Tag: Team Building

Simple Steps to Reduce Quiet Quitting in 2024

To reduce quiet quitting at workplace, provide clear performance expectations, encourage autonomy, have fewer meetings, communicate, connect, and engage your workforce.

Quiet quitting is not new. It’s just gotten more press in the past few years. More than a decade ago, I recommended that a leader invest in the development of his team to improve engagement and collaboration to achieve better results. 

“But what if I develop them and they leave?” he asked.

“What if you don’t develop them and they stay?” I replied. Which of course I said in my most supportive coaching voice. (I used my “inside-the-head” voice for the eye roll.)

Below, you’re going to read a number of statistics, causes, and ideas to reduce quiet quitting. All of it is good information, and all of it is stuff you already know. So, if we already know all this, why does quiet quitting continue to stay on our Top 10 list of people concerns? Really, I’m asking. Why?

If I had to guess, I’d say that we often look for tactical solutions but forget how to engage the “people” at the center of those concerns. We talk about employees, managers, and leaders, but all of them are people. What would it mean for each of us, every day, to engage with every individual we encounter as a person? This may sound fluffy, but it’s not. What does each person need to be their best and to do their best work? 

Let’s flip the question on its head for a moment. Instead of a person, let’s talk about a car. (Humor me.) What does a car need to operate at its best and to do its best work? The car needs gas, oil, and regular maintenance. Unless it’s an electric car, then it has other needs (just like different people do). Let’s assume our car is gas-powered. It’s a great car with a great engine and great potential. Which is all great. But what if I decide I don’t have time to fill the car with gas or change the brake pads, and I don’t understand why I need to change the oil, so I don’t? I’ve also ignored the “Check Engine” light burning brightly on my dashboard for months. Who cares? It’s just light, right? But eventually, my lack of attention and investment in my car are going to cause problems. However, my car is not going to quit quietly. Instead, I run out of gas, my battery dies, my brakes fail, and my engine seizes. All of which leave me stranded on the side of the road in the middle of the desert with only vultures for company.

It’s much easier to pay attention when quitting is loud and obvious, rather than quiet. What does a person need to be their best and to do their best work? There’s no manual for how people operate, but we have some good ideas, many of which you’ll find below. So, let’s review what we already know.

The Stats

Did you know that only one in three workers is fully engaged at work today?  Quiet quitters still make up half of the workforce, as they have for several years.  

A pair of Gallup reports, released in 2022 and 2024, summarize the situation:  

In its 2022 report, Gallup found that 32% of employees were “actively engaged” at work, while 18% were “actively disengaged,” (so-called “loud quitters”), and 50% were simply “not engaged” (the “quiet quitters”).

In the most recent report, released in January 2024, the results were very similar, with 33% of employees “actively engaged,” 16% “actively disengaged,” and at least 50% “not engaged.”

What is Quiet Quitting?

“Quiet quitting” refers to making the minimum effort to stay employed.  Broadly speaking, “quiet quitters” are employees who aren’t engaged at work, but aren’t actively looking for a new job. 

As a post-pandemic phenomenon rooted in lack of engagement, quiet quitting arose in tandem with the Great Resignation.  It increased sharply in the second half of 2021, according to Gallup. It remains a challenge today, but organizations can take simple, practical steps to reduce it.

Causes of quiet quitting

Workplace disruptions

Quiet quitting can be broadly traced to the effects of the pandemic.  Here are some contributing factors:

The Great Resignation was a major contributor to quiet quitting, according to a study reported in Forbes. The Great Resignation placed extra burdens on most of the employees who stayed. It caused organizations to restructure, breaking up teams and putting people in unfamiliar environments.  Not surprisingly, engagement suffered and quiet quitting rose.

Another pandemic-related disruption has been the rise of remote and hybrid work. Many organizations have yet to adapt.  According to Gallup, most managers reported having no formal training to lead a hybrid team. 

Without adequate management, the “new normal” of hybrid work has led to lower levels of engagement and more quiet quitting.

Unclear workplace expectations 

Many employees simply don’t know what they should be working on.  They report a lack of guidance on priorities, deadlines, and organizational goals.  Remote and hybrid workers are twice as likely as in-house workers to say they don’t receive enough guidance. Unclear expectations have been another cause of quiet quitting, according to both Gallup and Forbes.  

Lack of personal connection

 According to Gallup, employees are less likely than before the pandemic to say that “someone cares about them as a person” at work.  This lack of personal connection to the workplace leads to quiet quitting. 

Taking steps to reduce quiet quitting

The good news is that, although “quiet quitters” are not engaged, they are not beyond reach.  

Here are a few simple steps organizations can take to motivate quiet quitters to be more engaged at work.  

Have one conversation per week

This surprisingly simple suggestion comes from the 2024 Gallup report.  It is cited as the single most important step leaders can take to combat quiet quitting.  Spending 15 to 30 minutes per week speaking with each team member has several benefits: 

  • Making sure employees know what is expected of them, including clear priorities, deadlines, and organizational goals.  
  • Checking in with employees who may be struggling or showing signs of becoming disengaged. 
  • Making personal connections to reduce the feeling that “no one cares.”  

Avoid unnecessary meetings

This should be a no-brainer, but reporting in Forbes shows otherwise.  Too many organizations are scheduling ever more meetings to cope with post-pandemic changes. The results have been predictably negative.  

Employees feel micromanaged.  They report lower productivity, with some losing one-quarter to one-half of the workday to meetings.  And despite the time spent, employees feel no more informed about workplace expectations. 

The simple solution is to schedule fewer meetings, with fewer participants.  Avoid “all hands” meetings unless absolutely necessary.  Have conversations instead!

