Are You An Amateur or a Professional?

Today, I read a post by Shane Parrish on his Farnam Street blog and couldnt resist sharing this with you. He tries to explain why some people are ultra successful and some are not, despite having similar knowledge or experience.

He goes on to share that one of the defining aspect that can explain this difference – Mindset.

How we see ourselves matters Click To Tweet

If we consider ourselves professionals, our chances of success goes up significantly. So, what makes one an amateur or a professional. Below is his take on the difference between amateurs and professionals.

Most of us are just amateurs.

Amateurs stop when they achieve something. Professionals understand that the initial achievement is just the beginning.

Amateurs have a goal. Professionals have a process.

Amateurs think they are good at everything. Professionals understand their circles of competence.

Amateurs see feedback and coaching as someone criticizing them as a person. Professionals know they have weak spots and seek out thoughtful criticism.

Amateurs value isolated performance. Think about the receiver who catches the ball once on a difficult throw. Professionals value consistency. Can I catch the ball in the same situation 9 times out of 10?

Amateurs give up at the first sign of trouble and assume they’re failures. Professionals see failure as part of the path to growth and mastery.

Amateurs don’t have any idea what improves the odds of achieving good outcomes. Professionals do.

Amateurs show up to practice to have fun. Professionals realize that what happens in practice happens in games.

Amateurs focus on identifying their weaknesses and improving them. Professionals focus on their strengths and on finding people who are strong where they are weak.

Amateurs think knowledge is power. Professionals pass on wisdom and advice.

Amateurs focus on being right. Professionals focus on getting the best outcome.

Amateurs focus on first-level thinking. Professionals focus on second-level thinking.

Amateurs think good outcomes are the result of their brilliance. Professionals understand when outcomes are the result of luck.

Amateurs focus on the short term. Professionals focus on the long term.

Amateurs focus on tearing other people down. Professionals focus on making everyone better.

Amateurs make decisions in committees so there is no one person responsible if things go wrong. Professionals make decisions as individuals and accept responsibility.

Amateurs blame others. Professionals accept responsibility.

Amateurs show up inconsistently. Professionals show up every day.

There are a host of other differences, but they can effectively be boiled down to two things: fear and reality.

Amateurs believe that the world should work the way they want it to. Professionals realize that they have to work with the world as they find it. Amateurs are scared — scared to be vulnerable and honest with themselves. Professionals feel like they are capable of handling almost anything.

Questions we need to ask is the following:

In which area of our lives are we acting like a professional and where do we act as amateurs? Which areas of our lives do need to become a professional in?

Here is the original blog:

The Difference Between Amateurs and Professionals

This is one blog that I recommend everyone of us to read and follow. IF you do nothing but read everything that is written on this blog, you will end up much smarter than you start with.

 

7 Practices of Highly Inspired People

I have been writing every for this blog for the past 20 days and every time I open up my laptop to write, I don’t necessarily have an idea that I want to write about. I need some kind of an inspiration, some seed of a thought which can then go on to become a blog post. This is what writers call inspiration. As entrepreneurs, we our productivity and effectiveness is at its highest when we are inspired. So it is with our team mates.

All creative ideas have an inspiration as their seed. Someone somewhere was inspired by someone/something that led him/her to come up and express their creativity. As entrepreneurs, we know the importance of creativity in our pursuit. We are constantly facing challenging situations that need to be solved. The more creative and practical our solutions, the more success we can see in our enterprise. This is as much true for us as leaders as much it is for our teams.

All kinds of artists and entrepreneurs are always looking for inspiration or as they call it – their muse. There are times when something comes together in our minds rather suddenly and strangely.

The question then to ask ourselves is the following:

Is it possible for us to find inspiration & thereafter stay inspired? Can we do it on-demand?

Can we create an environment where not just us, but everyone in the environment can access inspiration on-demand?

I believe that the answer to all these questions is a resounding “Yes”. I can tell this with some authority as I have been able to find inspiration to create something every single day for the past 30 days as a result of some practices that I have put in place in my live. I can tell this with authority as I know of a lot of artists and entrepreneurs have done this in their lives from which I have learnt a lot. I can tell this with authority as there is a lot of scientific research that has show that this is possible. 

