchange for a paycheck. But even in that situation, managers can encourage an attitude of entrepreneurship. On the other hand, employees who have an entrepreneurial mindset will also stop investing in the company if the leader fails to manage them well.

Managers who destroy entrepreneurship share some common traits:

  • They micromanage their employees because they believe that any amount of autonomy granted to employees will be exploited. Managers who believe this find it difficult to trust their employees with the simplest of projects.
A new manager was assigned to a team and the manager began to believe that the team did not have enough work. To remedy that, she began managing them so closely that the team decided to let her do all the work and simply do what they were told. Despite creating verbal action plans during meetings, her team would not deliver on projects. Whenever she confronted them, the same excuse was shared, “I didn’t know that I was supposed to do that.” The manager was frustrated with her team and decided that the best course of action was to start managing them even more closely. Since her team lacked initiative in leading projects, she decided to send them detailed notes at the end of each meeting to dictate every task that she had assigned to them so that they would no longer be able to use their usual excuse.

There are three main problems with this approach. Firstly, the manager will end up wasting a lot more time each day writing out those detailed emails to them. Secondly, if she does miss including something in her email, she will end up with the same ‘lack of initiative’ complain towards the team because the task will go unfinished. Additionally, her approach will crush any possibility of coaching her team to take ownership of their projects.

  • The other trait in managers that destroys an entrepreneurial spirit is criticizing new ideas and shooting down new solutions to problems. 
A friend of mine shared this about her manager. The manager encouraged new ideas only in theory. The manager would criticize the team for not thinking creatively but no matter how great an idea was, it would get rejected before it had even been fully discussed. And some of those ideas had potential. Needless to say, as time passed the team was less inclined to share ideas because everything was “shelved” for the future.

When faced with a problem, such managers then make it their responsibility to solve everything without including any inputs from the team. Even when inputs are encouraged, they steer the solution to what they had planned to do right from the start.

  • These managers end up delegating only mindless tasks that are aimed to keep employees busy without adding any value to the employee’s role. Some managers fail to learn the art of delegating.
A few months ago, I was discussing delegation skills with someone in a leadership role. The person was talking about their reasons for not delegating projects. They said that delegating often requires more effort to explain than to simply do the work themselves. The manager failed to understand that delegating projects in addition to coaching employees would be an easy way to develop the next line of leaders.

The other reason why this leader did not delegate was because they would wait too late to start the project and would run out of time to train someone else on the project. Needless to say, the manager was struggling to retain employees.

  • They believe that they need to stop employees with entrepreneurial mindsets from using company resources to build their own companies. Employees with an entrepreneurial mindset almost always have side businesses and it is this characteristic that makes them work smarter to make their employer succeed as well. 
 I was recently reading an entrepreneur’s success story. The entrepreneur admitted that he had spent hours building his own company while still employed at a full-time job. Instead of wasting down time at his job, he would use it all to work on his own company. After almost a year of working this way, he quit his full-time job and launched his own children’s book company.

During his role at his full-time job, he had succeeded in making a greater impact in the company than most of his other colleagues who were planning to work there for several more years.

If you want your team to continue developing an entrepreneurial attitude and exhibit a greater responsibility towards your company’s success, there are a few things that you can do.

Action Description
Be thoughtful in your leadership Managing employees with an entrepreneurial spirit requires  more transparent and approachable leadership instead of simply distributing tasks.
Allow your team to work independently Entrepreneurs work best when there aren’t suffocating and unnecessary rules. The successes that entrepreneurs create far outweigh the challenges of working with them.
Encourage and accept fresh ideas and solutions If the ideas that they offer are not useful, coach them to think critically and relevantly.
Delegate projects based on expertise Make your team grow by challenging them to work on projects that require critical thinking.
Be generous with time offs and adjusted schedules Employees who are granted more flexibility in choosing their work hours tend to use their time at work wisely and end up being more productive. (Important question for managers – do you want your employees to fake busyness or be genuinely productive?)
Hold them accountable Entrepreneurs thrive on outcomes. Let them be responsible for their successes and failures and guide them to think of effective solutions when they fail.

The right mix of leadership will help employees succeed and that, in turn, will result in greater success for the company. Those who don’t fit in will leave, and those who stay will excel. You will maximize resources, get more accomplished and overall have less managing to do. 

It’s true that there will still be those who will not turn entrepreneurial and will not take ownership of projects despite getting every opportunity to grow. They need to be managed differently.

If you have a great team, encourage them to be entrepreneurs. When you have a new hire, the work culture that you set with them will determine how engaged they are with the company’s success. Young professionals are often easier to mold than seasoned employees. Train them, coach them and let them work independently if you truly want to foster entrepreneurs and result in greater success.


final-3

The Overseas Magazine Editor