Encourage Autonomy

Encouraging autonomy and showing flexibility is another way to reduce quiet quitting, according to Psychology Today. Increased autonomy promotes feelings of being trusted and valued, rather than being micromanaged. 

Once the organization has made its expectations clear, let individuals decide how they will achieve their goals, as much as possible.  Be flexible in accommodating different working styles so each individual can realize his or her full potential.

The above steps are simple on paper, but harder to implement, especially if we approach fixing our culture and engagement like we would a car, rather than interacting with people. We need to invest time and attention in our people to understand what will help them to be at their best to do their best work. Quiet quitting is our Check Engine light. It’s a good indication that something’s not working, and the light has been flashing on our dashboard for decades. So, what are we going to do about it?

If you would like more information about employee engagement and quiet quitting, please contact us. 

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Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

Developing Soft Skills to Future-proof Organizations

Soft skills go beyond “people skills” and provide a solid foundation for organizational growth.  Improving soft skills through coaching and training is key for any organization facing changes in technology and the future of work.

I hate the term “soft skills.” Let’s just put our cards on the table. “Soft” is a terrible descriptor. According to Thesaurus.com, synonyms for “soft” include comfortable, easy, mushy, and fluffy. “Soft” sounds like a fluffy cushion for “hard” skills to rest on. 

We may think debating what to call “soft” skills is silly, but language influences how we think. When we label skills as “soft,” we label them as “easy” and imply they aren’t important. Yet when I coach executives and other leaders, “soft” skills are often the hardest skills for them to master.

So, why do we call them “soft” skills? To understand the “soft,” let’s start with the “hard.” Traditionally, organizations have focused on “hard” skills, such as technical skills and competencies. “Hard” skills tend to be easier to define, teach, and assess. In other words, hard skills are more tangible. By comparison, “soft” skills seem more intangible. We struggle to clearly define “soft” skills. For example, what are the specific skills required to be an expert in “interpersonal communication”? How do we teach someone “resilience”? As a result, it can be more difficult to understand “soft” skills and how to develop them.

So, before we dive into a discussion about “soft” skills, I want to plant a seed. I vote to rename “soft” skills as “Critical Intangible Skills,” or “Critical Intangibles,” for short. I may not yet have swayed the rest of the world, but throughout the rest of this blog post, I challenge you to think “Critical Intangible” when you read “soft,” and see how this change affects your thinking.

What are soft skills?

Soft skills are sometimes equated with “people skills,” but that isn’t the whole story.  Soft skills include mental qualities like persistence, resilience, problem solving, emotional regulation, and creativity.  They also encompass practical skills of self-regulation through time management, organization, and the ability to prioritize tasks.  Finally, soft skills include “people skills” like communication, teamwork, and leadership.

Soft skills apply broadly and can be transferred easily between jobs and industries.  They have been called “durable”, because, unlike technical requirements, they remain constant.

Twelve of the top 15 skills needed globally are soft skills, as reported in the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2023.

Soft skills are the “secret sauce” for long term organizational success in a changing world.

Teaching critical intangible skills in the workplace

Contrary to a common misperception, soft skills are not hard-wired or unchangeable. According to research conducted by McKinsey, Deloitte, PwC, the Harvard Business School, and Forbes, organizations can help people improve their soft skills through coaching, mentoring, and training. When people improve these skills, they are better prepared to adapt to changes in technology and the workplace.   

Teaching soft skills requires planning, execution, employee buy in, and assessing success. 

Survey the organization’s needs.  The first step is to determine which soft skills are most in need of development.  

Look at both gaps in performance and high performance. What skill gaps may have contributed to negative customer feedback? What skills contributed to rave reviews? What skills are bubbling up most often in employee performance reviews? What skills are leveraged most by the highest performing teams? What are the skills on which you want to focus, and how can people best develop these skills?  

Develop teaching strategies.  With clear development priorities, the organization is ready to create an action plan. HR Partners and People Partners may find it useful to leverage consultants to help deliver programs and coaching to support development efforts.

Use a mix of approaches. Different skills and personal learning styles will require different learning strategies. Developing skills requires acquiring knowledge and putting that knowledge into practice. Here are some examples of learning approaches to help people develop their skills:

  • Skills workshops that include role plays focused on real work scenarios with self-reflection and feedback.
  • Coaching
  • Mentoring
  • Other learning methods that people can then put into practice, such as online courses, webinars, podcasts, etc. to build knowledge and insights, upskill or reskill.

Continuing efforts, as opposed to a “one and done” approach, will be needed.  After all, we don’t expect people to master skills in a single session.  

Get employees to buy in.  To invest in people development, employees need to understand the importance of soft skills and how coaching and training will help them develop these skills. Organizations can further emphasize the importance of soft skills through recognition, performance reviews, and requiring soft skills as criteria for promotion.  

Measure progress.  One mistake to avoid when assessing teaching programs is simply measuring “inputs,” such as the number of training sessions offered, “butts in seats,” or the number of hours completed.  It’s more useful to design ways to measure outcomes. Metrics will vary by organization but may include assessments of individual performance, employee engagement, team dynamics, customer satisfaction, sales volume, and similar data points. The goal is to be as objective as possible, and to keep the workforce informed.

As the world of work changes, soft skills (or “Critical Intangible Skills”) will only become more important, and strengthening these skills will provide an enduring foundation for success.

Please contact us if you would like more information about soft skills and employee development.  

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Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential, through coaching soft skills, among many other areas.

Reskilling:  Changing Roles for a Changing World

Reskilling is the process of preparing an existing workforce for new and different roles as the result of market changes and technology. Profound changes in the future of work, combined with a labor shortage, make reskilling a strategic imperative for large and small organizations alike.

