My latest Articles

(Thought and Vigor, Fast Company, Talent Culture, Switch and Shift, and more)

  • The Productive Manager’s Guide To The Holiday Season Slump
    The holiday season provides both opportunities and dangers for employee engagement. Excitement and distraction can get in the way of work, but festive fun can be a great way to bond people together. Here are some tips for achieving the best employee engagement this holiday season. Think Before Enforcing Rules Terry Pratchett once wrote “rules are there so that you think before you break them”. That’s especially true on special occasions. Maybe you have a rule that every team needs to have someone present throughout business hours in case there’s an enquiry. But are your B2B sales team really going to generate any leads between Christmas and New Year? Is anyone going to be contacting the internal auditors when other teams are down to skeleton crews? Maybe at this time of year some teams can be let off the hook while vital services like IT keep someone on site. Whatever the rule standing in the way of the holiday spirit, think it through, and then clearly explain why it will or won’t be enforced. Flexibility and understanding are great ways to show employees that you see them as human beings, and so to encourage engagement. Make Space for Silliness People will want to have some fun in the lead-up to the holidays. Maybe it’s sticking a flashing reindeer on the desk, wearing a Santa hat, or racing tinsel-covered wheelie chairs down the office ten minutes from closing. Stamping on all the fun will make people grumpy and disengaged. Letting them Read more
    Source: Thought and VigorPublished on 2016-12-09By Mark Lukens
  • The Productive Manager’s Guide To The Holiday Season Slump
    The holiday season provides both opportunities and dangers for employee engagement. Excitement and distraction can get in the way of work, but festive fun can be a great way to bond people together. Here are some tips for achieving the best employee engagement this holiday season. Think Before Enforcing Rules Terry Pratchett once wrote “rules are there so that you think before you break them”. That’s especially true on special occasions. Maybe you have a rule that every team needs to have someone present throughout business hours in case there’s an enquiry. But are your B2B sales team really going to generate any leads between Christmas and New Year? Is anyone going to be contacting the internal auditors when other teams are down to skeleton crews? Maybe at this time of year some teams can be let off the hook while vital services like IT keep someone on site. Whatever the rule standing in the way of the holiday spirit, think it through, and then clearly explain why it will or won’t be enforced. Flexibility and understanding are great ways to show employees that you see them as human beings, and so to encourage engagement. Make Space for Silliness People will want to have some fun in the lead-up to the holidays. Maybe it’s sticking a flashing reindeer on the desk, wearing a Santa hat, or racing tinsel-covered wheelie chairs down the office ten minutes from closing. Stamping on all the fun will make people grumpy and disengaged. Letting them Read more
    Source: Thought and VigorPublished on 2016-12-09By Mark Lukens
  • The Productive Manager’s Guide To The Holiday Season Slump
    Easing up on certain rules this time of year rather than enforcing them may actually lead to better outcomes. The approach of the holiday season is something many managers greet with quiet dread. From Thanksgiving onward, a steadily rising wave of excitement and distraction can threaten to get in the way of focused work. But the wisest—and, ultimately, most productive—approach is not to fight it. Making room for a little festive fun, within limits, can be a great way to bring your team together when they're having trouble staying focused on their own. Think Before Enforcing The Rules Read more >>>Rules can't be regularly flouted, as every good manager knows. But there are certain times when enforcing them as strongly as you would at other times is actually counterproductive. As the author Terry Pratchett once wrote, rules exist "so that you think before you break 'em." Maybe you have a rule that every team needs to have someone present during business hours in case of an inquiry—makes sense. But is your B2B sales team really going to generate any major leads between Christmas and New Year's? Is anyone going to be contacting the internal auditors when other teams are down to skeleton crews? Maybe at this time of year, some teams can be let off the hook while vital services like IT keep someone on site. Think through the typical rules you enforce during the rest of the calendar year, and ask yourself whether they'll really lead to the Read more
    Source: Fast CompanyPublished on 2016-12-02By Mark Lukens
  • 6 Things Strong Leaders Don’t Do
    6 Things Strong Leaders Don’t Do A lot of the time, we picture strong leadership in the wrong way. We think of it as macho posturing, using an assertive voice, or making commands and refusing to be moved from them. In reality, strong leaders are like trees buffeted by a storm – they bend as the wind pushes them, but they remain firm in what makes them who they are. Part of that firmness is not falling into these six traps… They Don’t Shy Away From Change Change is difficult. Whether you’re a kid starting a new school or a CEO looking to transform her company, the unknown will naturally fill you with doubt. As human beings, we’re psychologically pre-disposed to focus on danger and loss above potential benefits. What we have now might not be perfect, it might even be deeply broken, but at least we know what it is. Strong leaders face this tendency in themselves and set it aside. The doubts are still there, because they’re the most human thing in the world. But a strong leader can move past them and embrace change, because that way they can grow even stronger, and so can their business. They Don’t Let Caution Win There are few things more crippling than an unwillingness to take risks. The companies that lagged behind Apple in its early forays into portable electronics were left behind by this risk taking company. Many of those companies are so cautious that all their efforts since Read more