Before we start talking about practices to find inspiration on-demand, lets first try to understand what inspiration actually is. Every time we come across a new set of information or a fresh idea, the way our brains process them is that it creates a new neural pathway that corresponds to this idea. Now, almost all neural pathway is connected to all other pathways. The question is for us to find some of these interesting connection.

We say we are inspired by something, when unwittingly our brain has found a new neural pathway from one known pathway to another known pathway. So, almost all new inspiration is about finding new neural pathways from one existing idea to another. This can happen by connecting one idea with another, combining different ideas, subtracting something from one idea or even a combination of all of these tricks. The most fundamental thing here is that we need to be exposed to a lot of different ideas.

Once when someone asked me about how to get new ideas, I had responded that in order to get new ideas, you need a lot of old ideas. Every idea that we come across is filed away in our brain and is similar to an alphabet in our language. We are able to combine these alphabets to come up with words (first simple, then complex) and build our vocabulary. We can then use these words to come up with sentences and then combine these sentences to come up with paragraphs, stories, poetry and so and so forth. So, the more ideas that we are exposed to, the more chances we have of coming up with an inspired idea.

Being inspired is a state of mind.

Creating conditions for inspiration is about finding and accessing the states of mind that works best for us. Knowing this, here are some practices that I have put in place in my life to find inspiration on-demand.

Practice 1: The Practice Intentionality:

The first practice is all about noticing thing all around us. There are ideas all around us. The way someone is dressed, the advertisement that we saw on TV, the way something is on display in a shop, the way a speaker presented his idea, the story your child told you about her school, the way a dancer moved on stage, the way a musician composed his song, etc.. The list goes on and on. There are ideas all around us. What we need to do is be intentional about noticing these ideas.

Practice 2: The Practice of Diversity:

As i have already indicated, in order to be inspired, we need to allow our brains to connect disparate information together, which means that we need to expose ourselves to diverse and disparate information from different sources. If we only read the same stuff everyday, watch the same shows on TV, take the same route to office everyday, see the same friends, work in the same industry, we are ensuring that we will not have the diverse inputs needed for us to be and stay inspired.

So, we need to read different kinds of stuff, watch different kinds of shows, visit new places, take different routes to office, work in different industries or at least meet with people who are not very similar to us and our appraoch to life. We need to mix things up intentionally.

I know people who pick up magazines specifically not targetted for them, attend conferences which have nothing to do with their industry or the kind of work they do. I myself have a reading list that is varied and consists of material and topics that is no way connected to the work that i do. Yet, my brain always finds a connection between what I do and what i read. That is the job of my brain that it does really well.

Practice 3: The Practice of Reflection:

Once we notice things around us, we then need to find a way to capture and reflect on these ideas. We could capture them by clicking a picture, taking a video, making a note (audio or text), connecting this idea with something that we already deeply care about. I use all of these methods to capture ideas – click pictures/videos, make notes (text or audio), save something on my Evernote (stuff that I find interesting online), etc.

The key here is that we need to go back to these ideas on a regular basis so that we are able to create neural pathways to these ideas and can retrieve them on-demand when needed.

Practice 4: The Practice of Brahmanian Thinking:

In Hindu mythology, there are three gods who are the “Trinity”. One of them, Brahma, the creator, is supposed to have 4 heads, one in each direction. I consider that as an analogy for us to learn to see and think from different perspectives before creating anything new. This holds true for all creative ideas.

The practice of looking at the same thing from different angles and perspectives offers us a great deal of more information that can then trigger new ideas. It is important for us to build this habit intentionally. This is the key practice if we are to be able to make unusual connection. If we see the same thing that everyone else sees, we will come to the same conclusion that everyone else is coming to and thereby we will come up the same kinds of ideas that everyone else is coming up with.

