Guidance into great leadership

  1. Invest in others and invest in yourself.

Professional development is critical to developing as a professional, and there are two pain points that leaders face when it comes to managing talent: engagement and retention. A recent study by Better Buys showed that employees are 15 per cent more engaged at work when there are professional development programmes available, and with higher engagement rates come higher productivity rates. If that little fun fact isn’t fun about professional development and employee engagement isn’t enough, here are three more:

  • There’s an 87 per cent higher retention rate when professional development opportunities exist and low engagement is a factor.
  • When disengagement is a concern but people still have access to professional development opportunities, 28 per cent say they’ll stay another five years.
  • When employees are disengaged and don’t have access to such opportunities, only 15 per cent claim they will stay another five years.

Why is this important? Because turnover prevents knowledge from being institutionalized and without a shared awareness about historical successes and failures there will be duplicative efforts and wasted costs.

The takeaway: When engagement is lacking, professional development opportunities make a significant impact on retention.


  1. People drive culture, culture drives performance.

The single greatest challenge for CEOs in 2016, according to the Conference Board, is talent. Specifically, attaining, training and retaining top talent that keeps their company at the top of its game. After all, human capital is the fuel that drives organizations, and without the capacity to get ahead, your company falls behind— at best.

It’s no secret that when people have room to grow they’re more likely to keep growing. Momentum has a funny way of continuing to evolve, and professional development is no different.


  1. Focus on yourself.

There’s a difference between being alone and being lonely. Having a little “me” time doesn’t make you selfish. In fact, giving your brain time and space to think is exactly what keeps you at the innovative edge. The human brain is a muscle, and just like every other muscle in the body, it needs time to rest and recover. Sleep is one way, yes, but, just as you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) eat all your fats (or carbs or proteins) for the day in one sitting, you shouldn’t rely on sleep as the only time to give your brain a chance to recharge. Take five to 10 minutes during the day to sit back and think. All the research on meditation and mindfulness can’t be wrong.


  1. Focus on others.

Get away from ‘me’ and get into ‘we’. This means sharing knowledge so people have the opportunity to make decisions and act for themselves, thereby freeing up your time. I’ve said before that nothing gets accomplished in this world without relationships, and you build relationships by focusing on how to help others.


  1. Hold yourself accountable.

Ever noticed how it’s easier to keep promises to other people but harder to keep them to yourself? It’s much more tempting to hit the snooze button another seven or eight times despite telling yourself you wouldn’t the night before. However, the best thing you can do to build character and personal integrity is to keep the promises you make to yourself. When you do this, others see it and they see you for who you are: a person of promise–who delivers. And holding yourself accountable is the precursor to holding others accountable.


  1. Hold others accountable.

People admire others whom they trust and respect, and when they see you holding yourself accountable then they’re much more inclined to listen to you when you hold them accountable. Why? Because they know you wouldn’t ask anything of them that you wouldn’t ask of yourself. At the same time, when you hold others accountable they know where they stand with you. They know they need to either deliver or not deliver and be held accountable. Which one produces the results you want? Furthermore, accountability stems from clarity.


  1. Over communicate, or under deliver.

Nobody has ever suffered from too much clarity. The inverse, however, is not true: a lack of clarity in the form of roles, responsibilities or expectations, for instance, creates unexpected change—chaos—which adds unnecessary gray hairs that we can all do without. Be precise in your language when you communicate. The who, what, when, where, why and how of the message are important, but equally critical is the language in which they’re conveyed.

When referencing the “when” component, for example, don’t just say “…and we aim to accomplish [x] by the end of 2016.” Be more specific. Are we talking calendar year? Fiscal year? What does “accomplish” look like? And does “aim” mean “hope” or is it a milestone that must be achieved? Clarity now saves confusion later.

Remember that too much of any one thing is just that—too much. Finding the right balance to dedicate the appropriate amount of time of each of the above is a learning process in itself.

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