    Source: Thought and VigorPublished on 2016-11-18By Mark Lukens
  • 6 Things Strong Leaders Don’t Do
    A lot of the time, we picture strong leadership in the wrong way. We think of it as macho posturing, using an assertive voice, or making commands and refusing to be moved from them. In reality, strong leaders are like trees buffeted by a storm – they bend as the wind pushes them, but they remain firm in what makes them who they are. Part of that firmness is not falling into these six traps… They Don’t Shy Away From Change Change is difficult. Whether you’re a kid starting a new school or a CEO looking to transform her company, the unknown will naturally fill you with doubt. As human beings, we’re psychologically pre-disposed to focus on danger and loss above potential benefits. What we have now might not be perfect, it might even be deeply broken, but at least we know what it is. Strong leaders face this tendency in themselves and set it aside. The doubts are still there, because they’re the most human thing in the world. But a strong leader can move past them and embrace change, because that way they can grow even stronger, and so can their business. They Don’t Let Caution Win There are few things more crippling than an unwillingness to take risks. The companies that lagged behind Apple in its early forays into portable electronics were left behind by this risk taking company. Many of those companies are so cautious that all their efforts since have focused on imitating what others Read more
    Source: Thought and VigorPublished on 2016-11-18By Mark Lukens
  • How You Justify Sticking With Bad Work Habits (And How To Stop)
    The more effort people put into something, the more they'll tend to believe in it—even if that effort is misplaced. You don't always work as efficiently or productively as you could, and you know it. Chances are you can even identify which ways of doing things you could probably do better if you were to do them differently—but you don't want to. That's just the way you do it. It's normal to have some habits or practices you prefer and others you don't, and some managers have found that giving employees control over the "how" as long as they accomplish the "what" is a powerful productivity strategy in its own right. But sometimes we fall into routines at work that not only do we know to be less than ideal, but we also find ways to convince ourselves they're worth sticking to anyway. That can be a problem. How You Come Up With Reasons For Bad Habits In the 1950s, the psychologist Leon Festinger coined the term "cognitive dissonance" to describe the uneasiness we feel when we hold two conflicting ideas simultaneously. Festinger realized that this discomfort isn't just an inert feeling—it influences our behavior in surprising ways. Make sure image matches reality, and no one will waste mental energy straining to match the unmatchable.Cognitive dissonance is so unpleasant that it motivates us to make changes in order to avoid experiencing it. But since we don't always recognize why we're uncomfortable (the source of our cognitive dissonance), we can often Read more
    Source: Fast CompanyPublished on 2016-09-15By Mark Lukens
  • 10 Ways to Make an Emotionally Positive Workplace
    An Emotionally Positive Workplace Emotions are great for work. If people are allowed to bring their feelings into the workplace then their passion will show, engagement will rise, and you’ll free up the energy that might otherwise be spent on repressing those feelings. But negative emotions can be a huge problem, creating a toxic atmosphere filled with anger and distrust. So how can you encourage emotional expression in the workplace while preventing the negatives from taking over? Develop Emotional Intelligence A key tool for anyone in leadership, emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and understand the emotions of others, to empathize with them and to deal appropriately with those emotions. Training in emotional intelligence should be a compulsory part of training for all leaders in your organization. If they can’t recognize what’s happening with their employees then they stand little chance of managing them well. Avoid Hiring Negativity Try to avoid hiring people who don’t cooperate well with others or who default to a negative outlook. Recruiters at Facebook do this by using questions about office politics and working with others to test how candidates respond. It isn’t a subject you can tackle head-on in an interview, but if you can find a way to incorporate it then you’ll avoid recruiting people whose negativity will kill the enthusiasm of others. Recognize Effort To spread the positivity around, focus on recognizing effort, not just performance.  Some employees are going to achieve exceptional things thanks to a combination of talent and Read more
    Source: Thought and VigorPublished on 2016-08-24By Mark Lukens
  • 10 Ways to Make an Emotionally Positive Workplace