Reskilling and upskilling are critical in a changing world

Upskilling and reskilling are more than trendy buzzwords.  They describe efforts to develop workforce skills in an era of technological transformation and demographic change.

In the previous blog, we looked at “upskilling,” the process of continuously upgrading employee skills in existing positions.  In this blog, we’ll consider “reskilling,” the process of preparing employees for different roles within an organization.

The world of work is changing

The World Economic Forum and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation predict that 1.1 billion jobs will be “radically transformed by technology” by the year 2030. The change will require intensive upskilling and reskilling to keep pace.  Despite the challenge, the WEF predicts that the combined effects of upskilling, reskilling, and improvements in early education could add $9 trillion to global GDP in this decade. 

The labor market is changing

The labor market is also forcing organizations to take reskilling and upskilling seriously. 

The U.S. unemployment rate was just 3.7% in November 2023, near historic lows.  According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, even if every unemployed person in the U.S. found work, the economy would still face a shortfall of 3 million workers. 

Long term demographic trends reveal an aging U.S. workforce whose growth has been slowing for decades.  In parts of Europe and East Asia, population decline has already begun.  The workforce of the future is likely to be smaller, in other words.  

Organizations can no longer expect to “hire” their way to success.  Instead, they must take steps to retain, upskill, and reskill the existing workforce.

Let’s next consider some of the steps to be taken in any successful reskilling effort. 

Identify Outmoded Positions and Skills Gaps to be Addressed

As was true of upskilling, the first step to a successful reskilling effort is to survey the organization’s needs. 

Identify the positions.  As a first step, the organization must look for positions becoming obsolete due to marketplace changes or advances in technology.  The organization should then look for areas where it wants to grow or where it has identified skills gaps. 

Identify the skills.  The next step is to identify the skills needed for success in the new positions.  The World Economic Forum and others have developed skills taxonomies to make the process more systematic.  Using such systems can help identify employees with related skills who may be a good fit for new positions.  

Identify the employees.  One under-appreciated challenge is to convince employees to undertake reskilling at all.  Organizations should recognize that reskilling can disrupt the lives of employees.  Resistance to change should be expected.

Organizations can manage that resistance by being open and transparent. Presenting clear career paths and training goals is key to improving results.

Design the reskilling effort to maximize success

Another key to success is giving proper attention to the process of reskilling.  

Choose appropriate reskilling methods.  For example, many adult learners prefer a “hands-on,” experiential approach to learning.  Practical training in the form of mentoring, internal apprenticeships, and “job shadowing” is often the most effective.

In other cases, online courses or webinars may be appropriate.  These should be easily digestible in short segments, typically an hour or less.  Lunchtime seminars are another way to fit learning into the workday.

Finally, some technical specialties may require certifications or the completion of degrees.  Some organizations, including Amazon, have programs to pre-pay or reimburse tuition and other educational expenses. They also provide time off for study and exam periods.

Involve all levels of management in the reskilling effort.  Having the support of C-suite leaders and upper level management is critical to success.  But still more is needed. 

The benefits of reskilling should be made clear to the middle managers and first line supervisors who implement it.  Too often these individuals bear the burdens of reskilling without reaping the benefits.  

One solution is to make employee development a part of the performance goals of all managers and supervisors.  Done properly, such goals can help instill a culture of development and provide incentives for participation. 

Meeting the future

The future of work is changing and so is the workforce.  Organizations need to adapt to the transformational changes already underway if they are to survive and thrive.  That means making the most of the existing workforce through upskilling and reskilling, to ensure that people have the tools they need to meet the challenges of tomorrow. 

Please contact us if you would like more information about reskilling, upskilling, and employee development.  

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Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

People Development:  Closing the Skills Gap With a Culture of Learning

People development is the process of identifying the skills needed to achieve organizational goals, and designing learning, coaching, mentoring programs to meet those goals.

People development has become a critical need for organizations big and small.  The tight labor market means that vacant roles involving critical skills are harder to fill, while business and technological changes mean that existing roles will need constant updating. 

According to McKinsey & Company, the great majority of organizations will face a “meaningful skills gap” in the coming years.  The causes are both technological and demographic.  The upshot is that organizations wanting to “future proof” their business success need to make consistent, ongoing people development a priority.

Organizations need to not only develop their existing talent pool, but to “think outside the box” in terms of attraction and recruitment.  That will include:

·         Hiring for Potential:  Finding candidates with the ability to master new skills will be as important as finding candidates with existing skill sets.  

·         Considering Non-Traditional Candidates:  People with more circuitous career paths may be more adept at learning new skills and thriving in different environments.

·         Looking for a Growth MindsetOrganizations will benefit from candidates who view personal development with a positive, open attitude.

People development will be key both in advancing the skills of an organization’s existing workforce and in bringing in new employees.  This blog will examine several aspects of the process.

Creating a Culture of Learning to Spark People Development

Whatever development model an organization chooses, creating an environment in which learning and development are priorities – a “culture of learning” – is fundamental. 

·         Having top leadership and management on board is the first condition needed to create a culture of learning.  Without advocacy at the top, learning and development is unlikely to gain traction. 

·         Setting organizational goals for people development is another way to cultivate a culture of learning.  According to McKinsey, “best-in-class” organizations provide an average of 75 hours of training per employee annually.  Some set “aspirational” goals well above that figure.  Hours dedicated to development is a critical first step.  More important, however, is assessing the impact of development on people and the business goals. Measuring the number of hours is easy. Measuring the impact is far more difficult, but also more critical. 

