Can having fun make you a better leader?

by Dave Crenshaw

view original publication on


Employees, whether they know it or not, tend to play “follow the leader. They may admire your ingenuity or just want a little more spending money. Whatever it is, they mimic your behavior because they think it will make them successful. The problem is that leaders often exhibit unhealthy behaviors that cause them to work late nights without taking crucial breaks that recharge their batteries and improve their performance.


According to the Kelly Global Workforce Index, seventy-four percent of employees feel less loyal to their employer after the first year. What’s more, according to the University of Phoenix, nearly 60 percent of all American workers wish they were in a different career.


There are also studies that show that workaholism isn’t just unhealthy, it’s detrimental to the productivity of both yourself and others. In my upcoming book The Power of Having Fun, I discuss ways to improve this by finding a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly “Oasis.”
An Oasis?


Imagine you’re in the Mojave desert. You are hundreds of miles from civilization. You’re rationing food and water and you need to make it to civilization before you starve. Your lips are beginning to chap and you’re sunburned beyond belief.


Then, inexplicably, in this barren wasteland, you are greeted by a pool of the bluest drinking water you’ve ever seen. There’s papaya juice, fresh seafood, and a chase lounge comfortable enough to rest any weary traveler.


This oasis is exactly what you need to continue the journey and to get where you’re trying to go. As a manager, your Work Oasis is exactly what you need to get through your day. Only it’s not a mirage. It’s very real.
You Come First


Establishing an Oasis is incredibly simple. The first step is to schedule this time with yourself every day. Literally, put it on your calendar. Your Oasis can be whatever you’d like it to be. Maybe you enjoy taking a bike ride through the parking lot or a quick trip down a YouTube wormhole.


One of my regular clients scheduled an appointment each day to visit Bessie the Cow. She’d leave her office, walk up the hill to a local pasture, pet the cow on the nose and then head back to work. Whether your moment of relaxation is of the bovine, canine, or alone time variety, any type of Oasis can work―as long as it’s meaningful to you!


Your employees should notice a change in your behavior and a change in the culture and mimic you accordingly.
The Institutional Oasis


If the free market of workplace behaviors doesn’t move the needle for your team, it’s your responsibility as a leader to institute and encourage taking breaks.


However, instead of setting the parameters for what constitutes a break, ask them what kind of break would be meaningful to them. Ask them what they like to do for fun. You shouldn’t encourage them to read when what they really want to do is play video games. You shouldn’t send them TED talks when what they really want to do is take long walks.
Taking Things Up a Notch


Eventually, you may find an opportunity in your budget for a more expensive Work Oasis, such as a company picnic. In my coaching experience, I’ve found leaders get the best results when they make these breaks less about the activity and more about self-directed fun. For example, company off-sites to the local bowling alley don’t appeal to everyone. Between the bowling shoes and the loud noises, you stand to turn some people off. The same can be said for a golf day, a video game day, or any other fun daytime activity. In the land of fun, flexibility is key.


Consider instituting a day like LinkedIn’s monthly InDay. Each InDay, employees engage in personal projects meant to reflect their own personal goals and to create a positive impact.
Winning Your Employees


By becoming an advocate of employee fun, you are more likely to turn the tide of the negative workplace stats I listed earlier. As a leader, your goals are often focused on performance result―as they should be. Always remember that getting stuff done and having more fun go hand-in-hand. By taking more time for yourself, setting a fun-positive example, and granting that privilege to others, you become a more productive leader.


The Benefits of having An Executive Leadership Coach

By Gord AkerPCC

View original publication on Millenial Magazine

There is an age old fable of a traveller who, upon attempting to enter a walled city, is challenged by a sentry who asks him: “Who are you, where are you going and why is it important for you to go there?” The traveller asks the guard, “How much do they pay you to ask me those questions?” The guard, somewhat taken aback, answers the question at which point the traveller says: “I will pay you twice that amount to ask me those questions every day for the rest of my life.”

While there are many versions of this story and its origin is somewhat murky, there can be no denying the underlying message. It is simply that human beings have both a drive and a hunger to know who they are, grow to their full potential and be inspired by living a life of contribution, purpose and meaning.

Indeed, it is through the passionate pursuit of our purpose that happiness emerges and personal fulfillment results. It could be argued that the sentry in this fable was the first Executive Leadership Coach because these questions are the foundation for any Professional Coaching relationship.

Where did my life go?

The unfortunate reality is that while we may have these aspirations, few of us actually act on them. The day-to-day transactions of routine living end up taking over our lives and before we know it, we are floating down the river of our life, staring zombie like into the distance, waiting to be dropped off the end into the bucket of bliss known as retirement.