Practice 5: The Practice of Reframing:

Another way to ensure that we are able to speed up the ability to connect disparate ideas and inputs to form new, creative and inspired stuff is by practicing the art of reframing. Our brain functions in a way that it frames everything that it encounters in one way or another. Add to this that the way our brain functions is that if we pose a question, it is conditioned to work towards finding an answer.

So, If we can find a way to frame the question or the problem differently than what was originally posed, we are able to solve it differently as well. There are different ways to reframe any challenge or issues or problems.

We can reframe by changing the context in which the problem is being faced, by changing the person whose point of view is being used to solve the problem and similar.

Practice 6: The Practice of  Constraints:

One of the ways that we can force ourselves to come up with interesting and unique ideas or feel inspired is when we introduce new constraints. This again is how our brains function. If i were to ask you to list 25 items that are white in colour in your home, you might take longer to answer if I just asked you to list 25 items that are white in colour in your kitchen. This is just how our brains work.

So, if we are looking for an inspiration for something, we will do better if we introduce new constraints in our thinking. This could come in many forms – we need ideas that use sound/music, will use comedy, will make use of children, needs to cost us under a certain cost or needs to use a specific color even. The idea is to move between different constraints to see if any of them inspire us to come up with something really unique and inspired.

Practice 7: The Practice of Practice:

The last but the most important practice to getting and staying inspired is to practice being inspired. We need to constantly work our muscles of creativity and inspiration. As most inspired creators will tell you, they need to build in rituals and habits of getting and staying inspired. This is also like a muscle. The more we practice, the stronger it gets.

In short, we need to practice getting inspired on a daily basis. We can’t do the work every single day by practicing all these practices and expect to get inspired on-demand. This is the work-ethic that is needed to get and stay inspired.

When inspiration does not come to me, I go halfway to meet it  -Freud

In Conclusion:

There are a lot of things that we can do to get and stay inspired on-demand. There is also a lot that we can do to create an environment that allows us to create a culture where our teams can get and stay inspired on-demand.
I will delve deeper into how to create a culture where teams can get and stay inspired in a separate post shortly.
Btw, this post was also inspired by a post by  on here.

Why Are Meetings so Important and How to Make them Effective and Fun

Premise:

Not a day goes by when I dont hear someone complain about yet another meeting that they need to attend and how it is such a waste of time, money and effort.

Yet, there is enough written about the way Alan Mulally, the ex-CEO of Ford, turned around the company in his stint as the CEO, primarily using a weekly cadence meeting with his entire leadership team , called The Business Plan Review. You can read more about this and how he ran these meetings here.

What he has shown is that meetings can be extremely productive for organisations and have the potential to even transform an organisation. So, if we think our meetings are not effective, it is the way we run these meetings that is the problem.

Meetings Are Reflections of the Culture

Also, I believe that the way we run our meetings is reflective of the culture of our organisation. If we think that our meetings are not effective, that reflects on the culture of our organisation. Ineffective meetings are the symptom of a much deeper cultural issues within an organisation. Just as meetings offer a peak into the functioning culture of an organisation, they also offer a way to transform that culture by transforming the way meetings are run.   

I recently read “Read this before our Next Meeting” written by Al Pittampalli. In the book, Al talks about 7 principles of Modern meetings: 

The Modern meeting

supports a decision that has already been made.

moves fast and ends on schedule.

limits the number of attendees.

rejects the unprepared.

produces committed action plans.

refuses to be informational. Reading memos is mandatory.

works on alongside a culture of brainstorming.

Issues with Meetings

In my opinion, there are two issues with meetings – They are boring and they lack accountability. 

Meetings are Boring:

Most meetings are boring because they follow the same pattern. There is no clear agenda or preparation behind the meeting. The responsibility of preparation rests with both the host and the guests of the meeting.

The host of the meeting, the one who calls for the meeting, is responsible for:

  1. The host should have a clearly defined purpose for the meeting, shared with all the participants.
  2. The host should prepare all the background information that is needed ahead of time and shared the same with his guests.
  3. The host is responsible for driving the meeting and achieving the result that he/she expected from the meeting.
  4. A meeting is the scheduled as a last resort. The host has to first explore if the purpose can be achieved either by an email discussion, an online poll, a survey, 1-1 meetings or a combination of these. As this is the last resort, this needs to work and it is the responsibility of the host to make this work.
  5. It is the responsibility of the host to ensure that only and all relevant people are participating in the meeting. 