·         Setting aside a dedicated time and place for people development is another useful step towards creating a culture of learning, and making organizational follow-through more likely.

Organizational support and advocacy are the foundations for creating a culture of learning.  By taking specific, practical actions, like those mentioned above, the organization demonstrates its commitment to people development. 

Choosing Effective People Development Methods

The methods of providing learning and development opportunities include everything from online self-study, to formal classroom work, to on-the-job training and mentoring.  Circumstances may dictate which methods are practical, but the organization will have choices to make in every case.

In Person v. Online Study:  Studies show that in person learning is more effective than online or virtual courses, leading to better outcomes and greater retention.  It is also the most costly training method, but may be appropriate to develop highly technical skills where the extra expense is more cost effective. 

In many cases, due to the number of people to be trained or geographic challenges, online learning or self-study courses are the only practical solutions.  Even in this situation, the organization has a choice in how to present the material.

“Segment of One” v. “Cohort-Based” Courses:  Debate continues whether group (“cohort-based”) or individual (“segment-of-one”) courses are more effective.

According to the Academy to Innovate HR, employees prefer to study on demand, at their own pace, and show positive outcomes from that approach.  The Harvard Business Review disagrees.  According to the HBR, “cohort-based” group learning, with set schedules and milestones, produces better outcomes – partly as the result of group support and reinforcement.

Each organization will have to make its own decisions based on its unique circumstances.  A combined approach may be best, but knowing the options available is the first step.

Practical and Experiential Methods:  People development often comes through on-the-job training, mentoring, and coaching.  Some other, less frequently mentioned development tools include:

·         Job Rotation:  A temporary assignment in a different functional area or business division to gain experience and perspective.  Job rotation may be particularly helpful before a promotion to a senior management position. 

·         Peer CoachingA process in which two or more colleagues work together to build new skills, or to consider solutions to problems in the workplace.  Peer coaching is a special-purpose hybrid of the “cohort-based” and “segment-of-one” approaches.

·         Targeted Training and Micro-Mentoring:  Both of these are short duration, high effort approaches to solve specific problems or fill specific knowledge gaps.  They require a short time commitment and can be an effective stopgap remedy where needed.

Designing an Effective People Development Program

Organizations have unique circumstances and needs.  Each will benefit from different approaches to people development.  In some cases, the organization may have a dedicated learning and development team to facilitate the process.  In other cases, the organization may seek outside help to design a people development program. 

However the process proceeds, each organization should regularly assess its business goals.  The organization should then consider the skills needed to reach those goals, and the best way to close any “skills gaps” it finds. 

Once the organization has decided on a course of action, the key to any people development program is regular monitoring and assessment, to find out what’s working, and to improve or discard things that aren’t working.  Conducting follow-up assessments 30 to 60 days after the conclusion of a course or training session is especially useful in making that determination. 

Developing an effective people development program with an overall people strategy will only become more critical as time passes.  To “future proof” their business goals, organizations need to ensure they are taking specific, practical steps toward creating a culture of learning. 

If you would like to learn more about people development, please contact us.

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Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

Boosting Employee Morale is Good Business

Ways to boost employee morale include giving employees autonomy, recognition, appreciation, avoiding burnout, respecting work-life boundaries, etc., per Catamentum leadership coach Rachel Burr.

Happiness and fulfillment is what we all want, in life and at work.   Work forms a big part of our individual identities – our sense of who we are and what we contribute to the world. Work is also an important source of social contact. 

Being happy at work is good for business too. 

Research consistently shows that high employee morale is associated with higher revenue and profitability. High employee morale is also associated with higher productivity and lower use of sick time.

This article will consider three simple strategies to boost employee morale to create a happier, more productive workforce and  increase your organization’s bottom line.

Increase Employee Morale by Fostering Autonomy and Agency

People generally like to feel a sense of being in control of their lives and destinies, not a powerless bystander.  A simple way to boost employee morale, then, is to provide opportunities for employees to exercise autonomy and agency in the workplace.

Autonomy and agency can take many forms.  The American Psychological Association suggests several simple steps, such as

·         Giving employees some control over their schedules and working hours;

·         Allowing employees to manage how assigned tasks are accomplished; and,

·         Giving employees a voice in decisions that affect them.

Another important way is to allow employees to use their natural strengths and talents at work.  An easy way to find out what captures an employee’s passion and interest is by having a conversation.  The next step is to support that passion and interest with career development and training, as needed. 

Recognition, Appreciation, and Pitfalls Thereof

As the Harvard Business Review points out, recognition and appreciation are very different animals.  Both can be beneficial.  Each offers a different way to connect with employees to boost morale.

Employee recognition is essentially transactional.  It rewards a job well done, a goal achieved, or a milestone met.  The reward may be financial but not necessarily so. 

Employee appreciation is the acknowledgement of a person’s inherent value, regardless of goals or milestones achieved.  It can be formal or informal, public or private, according to the circumstances.  It can be as simple as remembering a person’s birthday or giving a note of thanks. 

Celebrating both outstanding performance and inherent value provides the organization with more ways to reach out and interact with employees – to show them you care.  As Maya Angelou says, that’s what they’ll remember.

Paradoxically, some studies have shown that financial incentives can backfire as a reward for performance.  For example, an analysis by the London School of Economics found that financial incentives can reduce an employee’s natural desire to complete tasks, and the pleasure they feel in doing so.  

An article by the American Psychological Association also found that competition to achieve unrealistic performance goals can lead to cynicism and disengagement. 

While we like to receive financial rewards, organizations should handle them with care.

