Individual superpowers add up to team strengths
Play to your team strengths

At Leadfully, we believe in superpowers. Superpowers are the strengths that define us. Not skills or areas of expertise that we learn over time, like managing projects or creating presentations, but innate talents or capacities that are part of our identity — for instance, creative thinking, problem solving, or grit. When you’re channeling your superpower, you’re totally in your element. On a team, knowing what superpower each person brings lets you take advantage of the team’s full inherent potential. As leaders, our job is to discover those individual strengths and create opportunities for them to shine. Look for complementary strengths Create powerful duos by pairing up people with complementary superpowers — for instance, someone who’s strong in systems thinking with someone who’s strong in experimentation. Working with someone whose superpower complements your own helps fill in any gaps or weaknesses in how you might approach the work alone. Finding complements will also reveal which superpowers don’t mix so well. A peacemaker and a provocateur, for example, may not see eye to eye. Plan for potential conflicts by understanding where people’s strengths might work at cross purposes. Strive for balance A team is usually more effective when there’s both a diversity

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how to deliver bad news to your team
April 11, 2017
How to say the hardest things

In November 2004, Tysabri, a drug treatment for multiple sclerosis, received a rare boost from the FDA. Because the disease is so serious and the drug held so much promise, the FDA decided to fast-track Tysabri’s path to MS patients. A celebratory mood took hold at Biogen and Élan, the two pharmaceutical companies that collaborated on the project. Three months later, everything froze. The FDA put all clinical trials of Tysabri on hold. They ordered the drug to be pulled from the market. Three patients had developed brain infections, two of them fatal. Imagine yourself in the shoes of one of the leaders at Biogen or Élan. How do you address your team at such a moment? How do you deliver such devastating news without torpedoing team morale for months to come? At some point in their lives, every leader has to stand up in front of their team and deliver a tough message. Here’s what to do when that time comes. Reflect on what the news looks like from your team’s perspective. You have a million anxieties swirling in your mind. But what are your teams’ concerns? Identify and acknowledge their top worries. A simple and powerful exercise mentioned

March 28, 2017
Learning to lead: 3 big questions to ask yourself

Leadership isn’t just about leading others — you have to first be able to lead yourself. This takes constant learning and self-awareness, a knowledge of yourself that’s best gained through reflection: understanding your superpowers, your shortcomings, and how you show up in different situations. It can be hard to create space for reflection, especially when you’re caught up in the challenge of learning to lead, but try — you’ll be surprised by how much you can learn. Here are three big questions that can help you look deeper into how you are leading (and a few smaller questions to help you reflect on each one). What makes you lead the way you do? One of the first examples of leadership we experience is our parents. When we’re children, parents represent natural authority in our lives. For better or for worse, their model of leadership has a deep impact on how we relate to the concept of leading. For me, for instance, I think it resulted in me placing too much importance on the ability to inspire and awe people through impressive actions. It wasn’t until much later in life that I learned more subtle approaches to leading. So think all

The multi-generational workplace
March 14, 2017
The multi-generational workplace: One Gen Xer’s personal journey

Lesson 1 Collar, cuffs, sleeves, front, back. In that order. My first paid job was pressing my father’s dress shirts. He wore one every day with a sport jacket to his aerospace engineering job in Los Angeles. It was the late ’70s. The workforce was heavily represented by the boomer generation. There was a properness to work culture back then. Work etiquette, if you will. Less collaboration, more “follow the leader.” Leaders were senior. They made decisions. Their people executed accordingly and generally didn’t question the decisions that were made. My mother returned to the workplace around that same time, in the security business for a government contractor. She wore the female equivalent of my dad’s business attire: the skirt suit and pantyhose. Lesson 2 Clear nail polish can stop a run in your L’eggs stockings. I had a brief stint in retail in the late ’80s, trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I made it all the way to associate manager of the women’s sportswear department at Robinsons-May. Retail was the one industry that women largely dominated at the time, often incentivized by a discount on clothing. It gave me my first

imagine positive solutions
February 21, 2017
Steal this: A way to come up with positive solutions