    An Emotionally Positive Workplace Emotions are great for work. If people are allowed to bring their feelings into the workplace then their passion will show, engagement will rise, and you’ll free up the energy that might otherwise be spent on repressing those feelings. But negative emotions can be a huge problem, creating a toxic atmosphere filled with anger and distrust. So how can you encourage emotional expression in the workplace while preventing the negatives from taking over? Develop Emotional Intelligence A key tool for anyone in leadership, emotional intelligence is the ability to recognize and understand the emotions of others, to empathize with them and to deal appropriately with those emotions. Training in emotional intelligence should be a compulsory part of training for all leaders in your organization. If they can’t recognize what’s happening with their employees then they stand little chance of managing them well. Avoid Hiring Negativity Try to avoid hiring people who don’t cooperate well with others or who default to a negative outlook. Recruiters at Facebook do this by using questions about office politics and working with others to test how candidates respond. It isn’t a subject you can tackle head-on in an interview, but if you can find a way to incorporate it then you’ll avoid recruiting people whose negativity will kill the enthusiasm of others. Recognize Effort To spread the positivity around, focus on recognizing effort, not just performance.  Some employees are going to achieve exceptional things thanks to a combination of talent and Read more
    Source: Thought and VigorPublished on 2016-08-24By Mark Lukens
  • 5 Steps to Build a Better Leadership Career Today
    Build a Better Leadership Career Starting Today Building a career in leadership isn’t easy. Building a career in leadership that suits you, that plays to your strengths and interests, that keeps you constantly interested and lets you progress to the best of your potential, that’s even tougher. These five steps will help you to build a better leadership career – one that’s more fulfilling for you, and more likely to lead to success. Only Shoot for the Goals You Really Want Applying for a job that you aren’t suited to isn’t just a waste of the recruiter’s time and energy, it’s a waste of yours. Best case scenario, you don’t get the job and you get some useful feedback – feedback you could have got for less effort by other means. Worst case scenario, you end in the job, doing something you aren’t interested in or that’s a poor fit for your skillset. Nothing kills passion, and so the ability to push a career forwards, like being stuck in a joyless job. So next time a relevant leadership post comes up at the level above yours, ask yourself if it’s really the post you want, or if you’re just considering applying because it’s there. Unless that specific role matches your interests and long-term career goals, save your time and energy. Spend the effort on doing your current job better, and that experience will stand you in good stead when the job you want comes up. Use the Culture of Where Read more
    Source: Thought and VigorPublished on 2016-08-17By Mark Lukens
  • 5 Steps to Build a Better Leadership Career Today
    Build a Better Leadership Career Starting Today Building a career in leadership isn’t easy. Building a career in leadership that suits you, that plays to your strengths and interests, that keeps you constantly interested and lets you progress to the best of your potential, that’s even tougher. These five steps will help you to build a better leadership career – one that’s more fulfilling for you, and more likely to lead to success. Only Shoot for the Goals You Really Want Applying for a job that you aren’t suited to isn’t just a waste of the recruiter’s time and energy, it’s a waste of yours. Best case scenario, you don’t get the job and you get some useful feedback – feedback you could have got for less effort by other means. Worst case scenario, you end in the job, doing something you aren’t interested in or that’s a poor fit for your skillset. Nothing kills passion, and so the ability to push a career forwards, like being stuck in a joyless job. So next time a relevant leadership post comes up at the level above yours, ask yourself if it’s really the post you want, or if you’re just considering applying because it’s there. Unless that specific role matches your interests and long-term career goals, save your time and energy. Spend the effort on doing your current job better, and that experience will stand you in good stead when the job you want comes up. Use the Culture of Where Read more
    Source: Thought and VigorPublished on 2016-08-17By Mark Lukens
  • Flexible Working – the Key to Social Business
    For a socially responsible business, flexible working isn’t just nice to have – it’s a vital part of using work to make the world a better place. Social responsibility starts at home, and unless you treat your employees right then everything else is just an add-on. Setting the Tone for the World We Live In One reason why flexible working is so important to a social business is that it sends a message about how you view the world. Social businesses are about connecting together profits with what’s good for people. Human and environmental well-being don’t get sacrificed on the altar of the fast buck. Instead, human-centered practices are shown to be good for a business’s bottom line, disrupting the old dichotomy between the two. Inflexible working patterns came from a way of working, and of viewing work, that saw people as little more than a resource with which to achieve business ends. It didn’t matter whether the pattern of work suited employees, as long it suited the business. It was the opposite of socially responsible business – business riding roughshod over human lives. Flexible working shows that you care about what’s good for your employees. It sends a message to those employees and to the world that you’re not putting money before people, because you think that what’s good for people is good for profits. It sets the tone for your business and for the world we live in. Social Responsibility Towards Your Employees It’s great to create socially Read more
    Source: Thought and VigorPublished on 2016-08-11By Mark Lukens
  • Flexible Working – the Key to Social Business