Addressing Employee Morale by Dealing with Structural Issues Leading to Burnout

Organizations have been hit with a number of challenges over the past several years.  We’ve been through the COVID lockdown, the “work-from-home” and “return-to-the-office” disruptions, and now a tight labor market. 

These stressors and disruptions can lead to exhaustion and burnout among employees – which requires a look at deeper, structural issues, with people strategies. The Harvard Business Review emphasizes the effect on middle managers, but any employee can feel the burden of being stretched too thin. 

When demand on employees outstrips their resources, here are some steps to take:

·         Re-assessing the work assigned – ask whether each employee has the resources to keep up;

·         Re-prioritizing the work – make a list of the top three priorities and consider removing outdated issues, or putting them on the back burner;

·         Re-distributing the work – ensure that the burden is equally shared and that no individual is bearing more than their share.  If budgets allow, consider bringing in outside help, whether temporarily or permanently.

Respecting work-life boundaries

Another issue is to look at working culture and working boundaries.  If the work intrudes on employees’ personal lives, it can add to stress and contribute to burnout.  Consider reinforcing the boundaries between working life and personal life. 

For example, implement a “no email on the weekends” rule to make sure employees get some real downtime to recharge.  Another possibility is to make vacation time mandatory.  If vacation is required, employees may feel less inclined to skip taking time off because they’re “too busy.” 

These are just some of the ways organizations can build employee morale for the good of both their employees and their bottom lines.  The key is communication.  If you would like more ideas to keep your employees motivated and engaged, please reach out.

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Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

Click here to book an appointment.

Creating Effective Teams and Managing Personalities in Teamwork

Diversity in both skills and personalities in teamwork relies on team members’ psychological roles based on personality and functional roles.

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”

–       Helen Keller

Organizations are built on teamwork.  A large organization can include many different teams.  A small organization can be a team itself.  It follows that building better teams can lead to better outcomes for any size organization. 

This article will look at the elements of effective teams, the benefits of having different perspectives, and the effect of individual personalities in teamwork. 

The Benefits of Teamwork

Research has shown that teams have several advantages over individuals, including:

Better Problem Solving: Teams of three to five people consistently outperform the best individuals.  Researchers say teams generate correct responses to problems, reject incorrect responses, and process information more effectively than individuals.

Greater Innovation: Teams push and pull each other to new thoughts and insights.  A healthy clash of perspectives provides just enough discomfort to spur growth and new ideas.

Happier Employees. Employees in well-functioning teams are much more likely to report a sense of well-being, and happier employees are much more productive than unhappy ones.

Diverse Perspectives Make More Effective Teams

Just as teams outperform individuals, diverse teams outperform non-diverse ones.  As we’ll see, diverse teams tend to check each other’s assumptions and keep each other on track. 

The case for diversity in the workplace has been made repeatedly, including studies published by McKinsey & Company in 2015, 2018, and 2020. Diverse workplaces consistently report better financial results and are more profitable than non-diverse ones. Credit Suisse found a similar association between better financial results and including women on corporate boards.  

And, according to the Harvard Business Review, diverse working teams also perform better than non-diverse teams. For example:

Focus on Facts:  Diverse teams have been shown to focus more on facts and make fewer factual errors than non-diverse teams.  When errors do occur, they’re more likely to be corrected.

Information Processing: Diverse teams also have been shown to process information more carefully and deliberately than non-diverse teams, leading to more accurate decisions.

Greater Innovation:  Finally, diverse teams have been shown to introduce more innovations into the market, and to develop more new products, than non-diverse teams. 

Diversity pulls people out of the comfortable, well-worn patterns of thinking that occur in non-diverse contexts.  Getting out of that comfort zone is vital to making better decisions and driving innovation. 

The Effect of Personalities in Teamwork

Individual personalities also have a major impact on teamwork, no matter what kind of group is involved.  Team members’ personalities can affect cooperation, problem solving, and overall performance. 

The Harvard Business Review has proposed one way of looking at personality in the workplace:

Results Oriented.  Team members who are leaders, socially confident, and energetic. 

Relationship Focused.  Team members who focus on the feelings of others and fostering group cohesion. 

Process and Rule Followers.  Team members who pay attention to details, rules, and process.  They tend to be organized, responsible, and conscientious. 

Disruptive Thinkers.  Team members who focus on innovation and shaking things up.  They tend to be adventurous and open to new experiences.

Pragmatic.  Team members who are practical and skeptical.  They tend to challenge ideas and to be prudent and level-headed. 

None of the personality traits above is “better” than any other.  Teams with a mix of personalities and approaches result in better overall performance.

If the majority of the team are disruptive leaders, but the team lacks relationship builders, group cohesion will suffer.  If the majority are relationship builders, but the team lacks leaders and disruptors, innovation will suffer.  

Managing Personalities in Teamwork

One way to maximize team effectiveness is to recognize that team members play both a functional role and a psychological role. The functional role of each individual is based on their position and technical skills.  It is usually the main focus when putting together working teams.  Equally important is each team member’s psychological role, based on their personality. 

The goal is to create a balance of  personalities so the mix of different styles and  approaches will optimize the team’s success.

If your organization would like advice on building better teams, we are happy to assist. 

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Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

To book an appointment visit: https://catamentum.com

Authentic Self at Workplace: Why & How

Bringing your authentic self to the workplace is integral to career success and growth, and it increases job satisfaction. Leadership needs to create a safe environment and encourage the practice of empathy.

Being Your Authentic Self

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” – Joseph Campbell

What Does It Mean to be “Authentic?”