Wait…what? Where did my life go? Is this it?

The truth is that living a fulfilling life is a radical act. The river flow of societal inertia is extraordinarily powerful at sweeping us along in an unrelenting current of “’Must Dos’, ‘Should Dos’ and ‘Not ready yets’”. It takes both a rebel and a leader to stand in this torrent and choose to step into something more meaningful, more inspiring and more worthy of their time on this earth. So difficult are these steps, that few can do it alone. So daunting is the prospect of failure, that few will seek help. And this is a travesty. A colossal waste. And completely unnecessary.

It is a travesty because all of us possess sufficient leadership talent to lead our own lives. We may not discover, develop and deploy this talent, but it is there. In its more advanced form, many of us have the leadership ability to influence positive change in the people around us and in the world that surrounds us.

Failing to do this, is a colossal waste of humanity’s collective potential. And it is completely unnecessary because the very resources we can use to escape this river of predefined expectations and help us to discover the path that is right for us, is readily available. This resource is an Executive Leadership Coach.

If You Want More, Get An Executive Leadership Coach

The good news is that an Executive Leadership Coaching is neither new nor unproven. It has been used successfully by business leaders for well over two decades to breakdown insecurities, challenge assumptions, provide focus, and support exceptional growth in themselves and their organizations. Readers interested in learning more about Professional Coaching are invited to visit the International Coach Federation (ICF).

So what is Executive Leadership Coaching and how does it work? Many people believe that Professional Coaching is about providing assessment and giving advice. But being told what is wrong with you and what to do about it is a role that most bosses, many parents and some spouses are happy to fill. So thankfully that “need” is well looked after! Professional Coaching on the other hand is about as far from that experience as you can get.

An Executive Leadership Coach is trained to create a “safe space” where you can explore your challenges, perspectives, beliefs, values, assumptions and aspirations with complete candor and without fear of judgement. The coach does not have an “agenda” nor an “answer” for you but rather supports you in discovering who you are and where you would like to go.

Coaching is a process that inspires wide ranging exploration of possibilities, encourages deep personal reflection and enables personal insight and truth telling. This is why coaching is the single most powerful mode of personal growth and professional development available today – because the insights and answers come from you, the client, NOT the coach. And that insight, once unearthed, can not be denied or discounted. It is real. It is yours and it matters.

But just knowing is not enough. Insight is just the planted seed. For that seed to grow, it needs to be nurtured, nourished and supported. An Executive Leadership Coach will challenge you to translate your insight or idea into action and that action will result in real growth.

A Professional Coach will support you when you falter or when you aren’t growing as fast as you would like. When your internal critic shows up to yell in your ear that you are failing and that you are “not good enough”, it will be your coach that distracts him while you get back to the important work at hand.

What Is Your Truth?

What is the experience of being coached? For many people it is the first time in their lives that they feel completely seen and heard. It is also incredibly affirming to be unconditionally accepted for who you are. It can also be exciting and terrifying!

When you first articulate your truth – that you are unhappy in a relationship, that your career is faltering, that your staff or employees are unengaged, that your leadership capability is not producing the results you want, that you want to feel more alive and vital – it can cause a feeling of vulnerability and be quite intimidating. Thankfully, the safe space created by you and your coach pushes back the fear and drains the insecurity.

When your coach asks: “What do you want to do about that?”, it can be a pivotal moment in your life – full of anxiety and trepidation and yet at the same time, energy and anticipation. And when you commit to taking that first step into the future you want for yourself, something rather difficult to explain happens.

It starts with you feeling more grounded, centered and real. And then other people start to notice that you are more calm, focused, determined and authentic. And then within two to four weeks, you see your actions start to have an effect and your situation starts to improve. Soon your confidence grows and your courage is more present and the “dream” you started with seems a little bit closer. And soon, you are leading your life instead of being a victim to it.

You are taking charge and moving in a direction that inspires you and creates the energy you need to carry on. You may be tired but you will be amazed at how quickly your “tank” is refilled when you are on the path that is right for you, worthy of you and aligns with who you are and how you see yourself in the world.

Now that you have used Professional Coaching to escape the river of mediocrity, you are undoubtedly looking for that sentry at the city wall, because now you have the answers he was looking for!

Generation X — not millennials — is changing the nature of work

By Stephanie Neal and Richard Wellins

View original publication on CNBC.Makeit

The generation that is quickly occupying the majority of business leadership roles is one that’s grown up playing video games, spends the most time shopping online, and uses social media more habitually than any other generation.

If you were thinking it’s millennials, that’s probably because they’ve dominated the media’s focus for the past decade. But it’s actually Generation X, which covers those born between 1965 and 1981 by our definition.