If we are invited to attend a meeting, it is our responsibility to:

  1. Read all background material that has already been shared and come prepared based on the purpose of the meeting. We should not attend a meeting, if we are not prepared for it.
  2. If we don’t get all the background material for preparation, we should not attend the meeting.
  3. Be on time and be prepared. Be present in the meeting and offer our full support to the host in achieving the purpose for which the meeting was called for.

Meetings lack Accountability:

Any meeting that doesn’t enforce accountability on all the participants of the meeting is bound to be ineffective. It is the role of the host to ensure that everyone in the meeting is held accountable for their part in the meeting and the actions that come out of the meeting.

Most meetings are convened to

– either decide on something,

– discuss on a decision already made,

– debate about a specific situation or

– Assign roles and responsibilities

It is the role of the host to ensure that roles are defined and agreed upon before or at least at the start of the meeting.

Roles in a meeting – Scribe and a TaskMaster

We need a scribe (who makes notes) and a task master (who makes a note of all the action that someone has either volunteered to do, has been assigned to do or has to get done). Having the second role ensures that there is nothing that gets missed. It is then the role of the host to circulate these notes and the tasks to the relevant people and the role of the task master to ensure that everyone who has some action that they need to do know what it is and by when it is due.

Post Meeting follow-up

The role of the host doesn’t end with the meeting. It is the responsibility of the host to ensure that every deliverable and action that was committed in the meeting is actually completed in the time frame that was agreed upon. In case, this is not the case, it is the responsibility of the host to escalate this with the right people until the action is completed.

In conclusion:

As leaders, it is our responsibility to ensure that our meetings are not only effective but also reflect the kind of culture we want in our teams.

If we want a culture of experimentation, our meetings need to reflect that. Click To Tweet

If we want a culture of accountability, our meetings need to reflect that. Click To Tweet

If we want a culture of fun and community, our meetings need to reflect that. Click To Tweet

Zetland magazine starts every team meeting with community singing. They even started their customer event with a song. In this blog post Stephanie Vozza, shares some examples of how teams are making their meetings interesting, effective and fun, all at the same time. 

As we can see, meetings are a great way to define the kind of culture we want to create in our organisation, while at the same time can serve as an effective way to move forward.

Meetings don’t have to be a waste of time or suck energy out of all the participants.  

So what do your meetings tell you about your culture? Click To Tweet

This post was inspired by a post on the David Guerin Blog.

10 Things to Practice Everyday

Move:

If there is one set of actions that can have disproportionate benefit for us, then it has to be movement. Our body is not designed to remain seated for long hours. It has been known for ages it is better to keep moving through out the day rather than exercising for an hour and not doing any physical movement for rest of the day.

Our body craves movement.

It is well-known that women around the world outlive men and are also less likely to suffer from fatal chronic diseases. There are many theories for the reasons this happens, but in my opinion one of the reason they do so is because they move more than men do. They are physically more active (not necessarily) through exercises but by generally moving about much more than men do. Even Simple activities like cooking, cleaning, washing, shopping and spending more time standing than sitting everyday can have significant impact on their health. So, even if you can’t find more time to do exercise, find reasons to move about through the day.

Practice Gratitude:

We live in a world that allows for constant comparisons with everyone else that we know of. Social media allows us to create a facade of happiness and success even if we don’t feel the happiness or success in our real lives.

There is an illusion that there is always someone who is more successful than us, who vacations in better places than us, has a more loving spouse and is happier than us. We can’t help but compare ourselves with those around us. This is an inbuilt function that is extremely difficult to switch off.

What we can do is to counter the feeling of inadequacy  with a practice of gratitude.

We could also look at all that we have with us that we can be grateful for – a stable job, decent health, a caring family, three meals a day, a home to stay, a smart phone and a Facebook or Instagram account to stay connected with our friends, the ability to make a difference in millions of lives and a peaceful city to live in.