We’ve all heard them:  Media figures, motivational speakers, and other “influencers” urging us to be our “authentic selves.”  We’re told that being “authentic” will allow us to lead happier, more fulfilling lives, but what does that really mean?  Is it only for close personal relationships?  Can we be our authentic selves at work?  Are there risks?  Are there limits?  This post will take a look at these issues. 

Authenticity, at its core, means that our words and actions consistently align with our values.  That means having a strong sense of who we are and what’s important to us.  But there’s more to it.

Authenticity also means we’re aware of our feelings and emotions in the moment, and that we’re able to acknowledge them as we go through our day.  In other words, authenticity isn’t just one state of mind.  It includes being present and aware of what’s going on in the moment.  That makes authenticity a process, and a practice we can develop as part of our lives.

Being our authentic self comes with some risks.  We’re more vulnerable when we’re being true to ourselves than we are when we’re playing an expected role.  It takes courage to break free:  Will we be judged?  Will we be rejected?  The risks mean that we’re more likely to be authentic in safe environments and in close personal relationships.

But what if we could expand that horizon?  Research has shown positive links between authenticity and higher self-esteem, greater psychological well-being, and increased job satisfaction.  Can we allow authenticity to move from our private lives to our public lives?  Let’s take a look into what it means to be authentic in the workplace. 

Bring Your Authentic Self to Work

Writing in the Harvard Harvard Business Review, author Susan McPherson urges us (as the headline gives away) to: “Bring your ‘authentic’ self to work.” She writes, “Being yourself is the best way to form meaningful relationships, which are integral to career success and growth, no matter what field you work in.”  McPherson advocates forging deeper human connections in the workplace, not just practical or “transactional” ones. 

Mike Robbins, author of Bring Your Whole Self to Work, says that without authenticity, “[w]e aren’t able to do our best, most innovative work, and we spend . . . too much time trying to look good, fit in, and do or say the ‘right thing.’” 

Robbins has defined authenticity as “honesty, without self-righteousness, and with vulnerability.”  We might rephrase that more simply as “honesty with empathy and vulnerability.”  The last two qualities let us relate to each other more easily as human beings, to recognize a bit of ourselves in another person. 

Being Authentic Self Takes Practice

How do we start?  Small steps are best.  We don’t have to tell our life story, or to weep an ocean of tears, to be authentic and vulnerable.  It’s best that we don’t!  Keep in mind that authenticity can be seen as a practice, something to be cultivated through deliberate effort over time. 

Mike Robbins uses the “iceberg” metaphor (that is, the bulk is hidden).  He suggests that we “lower the water line,” just a bit.  In other words, that we take courage and reveal just a little bit more about ourselves than may be comfortable in that moment.  With attention and practice, we can become more open to authentic moments as they arise.

We might, for example, begin by adding a personal detail or two to the general small talk before a meeting.  Susan McPherson suggests listening for personal details from others and following up when we feel a connection. 

Creating a safe space for people to share a little more about themselves is a great start. Businesses and organizations can help the process by having a coach or facilitator work with groups.  Discussion and group exercises can break the ice and set the process in motion.  

Are There “Authentic” Limits?

Any idea can be taken too far, or applied in the wrong way.  Authenticity is no exception.  “Authenticity without empathy is selfish”,  says Wharton professor Adam Grant. He warns that too much authenticity can appear “self-serving and self-absorbed.” 

A key to avoiding these issues is to keep empathy for others firmly in mind.  The goal of being authentic is to build closer human relationships, which also includes respecting the boundaries of other people.  Small steps are another key.

Authenticity isn’t automatic.  It’s a practice that we build with intention and deliberate effort.  With practice, we become open to making personal connections in more areas of our lives, which brings both greater success, better motivation at work, and greater satisfaction. 

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Rachel Burr is a leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. 

Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential and catalyze growth momentum for teams and organizations.

To book an appointment 

Visit: https://catamentum.com

Leadership Communication, Workplace Engagement, Building Future Leaders

Leadership communication can be improved upon coaching for better employee engagement, team dynamics, and organizational leadership bench, says Rachel Burr, Catamentum leadership Coaching.

The “telling”, or command-and-control style of leadership communication

Among many ways of miscommunication, under communication, or complete lack of communication, perhaps the most common is “telling people what to do”, instead of engaging, guiding, coaching, and inspiring people to participate and contribute.

This article will focus on the harms of constantly telling team members or subordinates what to do, a/k/a command and control, and what to do instead.

What leaders lose from micromanagement

When leaders micromanage, they undermine their team’s performance. Employees do not bring their own skills, ideas, or passion to the work. They often give up voicing their opinions and observations due to a lack of psychological safety and fear of being criticized.  As a result, employees don’t feel they “own” the work or the results. They become disengaged and wait passively to be told what to do. When leaders do not value employees’ input, they not only encourage “quiet quitting,” but they fail to recognize new ideas, incorporate diverse perspectives, and they lose valuable insights required for innovation.  

Leadership communication is truly about how to coach teams

A 2016 survey by the Harvard Business Review found that two-thirds of managers are simply not comfortable communicating with employees. Ineffective communication can be costly, or even destructive for the leadership, teams, and the organization.  

To change leadership communication, leaders must first respect, trust, and value the people on their teams.  Upon this foundation, the following actions improve communications, build teams, and create healthy organizations:

* Encourage Discussion and Feedback. When leaders create a safe environment, employees will more openly share information, ideas, and insights.

* Communicate Purpose. Communicate more than “what” needs to be done, communicate the “why.” When people understand the purpose of their work and how they contribute to that purpose, they feel more engaged and empowered to take action to achieve their goals.