As Pew Research unflatteringly referred to them in a 2014 report, Gen X is “America’s neglected ‘middle child,'” and we don’t hear much about the group. It seems that all eyes are on the slowly retiring baby boomers or the ascending millennials, now the world’s majority generation. But our recent study revealed that Gen X is playing a critical — and underappreciated — role in leadership as organizations grapple with digital transformation.

In our Global Leadership Forecast 2018 — published by DDI, The Conference Board and EY with support from CNBC — we took a look at more than 25,000 leaders spanning 54 countries and 26 major industry sectors. We found that Gen X now accounts for 51 percent of leadership roles globally. With an average of 20 years of workplace experience, they are primed to quickly assume nearly all top executive roles.

Our research revealed that, although they aren’t typically considered digital natives to the extent that millennials are, Gen X leaders are just as likely to be comfortable leveraging technology in the workplace: Some 54 percent of Gen X and 56 percent of millennials reported that they are digitally savvy.

That finding is backed up by research by Nielsen, which revealed that Gen X is the most connected generation. Nielsen found that Gen Xers use social media 40 minutes more each week than millennials. They were also more likely than millennials to stay on their phones at the dinner table and spend more time on every type of device — phone, computer, or tablet. And, as it turns out, Gen X is bringing this connectivity to work.

While Gen X may be equally capable at digital tasks as millennials, they also show a mastery of conventional leadership skills more on par with leaders of the baby boomer generation. That includes identifying and developing new talent at their organizations and driving the execution of business strategies to bring new ideas to reality.

Sixty-seven percent of Gen X leaders are also effective in “hyper-collaboration,” and are working relentlessly to break down organizational silos. Gen X leaders’ strength for working with and through others is enabling them to shape the future of work and generate faster innovation by getting people working together to solve customers’ and their organization’s issues.

Despite their growing influence and responsibilities at work, Gen Xers are most overlooked for promotion and have been the slowest to advance. We found Gen X leaders on average had only 1.2 promotions in the past 5 years, significantly lower than their younger millennial counterparts (1.6 promotions) and more senior baby boomers (1.4 promotions) during the same period of time.

While Gen X leaders are often under-recognized for the critical role they play in leadership, they are typically expected to take on heavy workloads. On average, Gen X leaders have 7 direct reports, compared to only 5 direct reports for millennials. While their advancement rate is slower and their teams larger, Gen X remain loyal employees. Only 37 percent contemplate leaving to advance their careers — five percentage points lower than millennials.

Demonstrating loyalty, a willingness to take on a heavy workload, and a powerful combination of digital and traditional leadership skills, Gen X is producing highly capable leaders that are in danger of being overlooked. Organizations that want to retain and develop their Gen X leaders should:

– Provide leaders with more external guidance. While Gen X leaders are loyal, they are craving insight and knowledge from mentors outside of their organization. In fact, 67 percent of leaders said that they would like more external coaching, and 57 percent wanted external development. Employers should invest in helping Gen X leaders participate in outside professional organizations, industry conferences and other groups to foster relationships with external peers and mentors who can provide coaching.

– Encourage leaders to challenge the status quo. Many organizations may look to millennials to lead innovative projects, particularly those that are tech-based. But Gen X leaders are likely to thrive when given the opportunity to experiment with new approaches and challenge existing methods. Ideally, a cross-generational team — perhaps led by a Gen Xer — may deliver the most innovative solutions.

– Leverage technology to support traditional development. Like those in other generations, Gen X leaders said they still want traditional learning methods, such as formal workshops, training courses and seminars. However, they also enjoy the personalization and convenience offered by technology-based tools. Blending traditional learning methods with tech-enabled tools to enhance and solidify learning will help them make the most of their development opportunities.

The oldest Gen X workers will likely still be in the workforce for at least 10 years, and the younger members of the generation may still be working for more than 30, meaning that Gen X will be forming the backbone of organizations’ leadership for quite some time. Those that overlook Gen X in favor of focusing only on the youngest generations entering the workforce will miss out on a deep and valuable source of leadership potential.

Now is the time to focus on strengthening the skills of Gen X and further developing their broad range of skills.

Coaching is the New Managing For Millennials

By Nick

View original publication on Coaching Millenials

I love Peter Drucker. The father of modern management always cut through the complexity and got to the heart of that matter. I remember during the weighty assignments in finance and accounting classes while getting my MBA, I’d run across a Drucker quote like, “business has only two functions, marketing and innovation”. This inspired me to slog through the double-entry bookkeeping.