We can also be grateful for good books, great pieces of art, soul wrenching music, beauty around us in nature… We get the point.

If we go looking out for things for which we can be grateful for, there is an abundance of these. So, lets start a practice of being grateful for at least 3 things every single day. This by itself has the ability to make a significant impact on our stress levels.

Be Present:

We are living in a generation where there are a million things that we could be doing at every given moment. The combination of a smart phone and its ability to connect to the internet has enabled this single device to offer us a never-ending stream of information that can both keep us entertained or engaged.

Add to this the proliferation of screens connected to internet all around us, which can identify who we are and tailor what they show based on our likes and preferences.

Add to this our very own conditioned minds which either worry about something could potentially happen in the future or about something that just happened.

All of these forces work to make it extremely difficult for us to stay in the present moment. It not only takes practice but we also need to plan and work towards living in the present moment.

This is not very difficult as every child can do it with ease but as we grow older, we tend to lose this ability as we don’t use it as much as we used it while we were kids.

It’s not that difficult as people make it out to be, if we learn how to do this.

The trick here is to use a reminder to check if we are fully present in the moment or not. It could be as simple as our watch or even our phones. We just need to train our minds to think of this question every time we see, touch or think about this item. Once we check, we just bring ourselves to the present moment. 

Plan:

Life is full of paradoxes, some apparent and some not so apparent. While it is very important to live in the present moment, we also need to be able to deliberate about what we want to pay attention to and what we need to avoid.

This means that we need to have a clear idea about what we want to achieve on any given day. This goes on to show that we need to have a goal we are working towards. We need to have an overarching destination towards which we are moving and we need to identify the most important actions that we need to take every single day that will move us closer to the goal.

If we are not deliberate about how we spend our time and our daily activity, we can be sure that our destination will most likely remain out of reach.

So, have a plan. We can change the plan as we go along through the day but we need to have a plan to start the day.

One of the best way to plan that I have seen work really well is the one suggested by Stephen Covey. We start with an overarching goal, then break it down into yearly, quarterly and monthly goalposts. Then we identify the actions that we need to take on a regular basis and block them out on a weekly basis. This becomes sacrosanct and everything else can take up all the other available time. We work on the big rocks first. 

Say No:

I know too many people who are stressed out and constantly anxious as they take on much more than they can handle.

They either haven’t learnt to say no or are afraid of saying “No”.

This is another one of the skills that if developed well can have significant impact on our stress and happiness levels.

Saying “No” is by itself an art that we need to practice and learn.

The better we get at this the more opportunities we will have to say “Yes” to the things that we really want to do and can provide meaning to us.

Have Fun

Having fun as an adult is under-rated.

As we grow into adults, there is an overbearing expectation that we need to behave in a certain manner and all other behaviours are not acceptable. This need and compulsion to comply to social expectation has meant that we have forgotten to find happiness in the smallest things in life.

I used to love getting wet in the first rain of the rainy season while growing up. I still would love to do that. The moment I bring it up as an option, people around me immediately respond with the quip – “Grow up” or “Stop behaving like a kid”.

Somehow, as a society we have set expectations that adults can have fun only in certain activities. All other activities are banned for us once we grow up.

How absurd!

Now, I am not advocating that each one of us needs to go out and start behaving like kids again. What I am advocating is that we need to find out what fun means for us and go have fun that way.

What I am advocating is that

We should not just plan to have fun during the weekend or holidays or after office hours. We need to plan and have fun every single day.

Learn:

Research has shown that we can continue to grow brain mass and new neural connections even after we have grown up. Research has also shown that someone with an active brain can avoid diseases like ALS or Alzheimer’s.

Add to this the pace of change around us. Every day, there is something new being invented. Everyday there is something new to read about. Everyday there is something new to learn.I have a long reading list that I try to cover every single day.

One of the ways to learn every single day is to reflect on the day at the end of the day.

This is a process by which we can learn from every single day of our lives. We can learn about people around us, we can learn about our own decision-making process, we can learn about how our teams think and act. We can learn about the challenges that we faced. We can learn about patterns that we would otherwise miss. Let’s try and learn something new everyday.