* Listen. Effective leaders actively listen to others. They engage with genuine curiosity and the intent to understand the ideas and perspectives of others. Beyond the work, effective leaders listen to and get to know who their employees are as people–their lives, families, and what matters to them. When people feel heard, seen, and understood, they feel a greater sense of connection and commitment with their leader and their team.

*Demonstrate Integrity. Trusted leaders walk the talk. Leaders’ statements explicitly communicate their vision, values, and goals. Their behaviors implicitly communicate their commitment to those things. Integrity is how closely a leaders’ words match their behaviors. When it comes to communicating integrity, actions speak louder than words. 

* Communicate Clearly. Effective guidance is clear, concise, and consistent. Whether communication is verbal or written, in person or virtual. 

These actions are a good starting place for leaders to improve their communication, but developing great leadership communication skills is a process, not a checklist. Great leaders invest the time and attention to put these actions into practice.

Good communication and coaching can foster the next generation of Leaders 

Moreover, the “telling” or “ordering” style of communication will hinder the development of the “bench” – bringing up the future leaders in the organization. 

Leadership communication isn’t just announcing plans to employees. Open dialogues, active listening, and regular feedback can be used to spot and elevate leaders from within the organization.

However, a 2023 survey by the consulting firm DDI found that just 40% of leaders said their organizations had high quality leadership, and only 12% had confidence in the strength of their bench. 

The leaders of the future also need to develop the psychological safety to take risks and try new things.  Using effective leadership communication in this way can also have the added benefit of creating a virtuous cycle of open, clear, and honest communication at all levels of the organization. 

No leader can afford to be an island.  Whether an organization is planning for growth or succession, having a good bench of future leaders is a must.  The home-grown new leadership will have been instilled with organizational knowledge and values, not easily replicated from the outside. 

excellent leadership communication can increase engagement across the organization. 

Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees.  Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching.  Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.

To book an appointment visit:  https://catamentum.com 

Use Executive Coaching to Tap Into Your “People Power”

Executive coaching by Rachel Burr, Catamentum Leadership Coach, empowers individual leaders, teams, and organizations with people skills.

In these often challenging times, leaders and executives may wonder how to motivate and empower their employees.  They want to improve employee engagement, encourage employees to take ownership, and help drive the organization’s success.  Leaders want the best for and from their teams, but achieving that goal can be challenging.

Surveys show that employees want both greater empowerment and support from leadership. 

According to a 2008 study by Google, employees said two of the most important qualities/skills in a manager were (1) being a good coach, and (2) empowering their team, rather than micromanaging. 

In 2020 Gallup surveyed 1.2 million employees from nearly 50,000 businesses across 45 countries to understand what employees wanted from their managers. First and foremost, employees said the best managers are coaches. The Gallup survey found the best managers: (1) focus on team engagement, (2) leverage the unique talents of each employee, and (3) set clear expectations and goals.  One big takeaway from the survey is that “The best managers talk to their employees and teams.  A lot.”  In other words, people skills are invaluable. 

The question is how to turn the reciprocal wants and needs of both leadership and employees into shared success. 

Executive Coaching Empowers Leaders with Functional Skills and People Skills

Good leaders develop their skills overtime, both through experience and by leveraging resources.  Executive coaching is a key resource that can be a catalyst to enhance leadership, both through developing functional skills and people skills.

A newly promoted leader, or a newly onboarded executive, may have outstanding talent and drive.  Managers may be promoted for their extraordinary technical skills and capabilities.  Nevertheless, if leaders and managers lack the necessary people skills, they will struggle in their new roles.   

In these situations, executive coaching helps leaders and managers close the gaps.  Coaching helps a leader navigate the challenges of a new role, or helps established leaders navigate ongoing challenges, particularly related to people management, mindset, emotional intelligence (EQ), and skill development.

While executive coaches don’t have all the answers, they are trained to ask good questions and guide leaders through their development process.  

People Skills Can Transform Leaders and Organizations

As the Google and Gallup surveys suggest, going beyond functional skills requires excellent communication and people skills.  A leader may have superb functional skills and business sense, and may have achieved considerable success, without mastering people skills.  To reach the next level, even successful leaders may need to scale up.

Developing better people skills can be as simple as learning to listen and giving constructive feedback.  It can encompass examining mindsets, developing greater emotional intelligence, and nurturing connections among employees and teams across the organization.  

When blind spots and limiting mindsets come up, executive coaching can lead to a process of self-discovery and transformation.  Personal transformation can translate to organizational transformation, and form the building blocks for the next level of success across the organization.

Leaders who Learn People Skills Help Themselves, Their Teams, and Their Organizations

When leaders develop the skills and traits to empower those around them, everyone wins.  Leadership is a team sport.  Successful leaders ultimately serve their teams and work toward a shared goal. In short, leaders who learn people skills help themselves, their teams, and their organizations.  

Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees.  Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, as well as numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching.  Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.To book an appointment visit:  https://catamentum.com.

PICA Member Spotlight of Rachel Burr

The following is an interview of Rachel Burr by PICA, Professional Independent Consultants of America.

Q&A with Rachel Burr of Catamentum Leadership Coaching & Consulting on creating the consulting career of her dreams, and how to “Catalyze Momentum”.

PICA Member Spotlight of Rachel Burr of Catamentum Coaching & Consulting on creating the consulting career of her dreams, and how to “Catalyze Momentum”.

https://www.successfulindependentconsulting.com/rachel-burr-spotlight

Q: Please introduce yourself and tell us about your business.