Let’s say it’s 4 p.m. on a Friday, and a client emails you: “We’d like to see another concept for the home page.” Oh, no, you think. There goes my weekend. From there, you start to spin: It’s going to take me all weekend to come up with the comps they need. And what’s the point? If they didn’t like the other ideas I shared, they probably won’t like this one, either. Whoa. It’s time to take stock of what you know for sure versus what you’re assuming. You almost definitely have many more options available to you than you realize. Steal this worksheet to summon your creativity It’s human nature to make assumptions, particularly in a fast-paced culture that rewards quick thinking and decisive action. But it’s important that we train ourselves to pause and be mindful of the story we’re telling ourselves in a given situation. It’s in these pauses that we learn to summon optimism. With practice, it becomes our instinct, no matter how stressful the circumstances, to imagine the possibilities rather than assume the worst. In the scenario above, there are actually multiple ways you might respond: You could gather the team and work all weekend.

letters from leaders: recognizing your team
February 7, 2017
Letters from leaders to leaders: Thank you for seeing me

Leaders are shaped by other leaders, especially former bosses. On one end of the spectrum, they might be case studies for what happens when leadership falls short. On the other end, they’re proof positive of how great leadership impacts people’s lives for the better, even beyond the workplace. What do we see in the leaders of our past that stays with us? What would we say to them now? This week, Leadfully explores this through a letter of gratitude from Amanda Hirsch to Cindy Johanson. Cindy (@cinjo) is the executive director of the George Lucas Educational Foundation. Amanda worked for her at PBS, where Cindy was the Senior Vice President of Interactive and Education. Dear Cindy, I was such a baby when I started working for you. I lacked both hobbies and children, so being a workaholic was exceedingly easy. You saw something in me — actually, no, scratch that: you saw me. I’ve had other bosses who haven’t understood me, but you did. You rooted for me, too, and you had my back. That’s the main thing I learned from you about leadership: You need to have your team’s back. Our whole department was like one big family. We

leaders in a world that will not stand still
January 24, 2017
Leading in a world that will not stand still

This week’s post offers a broader perspective on Leadfully’s purpose — what we believe and why it matters — through the eyes of our parent company, SYPartners. There you stand. Seemingly on stable ground. And then the world shifts. You are untethered. It takes effort, but you stabilize yourself and your team. And then the world shifts around you, yet again. This is leadership. •   •   • As leaders, how do we need to be? As we come to the mindful realization that we control very little, and command even less, the definition of what it means to lead changes. Much of what we’ve been trained to do as leaders is no longer enough — linear thinking, defining decision rights, hierarchical management practices, optimization strategies, process, change management. All necessary, none sufficient. So what is the missing ingredient? Over the past two decades at SYPartners, we’ve been learning from, and inventing with, some of the world’s most successful companies and organizations — as they confront waves of change and therefore start to view the abilities of constantly adapting, constantly becoming a better version of oneself, perpetually transforming as the real work of leadership. Starbucks. Apple. AARP. IBM. Girl Effect. Hyatt. The Future

2017 leadership intentions
January 10, 2017
It’s a new year. What will you do with it?

The best leaders are fueled by a sense of purpose and clear intention that keeps them going — even when things seem fuzzy. It’s not just about what you will do, but why and how. To help you lead fully in 2017, we’ve put together a quick exercise to help you get you started and build some momentum: 1. Explore these twelve ideas and next steps to change your leadership behavior for the better. 2. Use the tips below to keep yourself on track and revisit your leadership intentions on a more regular basis: Write it down and put it where you can see it. Calendar events, computer desktops, sticky notes in places you can’t avoid — give yourself a visible reminder wherever works for you. Create rituals and habits that work with your life, not against it. Odds are you’re a busy person. Think about when you tend to have energy during the day, where you might find extra pockets of time, what could be done more efficiently or more thoroughly, etc. — and take it all into account as you find ways to follow through on your intention. Outsmart your inner cheater and find an accountability partner. When it comes to changing our behavior, sometimes the most effective

the business case for authenticity
December 27, 2016
The business case for authenticity