    For a socially responsible business, flexible working isn’t just nice to have – it’s a vital part of using work to make the world a better place. Social responsibility starts at home, and unless you treat your employees right then everything else is just an add-on. Setting the Tone for the World We Live In One reason why flexible working is so important to a social business is that it sends a message about how you view the world. Social businesses are about connecting together profits with what’s good for people. Human and environmental well-being don’t get sacrificed on the altar of the fast buck. Instead, human-centered practices are shown to be good for a business’s bottom line, disrupting the old dichotomy between the two. Inflexible working patterns came from a way of working, and of viewing work, that saw people as little more than a resource with which to achieve business ends. It didn’t matter whether the pattern of work suited employees, as long it suited the business. It was the opposite of socially responsible business – business riding roughshod over human lives. Flexible working shows that you care about what’s good for your employees. It sends a message to those employees and to the world that you’re not putting money before people, because you think that what’s good for people is good for profits. It sets the tone for your business and for the world we live in. Social Responsibility Towards Your Employees It’s great to create socially Read more
    Source: Thought and VigorPublished on 2016-08-11By Mark Lukens
  • The Overlooked Social Responsibility Program That’s Staring Companies In The Face
    One writer explains why companies are wrong to think flexible work and social responsibility have nothing to do with each other. Plenty of companies do a lot of great work when it comes to corporate social responsibility. And many companies are generous with their flexible and remote work policies. But very few see these two things as having much, if anything, to do with each other. But flexible work isn't just nice to have—it's a vital part of using work to make the world a better place. In other words, social impact starts at home. And unless you treat your employees right, and take their work-life issues seriously, then everything else your CSR office does, however laudable, is just an add-on. Setting The Tone For The World We Live In One reason why flexible work policies are so important to a social business is that it sends a message about how you view the world and your company's place within it. Socially conscious businesses are about bridging what's good for the bottom line with what's good for people. Human and environmental well-being don't get sacrificed on the altar of the fast buck. Inflexible working arrangements came from a way of working—and a view of work—that saw people as little more than a resource for achieving business ends. It didn't matter so much whether the pattern of work suited employees as long it suited the business. By giving your employees the latitude to do their jobs in a way that suits Read more
    Source: Fast CompanyPublished on 2016-07-30By Mark Lukens
  • The Overlooked Social Responsibility Program That’s Staring Companies In The Face
    Plenty of companies do a lot of great work when it comes to corporate social responsibility. And many companies are generous with their flexible and remote work policies. But very few see these two things as having much, if anything, to do with each other. But flexible work isn't just nice to have—it's a vital part of using work to make the world a better place. In other words, social impact starts at home. And unless you treat your employees right, and take their work-life issues seriously, then everything else your CSR office does, however laudable, is just an add-on. Setting The Tone For The World We Live In One reason why flexible work policies are so important to a social business is that it sends a message about how you view the world and your company's place within it. Socially conscious businesses are about bridging what's good for the bottom line with what's good for people. Human and environmental well-being don't get sacrificed on the altar of the fast buck. Inflexible working arrangements came from a way of working—and a view of work—that saw people as little more than a resource for achieving business ends. It didn't matter so much whether the pattern of work suited employees as long it suited the business. By giving your employees the latitude to do their jobs in a way that suits their lifestyles, so long as they keep up their performance, companies show they they care about what's good for their employees, Read more
    Source: Fast CompanyPublished on 2016-07-30By Mark Lukens
  • Working With Joy/Happiness: 7 Steps to a Happier Workplace
    Why should we care about happiness? It’s the sort of question that could only come up in business. If you were at home, on holiday or out on the town socializing then the answer would be obvious. To a child, the desire to be happy is so obvious they probably couldn’t even put a reason into words. Happiness is what motivates us, what makes life worthwhile. Everything else we value is a means to that end, for ourselves or for others. Yet happiness at work is something we often ignore. Some even scoff at talking about it. So why should you care about workplace happiness? And as a leader, how can you inspire and spread joy? Why Workplace Happiness Matters Years ago, I got into a conversation about work with a friend of the generation before mine. He didn’t do an especially unusual or entertaining job, yet he took joy in it. He said that he couldn’t bear the thought of spending his day watching the clock, just waiting to leave. If he was going to spend that much time doing something, he needed to enjoy it. His words pinned down a long standing problem – the dissonance between how we ideally believe we should live and how we have accepted that we must work. We have been told that we should make ourselves happy, yet we have also been told that we should put our noses to the grindstone and work no matter our feelings. This creates cognitive dissonance, Read more
    Source: Thought and VigorPublished on 2016-07-06By Mark Lukens