Empathise:

One of the qualities that make us inherently human is our ability to empathise with our fellow humans.

This is a unique ability that if honed and used well can help improve our relationships significantly. We don’t need any research to know that the biggest stress for all of us arises from our relationships with others – spouse, parents, kids, employees, managers, government officials, etc.

If we are able to empathise with others, we can significantly reduce the friction caused due to mis-understandings cause within relationships.

Also, this can help us build better products, make us better leaders, sell more effectively. Overall, great RoI for a simple skill.

The key is that this is also similar to any other muscle that we have in our body. The more we exercise this muscle, the stronger it becomes.

With daily practice, we can continue to get better at empthizing, irrespective of how good we are to start with. 

Be Patient:

We live in an era where we want everything instantly. We like instant coffee. We like instant entertainment (streaming music/video wherever we are). We like instant knowledge (Google, Wiki, Books on Kindle). We have lost our ability to wait for anything. The moment we have to wait in a queue to get our groceries billed and it takes a few minutes extra for the clerk and we get impatient and reach for our phones.

Most good things in life take time. 

It takes time to write and publish a good book. It takes time to give birth to another human. IT takes time to plant and grow a vineyard. It takes time to make a movie. It takes time to build a business. It takes time to convince and move people. It takes time to transform an organisation or a nation. We need to learn to be patient. This is again a muscle. The more we practice, the better we get at it.

Travel:

It is well-known that travelling is good for us in many ways. When we are travelling and in an alien land, our ability to stay in the present is heightened.

We allow ourselves to become our curious self.

We observe things much more than otherwise. We move outside our monotonous auto-mode of existence. This is exciting. It can also be a lot of fun.

You also learn a lot through these observations. You are also able to build a database of ideas which you can then mix and match with other ideas in your mind already and come up with new ideas when needed.

Travel also teaches us humility and a lot about ourselves and our comfort zones.

This post was inspired by a post by Anthony Iannarino on his blog here. 

 

A Simple Guide to Building an Engaged Team

Premise:

We don’t need tons of research to tell us the importance of having employees who are engaged in their work. It shows up in a lot of different ways that we can see. The result of an engaged set of employees shows up when an employee goes beyond his call of duty to serve a customer or when a team gets formed organically to address some specific issue that has cropped up during the day.

It is no surprise either when that having such an engaged workforce can and does become a true competitive advantage.

This also means that in a world with transient competitive advantage, businesses that are able to build an engaged workforce, which is also agile, becomes one of the top priority.

However, a leader can not expect to get an engaged workforce as a default. We need to build such teams, one at a time.

As they say,

This is simple, but ain’t easy.

It is also not a one time process that you increase the engagement levels and it will remain there. One needs to work hard to raise the engagement levels and work harder to keep it at that levels.

Having said that it is not easy, it need not be too difficult either. If done for the right reasons, building engagement can be a lot of fun and is definitely the right thing to do.

Building an Engaged Team

Here are a few things that we as leaders can do to work towards building an engaged workforce:

Hire & Fire people for their Attitude.

The engagement starts right from the first contact with an employee. It is important that while hiring people, we give more importance to their attitude towards work and if this fits the kind of attitude we want to have towards work inside of our teams. While some basic level of skills are needed to perform any job well, most of us can be trained to skill up but its much more difficult  to train for attitude. So, this means that we need to be slow to hire and be quick to fire (for attitude).

Compensate Well:

It is important that the issue of pay is taken off the table as early as possible. Pay the team well. If the business can afford, pay them better than your peers. If not, be creative and find different ways to compensate your employees (financially, psychologically, emotionally or physically). As long as employees think that they are not being compensated well, they can’t bring their whole self to work. Unless they bring their whole self to work, true engagement is not possible. So, take care of their compensation.