I was fortunate enough to attend PopTech last fall, and doubly fortunate to get to hear Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino’s talk about authenticity. In it, she shared research showing that being more authentic at work isn’t just about feeling good; it actually boosts performance. As she summarizes in Harvard Business Review, In one study Dan Cable, of London Business School, and Virginia Kay, then of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, surveyed 154 recent MBA graduates who were four months into their jobs. Those who felt they could express their authentic selves at work were, on average, 16% more engaged and more committed to their organizations than those who felt they had to hide their authentic selves. In another study, Cable and Kay surveyed 2,700 teachers who had been working for a year and reviewed the performance ratings given by their supervisors. Teachers who said they could express their authentic selves received higher ratings than teachers who did not feel they could do so. Gino defines authenticity as the opposite of conformity: Conforming often conflicts with our true preferences and beliefs and therefore makes us feel inauthentic. In fact, research I conducted with Maryam Kouchaki, of

steal this end-of-year performance review template
December 16, 2016
Steal this: A template for end-of-year reviews

For most companies, the end of the year signals a time to reflect — and set new intentions for the upcoming year. As people-leaders, the end-of-year conversation is an opportunity to gather input on those we manage and give them the feedback they need, helping set them up for success in the year to come. Back in the day, when I managed the strategy team at SYPartners’ New York office, I created a simple template to help frame my end-of-year conversations with the people on my team. Recently I’ve found myself sharing this template with friends and colleagues at different organizations to help them have more meaningful conversations — and I wanted to share this tool with you. Steal this template Here are some additional tips on how to gather and synthesize the feedback you’ll need to fill out the template and prepare for a great end-of-year review. 1. Collect feedback. Pick at least three people who work with each person you manage. These people should ideally represent a mix of disciplines and levels (e.g., someone they report to, a peer, and someone who reports to them on the team). I find it works best to ask for feedback using

Leadfully Book Club: The Shallows — a thought on neuroplasticity and leading by example
November 21, 2016
Leadfully Book Club: The Shallows

From time to time, we check in with members of the Leadfully community for book recommendations and leadership-relevant takeaways based on their recent reading. This week, Leadfully Advisor Jordan Hirsch shares an insight from his reading of Nicholas Carr’s The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains. From The Shallows, chapter 3: Our new knowledge of neuroplasticity untangles this conundrum. Between the intellectual and behavioral guardrails set by our genetic code, the road is wide, and we hold the steering wheel. Through what we do and how we do it — moment by moment, day by day, consciously or unconsciously — we alter the chemical flows in our synapses and change our brains. And when we hand down our habits of thought to our children, through the examples we set, the schooling we provide, and the media we use, we hand down as well the modifications in the structure of our brains. The concept of neuroplasticity was a big eye-opener for me — the idea that we’re not stuck with the brain patterns that we’re used to. The idea that we can actually reshape our brains by reinforcing certain patterns means that we have the power to literally

Leadfully 21st-Century Leadership Assessment
November 15, 2016
Find out what kind of 21st-century leader you are

Today we’re excited to share our brand new 21st-Century Leadership Assessment (currently in beta). In a world of constant disruption, the best leaders don’t just need to be comfortable with change — they need to excel at leading in its midst. That requires four core capabilities: Optimism: The ability to see a path forward Creativity: The ability to invent and iterate Authentic communication: The ability to connect with others in meaningful ways Humanity: The ability to bring out the best in those around you At Leadfully, we’ve made it our business to create and offer ways for you to master these capabilities. It’s a personal and professional journey — and our leadership assessment is a great place to start. Learn what kind of 21st-century leader you are.

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