A: My name is Rachel Burr, and my company is Catamentum Coaching and Consulting (“Catalyze Momentum”). When we Catalyze Momentum, we can Unleash Potential. I’m an executive coach, leadership development consultant, and overall “people expert.” A big part of what I do is to help leaders step into their authentic potential. The way I see it, a lot of leaders may feel forced into a cookie cutter of leadership, either by what they think leadership is supposed to be or what they see modeled around them. My consulting approach is focused on getting leaders to explore who they are at their core, including their strengths and weaknesses, their values, and what they want to do as a leader. Then we look how they bring that core to their current role or the role they’d like to have. 

Q: Do you do a blend of coaching and consulting work or primarily just the coaching?

A: I do both. I do individual leadership coaching, I work with teams, and I facilitate tailored workshops. I also work with executives as a thought partner. I help them think through their people strategies, challenges, and opportunities.  Leaders will often have ideas and questions about their people and overall organization, but they may not be sure how to put these ideas into action. Leaders may not yet be ready to talk about these ideas with their boss, and it may not be appropriate at that point to talk with their team. I help leaders unpack their ideas and examine their options so they can make better decisions. 

Q: How long have you been independent now?

A: Four years, but it seems like so much has happened.

Q: How did you make the leap to independent consulting? 

A: It’s funny because I resigned from my corporate job without knowing what I was going to do next. There were a lot of things I appreciated about corporate, but I was also spending a lot of time on things that weren’t really leveraging my talents. I was comfortable but not happy. I’m a big believer that we have to make ourselves uncomfortable to catalyze change.  So, I quit.

I left not knowing what I was going to do, but I knew I wanted to explore the possibilities.  Granted, I had the benefit of my husband being very supportive, and having good health insurance. So, that made the leap into the unknown a little easier.

Initially, I stared to look at other corporate jobs. I wasn’t even thinking about consulting. I applied for a job, and I didn’t get it, which turned out to be a good thing. Then, I agreed to do an interview for a second corporate position, but it just didn’t feel right. A friend who had her own consulting business asked me why I didn’t try going independent. Then, she hired me to work on a small consulting project to help me “dip my toe in the water.” I remember the first day I met with the client. We were discussing their objectives and needs, the outcomes they wanted, and brainstorming ideas. I loved it!  30 minutes into our meeting, I thought, “Why have I never done this before?” That was it. I finished the project, and that summer, I started my own coaching and consulting company.

Q: What’s one thing you wish you would have done differently?

A: I would have asked for help earlier. I think when you go out on your own you feel like you have to do everything yourself. But you have people around you who are really good at what they do. They’re talented and they’ve got their own work that supports the business you want to grow. So, reach out. Build your village.

Q: Once you decided to really go for it how did you get your own clients?   

A: I had a number of strong relationships with people I had worked with and whom I greatly respected. The people I knew in HR, talent management, and consulting were natural conduits for connecting me with leaders to help them address needs in their organizations. One by one, I had people take a chance on me. I continued to build relationships, and as people get to know and trust you, building your business begins to come more naturally. It’s important to connect with folks in a way that’s genuine and authentic. Understand their pain points, what they are managing or struggling with, and figure out how you can help them.

Q: You make it sound very easy, Rachel. What’s your secret sauce?

A: It is not easy. There were so many times I was just overwhelmed because I had no idea how to run a business. Someone recently told me that you have to have a business plan before you jump in. I didn’t even know what a business plan was! I had moments that were these little highs from my wins. I also had moments of thinking I have no idea how I’m going to do this.

I specifically remember a friend of mine who had also decided to leave corporate. She left before I did, and I had been there to help her when she was figuring things out. After I had been out on my own for about six months, she called and said, “Hey, I’m going to this business accelerator program. Do you want to come with me?” I didn’t even know what that was.  We both signed up for the program, and as I went through it, I started to see all the things I didn’t realize. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I also remember being overwhelmed worrying about money, which is totally normal, but then you have to learn to invest in yourself to move forward and get to that next level. I remember calling my husband before I signed up for the program, because we are very good about making financial decisions together. I told him, “I really need help. I think this program could help me but it’s a lot of money.” I told him how much it cost. He was completely supportive and said, “If that’s what you need to do, that’s what you need to do.” I think it’s really important to tell people there’s no magic formula. Some days it was really a struggle and I wanted to give up. Those were the times I had to pick myself back up, reflect on what I learned, identify what I was going to do differently, and also identify those things I would never do again. I think it’s important to recognize that it’s going to be a journey.

Q: Four years in, what has changed or gotten easier?

A: One thing was that when I first started I had a really negative misconception of what it meant to sell my services. The word “sell” was a real hang up for me. I had this idea that I was pushing someone into something or getting them to do something that maybe they didn’t really want to do. After talking with a number of consultants, coaches, and other people I trusted and respected, I realized selling isn’t about pushing. It’s about listening, understanding a client’s challenges and pain points, and hearing what they want to achieve. Then, we can talk about how I can support them to address their problems. With that new mindset, my idea of selling shifted from feeling like a push to feeling like a partnership, and I love that.

Q:  What’s next for you and Catamentum Coaching & Consulting?

A: I love that I am continuing to figure out the kind of work I really want to do, that place where passion and talent intersect. I’m also figuring out what I don’t want to do. To say Yes to some things, you have to say No to others. We only get 24 hours in a day, so we have to figure out how to prioritize that time.

I want to expand my executive coaching and team coaching. I also love tailoring and facilitating workshops for teams and other groups. I’m not one to just pull something off the shelf. I want to adapt the approach to each group.

I also want to do more guesting on podcasts. I’m an extrovert at heart, so being able to get out there and talk with others about people, leadership, and unleashing our potential, that really fuels my passion.

Q: If people want to learn more about you and or what you do, what would be the best way to do that?

A: They can reach out on my website and of course I’m on LinkedIn.