Respect & Trust:

Once the compensation is taken care of, then comes the emotional, psychological compensation. This is paid in terms of respect and trust. Respect to the different voices in the team, trust so that everyone feels it is ok for them to speak up, irrespective of what they are about to say. This is again something that one needs to give first in order to receive. So, as leaders, we need to respect every employees opinion and trust their judgement. We need to trust that they have the best interest of the team and the business in mind, irrespective of how conflicting they might sound to us in moments. We need to give the respect and trust in order to gain their respect and trust.

Train People for Skills:

We also need to constantly find ways and means to up-skill our teams. The cost of doing this is far less than the cost of not doing this. This need not break our balance sheets as there are a lot of different ways for us to continue to train people at low or even minimal costs. We need to be creative when it comes to learning. It is not sufficient to train people so they are able to up-skill, but equally important to find ways and means to create opportunities for the teams to put these learnings to use. It is only when something learnt is put to use, do we truly have the opportunity to internalise the learnings.

Culture or Stories: People like us do things like this:

Then comes the part that culture plays in building engagement. We need to be extremely clear in our communications about what is acceptable in our teams and what is not. What is expected and what is not. This can be done in three distinct ways that feed into one another and create an upward spiral.

The stories we tell: One of the most elementary trait that teams possess is their sense of identity – people on this team do things like this. Stories can be a very powerful medium to reinforce what behaviour is expected, appreciated and will not be tolerated.

Living the stories: As leaders, we not only communicate these stories but need to be living breathing examples of these stories. If we say that diversity of thought is important, do we allow and appreciate diversity of thoughts in our daily behaviours? If we shut out every voice that doesn’t agree with our vision and thoughts, we can forget about building any kind of engagement.

Rewarding the stories: Once our teams see that we truly live the values that we espouse and they start trusting us enough that they start living out the values themselves, we need to actively find these acts and recognise or reward them appropriately, in public. This gives others who are still on the edge confidence to come over to our side and start playing as a team.

Play:

Teams that have fun together are some of the most engaged teams. It requires us to let our guards down in order to really have a lot of fun. This only happens if we trust everyone around us. What this means, is that if we want to build engagement in our teams, we need to find ways and means to create the opportunity so that the teams can have fun together.

Listen & Engage

One of the most important criteria for engagement is that it is always two ways. We can not expect engagement unless we ourselves are engaged as well. What this means is that we need to know the pulse of our teams and are completely engaged with our teams and the work that we do together. This means that we are there for the team members when they need us – as friends, colleagues, managers or just another empathetic fellow human being.

We need to continue to look at the team and explore if they need anything that they themselves are not aware of yet.

Are they on the verge of a breakdown?

Are they having some difficulty in their personal lives that they need to give precedence to?

Are they in a phase of their lives, where spending more time at home with their families more important?

Are they in a phase of their lives, when they need to make a lot more money than they have in the past?

If we as leaders are able to find this and help them deal with these before they have to bring it up with us, we demonstrate that we are as much engaged, if not more and that each one of the team members matter to us.

Recognise & Reward:

As Ken Blanchard says in his legendary book – The One Minute Manager, we need to constantly look for behaviour that we can recognise and reward. Usually, we are looking for mistakes so we can punish people. Instead, if we are constantly on the look out for good behaviour that we can recognise and reward, we will find a lot more of them. The side effect of this is that every now and then there is a celebration in the air. This celebration creates opportunities for the teams to have fun together and revel in each other’s success.

Goals

Last but not the least, we need to set very clear expectations in terms of our goals. What I mean here is that it is better if we learn from the military and set a commander’s intent and constantly communicate the intent rather than having a very specific goal to gun for. Commander’s intent is a simple statement that tells us the objective and by when we want to achieve this objective. Every subsequent military leader then uses this commander’s intent to decide the best course of action on the ground so that the team can achieve the intent. This allows for the teams to bring in their full creative power to play and even change course as they see fit as long as they are operating in a way that suits our culture and takes us towards our objective. This is when true engagement can be seen in action.

In Conclusion:

Building an engaged team is not easy work. It takes a lot of intent, planning and an engaged leader who trusts his/her team.

Yes, it takes time and effort. But as I said earlier, it is simple but it ain’t easy.