Drucker died in 1995 at the age of 96, so he never managed a Millennial, but if he did, he would be refining and tweaking one aspect of his management theory. He might say that to get Millennials to peak performance, manage less, and coach more. Coaching is the new managing for Millennials. Here’s why

Millennials grew up to believe they were special. From an early age they were doted on by their parents, helicopter-hovered in K-12, and plastered with gold stars for completing assignments. They have been under the watchful eye of parents, teachers, tutors, and coaches all their lives. For the most part, these authority figures have been caring with their Millennials’ best interest in mind. So when these Millennials enter the workforce, how will they respond to someone who doesn’t possess these characteristics? A distant authority figure doling out unexplained assignments and lofty goals without explaining how to get to those goals is not the way to get there. On the other hand, someone that will work closely with them, mentoring and partnering– coaching them to better performance will experience far greater levels of productivity.

The word “management” conjures up a faceless bureaucratic infrastructure, at worst– malevolent, and at best—indiscriminate: Rule-making and decision-making at its worst. Drucker himself even said, “So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work”

Let me be clear. The principles of good management still need to apply—clear expectations, a means of tracking progress, and rewards for achieving goals. But how a manager manages should be more like a coach—developing his or her Millennial employee with close supervision and a watchful, caring eye.

Old habits die hard, and if you’ve been a manager for more than 10-years, I can understand the inclination to subscribe to the philosophy, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ But something does not have to be broke in order to fix it. Change happens, and the strong are those that can adapt to change. Millennials are different from the previous two generations. They are the change that is happening in the workplace, and coaching, not managing, might be the change that gets your organization to higher levels of productivity.

Take it from Peter Drucker when he says, “If you want to start doing something new, stop doing something old.” Coaching is the new managing when it comes to Millennials.

How Reverse Mentoring Can Benefit Millennials and their Managers

View originial publication on Coaching Millenials

Generation X and Baby Boomers are increasingly serving as mentors to Millennials in the workplace, but the new trend is reverse mentoring, where Millennials provide guidance on new and innovative ways to approach the ever-changing demands of work.

The benefits of traditional mentoring — where an older, more seasoned professional trains, teaches and coaches younger employees — are well documented. Mentoring young employees helps them learn more about their jobs, their role in the company, their potential career trajectory and how to advance professionally; it also gives older employees an increase in job satisfaction and purpose, builds their career legacy and gives them a unique professional outlet.

While the benefits of traditional mentoring relationships are known, the benefits of reverse mentoring are less known. Reverse mentoring is the practice of matching older, seasoned professionals with younger employees with a focus on having the Millennials mentor up.

What Millennials Can Bring

Millennials often have a reputation for being lazy, entitled, needy — the list goes on, and the majority of these negative stereotypes about Millennials don’t hold up to the light. Millennials are loyal, team-oriented, innovative and goal-focused.

Millennials often bring a new perspective to the workplace, with a desire to see the “greater good” in their job, their role in the company and the company’s role in the world. Giving Millennials the opportunity to convey that passion to older employees who have been with the company a long time can re-energize and reignite the dedication and enjoyment long-time employees and managers once had for their jobs.

In addition, Millennials’ desire for transparency and honest communication can lead more seasoned managers to question the way they’ve “always done” things. This can lead to positive changes throughout all levels of the company, with an increase in experimentation, newly discovered efficiencies and new business development opportunities.

Reverse mentoring also gives seasoned professionals an opportunity to reflect on their own way of doing things and may widen their understanding of the way their organization and industry are changing. With reverse mentoring, older professionals have a unique opportunity to close their knowledge gap in areas like technology, social media, work-life balance, workplace trends and more.

In addition, a long-term Sun Microsystems study of about 1,000 employees found that employees who participated in a mentoring program were 20 percent more likely to get a raise — and that went for both mentors and mentees. In addition, employees who received mentoring were promoted 5x more often than those who did not have mentors.

How It Works

For companies, setting up reverse mentoring is easy, as it can work within the structure of the company’s ongoing, more traditional mentoring program. Cisco, for example, started their program by finding a champion within the organization to promote the program, set goals and metrics by which to measure success. Then, the company focused on recruiting mentees (i.e. older employees), and then recruiting mentors — the younger employees who indicated interest in participating. The company also provided the mentors with resources, tips, ideas and best practices for mentoring, as many had never been a mentor to someone in the past. Cisco’s former Business Operations Manager Laura Earle declared the reverse mentoring program a success, as it built relationships and helped all participants develop a better understanding of the company.

For a reverse mentoring relationship to work, many of the same rules apply as for a more traditional mentoring relationship. Both younger and older participants must keep an open mind and a positive attitude, trust each other, respect each other’s viewpoints and find ways to seek common ground. Both parties should set goals and commit to scheduling ongoing meetings to keep the relationship strong and growing.