Set Healthy Standards of Work for Your Team…

When employees feel constantly busy, so busy that they barely have time to breathe, it diminishes their creativity, drive, and job satisfaction. Managers need to take the lead in creating healthy standards for their teams. Here are some things to try.

  • Set an example. Let your team see you taking lunch breaks, leaving the office on time, and working flexibly. And don’t send emails or other messages late at night — it signals that employees should be working at all hours.
  • Plan extra time. Research has found we’re overly optimistic about how long a task will take. Encourage your team to block out extra time each week to finish up lingering projects. This will help people free up space on their to-do lists (and in their brains).
  • Increase workload transparency. Talk to employees about their workloads to get a fuller sense of what they’re working on. Use what you hear to think about whether the team needs more resources or should stop doing certain kinds of work.

Don’t Let Your Negative Emotions Hurt Team Morale…

It’s normal to experience negative emotions at work: frustration, anger, fear. But how you handle these feelings makes all the difference for your team’s morale. Suppressing how you feel isn’t going to help anyone, and being totally open about it can backfire. The most effective strategy is reappraisal, or reassessing the upsetting situation in a more positive light.

For example, if you’re frustrated that a project isn’t going well, remind yourself that there is time to turn it around and that this is just one of many initiatives your team is working on. The point isn’t to pretend the problem doesn’t exist; it’s to frame the problem as a challenge you can take steps to overcome. Reappraising can help you see, for example, that your team members are also disappointed about the project and that, instead of more criticism, they need encouragement. Try practicing reappraisal in low-stakes situations, which will prepare you to do it when the stakes are high.

Write a Corporate Purpose Statement That Inspires…

A well-crafted corporate purpose statement is impactful on two fronts: It articulates your organization’s mission and aspirations to external stakeholders and sends a signal to your employees about what the company stands for. As a leader, how can you write a corporate purpose statement that’s actually believable, authentic, and inspiring (without vague, grandiose platitudes)?

First, tie your organization to a broader societal context. Explicitly reference the societal or environmental problems the organization seeks to address or alleviate—and how your products or services advance the common good in that specific context.

Remember to be specific and realistic. Lofty goals like “improving the world” may be laudable, but people will ask: How, exactly? Be detailed about the impact you hope to have, and who or what will benefit as a result.

It’s also essential that your purpose statement be authentic; your stakeholders—both internal and external—will be quick to notice a mismatch between your stated purpose and the realities of your organization’s impact, leading to lower employee motivation and customer trust.

Finally, be clear, concise, and engaging. A purpose statement is one of the most important pieces of writing your organization will publish. Craft it with intention and care.

Speak Up, Strategically…

Raising ideas or concerns with your manager is a great way to boost your profile and reputation—but only if your timing is right. How can you assess whether it’s the right time to speak up or if you should keep your thoughts to yourself for now? To ensure what you have to say will be valued, ask yourself three questions first.

  • Is it relevant? If the idea or issue you want to raise isn’t related to your team’s current goals or agenda, put it on hold for now. You’ll have better luck getting your idea across once your team’s current priorities are complete.
  • Is my boss in the headspace to be receptive? If they already have a lot on their plate, that’s a good sign that they may not respond well to new information.
  • Am I ready to speak up? Before you give voice to your thoughts, be sure you’ve done your homework. Gather data to support your point, come up with a game plan for how you’re going to frame and present it, and prepare answers to any predictable questions that might come up.

Understand Your Approach to Collaboration…

Creativity isn’t a characteristic that you either have or don’t—we all possess it, and each of us approaches creative collaboration in a certain way. Understanding your own approach can give you the freedom to be yourself, play to your strengths, acknowledge your development areas, and partner with creative opposites who will complement your thinking style, greatly improving your work. Here’s how to take stock of your creative type. 

The next time you’re in a brainstorm or a team meeting, pay attention to when and how you contribute. Are you often one of the first people to speak, pitching novel ideas and generating starting points in conversation? If so, consider yourself an inventor. If, on the other hand, you tend to shape, refine, and build on other people’s ideas, then you’re more of an editor. These labels are imperfect, and they shouldn’t feel restrictive. But they can help you develop more self-awareness and position yourself—and your team—for more successful collaboration.

Allow the Other Person to Vent During a Difficult Conversation…

During a tense discussion with a colleague, it can be hard to remember that you’re not the only one who’s upset. When your counterpart expresses anger or frustration, don’t stop them. Let them vent as much as possible, and remain calm while it’s happening. Don’t interrupt the venting or interject your own commentary. While you’re doing this, you can either be completely quiet or indicate that you’re listening by using phrases such as “I get that” or “I understand.”

Avoid saying anything that assigns feeling or blame, such as “Calm down” or “What you need to understand is…” It’s important to give your counterpart this space, but that’s not to say it’s easy. If you can tolerate the venting, without judging, you’ll soon be able to guide the conversation to a more productive place.

What to Do When Your Boss Keeps Changing…

If you work at an organization where constant reshufflings are the norm, you may find yourself with a new boss every few months. Here are some coping strategies.

  • Introduce yourself. Each time a new manager is appointed, you need to schedule a one-on-one meeting with them and bring a copy of your résumé. Talk about your working style, your strengths, and your goals.
  • Be accommodating. Ask your boss how they like to communicate, how often they want status updates, and how much detail they want in them. Then adapt your style.
  • Focusing on learning. Try to look at the prospect of a new boss as an opportunity to learn. Ask yourself: What can this person teach me?
  • Check your attitude. A new boss to get accustomed to is a challenge, but make sure you’re not wearing your annoyance on your sleeve. Channel your energy into making positive contributions to your organization.