Seven Leadership Skills CIOs Need to Drive Results
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As Thanksgiving approaches, many of us are thinking a lot about all the things we have to be grateful for, regardless of the difficulties that we invariably have to confront in our daily lives. It's a healthy exercise, and it raises an intriguing question: Can a healthy gratitude make you a better leader, and, by extension, improve your organization's performance and productivity? One businessman-turned-author answers that question with a resolute "yes."
Todd Patkin, a successful businessman and author of the book, "Finding Happiness," has come up with a list of six ways business leaders can tap into the power of gratitude to boost motivation and the bottom line:
- Always say "thank you." Most of us have a desk full of things that should have been done yesterday, and it's easy to use the excuse that we don't have time to hand out compliments and thanks. But there's no better way to use your time. By taking just 30 seconds longer to get back to your office, you have improved another person's mood, day and productivity level. You'll also be making yourself more approachable and likeable, and over time your team will begin to relate to you more positively. No one ever gets tired of hearing compliments; in fact, I have found that consistent and heartfelt recognition - when it is deserved, of course - is a better long-term motivator than money. Remember also to acknowledge it when someone else gives you a compliment or a thank you - it's important for others to know that their gratitude is noticed and appreciated in order for it to continue.
- Take intent into account. When you're in a position to make a grand gesture of gratitude, your intentions may be good - but your plans might not always be as successful as you'd hoped. Inevitably, there will be someone who says, "I wish the boss had sent me to a concert instead of to an NBA game," or, "Gosh, the food at this party tastes horrible." Remember that despite negative feedback, showing gratitude is always the right thing, and the majority of non-complainers probably loved your gesture. And if the shoe is on the other foot and an expression of gratitude that's aimed at you misses the mark, say "thank you" for the thought and go on about your day.
- Start being more open. In the average office, communication is far from completely open. No one wants to bug the boss unnecessarily or meddle in a coworker's projects (unless, perhaps, that person's intent is negative). This sort of "keep-to-yourself" culture doesn't tend to foster total understanding or genuine gratitude. Think about it this way: If a leader is dissatisfied with an employee's performance, that employee will probably sense that he's not highly appreciated, and he'll have no reason to work any harder than necessary. The leader's bad opinion of the employee will continue and grow worse, further eroding the employee's motivation. It's a negative cycle, but it can be easily broken with a little openness and honesty. If you're a leader, tell your people constructively how they can improve their performance. If you're a team member, be proactive about asking your coworkers and boss how you're doing and how you can get better at your job. And no matter where you fall on your company's hierarchy, learn how to receive constructive criticism.
- Learn to graciously accept thanks. Yes, giving thanks is a very important building block when it comes to cultivating a culture of gratitude in your organization. But it's not the only one. How you respond to appreciation is also important. If you brush off compliments or ignore expressions of gratitude - even if it's because you'd rather stay out of the spotlight - you'll eventually stop hearing "thanks!" altogether, and you'll be discouraging the person complimenting you from reaching out to others in the same way. Whenever someone thanks you or notices something positive about you, try to truly engage with him and let him know that his words have been meaningful.
- Keep the gratitude going outside of your organization. Once you notice that those two important words - thank you - are being uttered on a regular basis in your office, make an effort to extend them outside of the people on your payroll. Thank your customers or the people you serve for choosing your organization, and for trusting your team. This is something that many clients don't hear, so when they do, their loyalty to your company is strengthened. A simple "thank you for your business" is easy and free, and there's no excuse not to make use of this tool. You might also consider offering discounts, coupons, or promotions to show customer appreciation. Especially in a tough economy, it's vital to let those you serve know how much they mean to you so that they don't take their business elsewhere.
- Use gratitude to reinforce stellar performance. No, your employees and coworkers are not pets. Remember, though, that just as a Labrador Retriever will learn to repeat or refrain from a behavior because she is given a treat, a worker will do the same thing based on his boss's feedback. Using gratitude to shape your team's habits and priorities can be every bit as valuable as training programs and industry conferences - at a fraction of the time and cost.