To celebrate today’s holiday, I recently discussed the importance of creating positive employee experiences with Dr. Nicole Lipkin, who I met on Twitter. Highlights of our discussion follow Nicole’s introduction.
Dr. Nicole Lipkin, Psy.D., MBA is an internationally recognized organizational psychologist, executive coach, keynote speaker, and author of two business books (What Keeps Leaders Up at Night: Recognizing and Resolving Your Most Troubling Management Issues AND Y in the Workplace: Managing the “Me First” Generation). She is the CEO of Equilibria Leadership Consulting (www.equilibrialeadership.com), a leadership and organizational development firm based in Philadelphia. She is also the founder of HeyKiddo, a company dedicated to building the leadership, social, and emotional skills of children and their grownups. She is a regular contributor to Forbes.com and has shared her expertise on NPR, NBC, Forbes, Entrepreneur, and other media outlets. Follow her on Twitter @DrNicoleLipkin.
QUESTION: One of your recent Tweets was "Let people do the job they were hired to do! So often leaders and managers get in their people’s way, which creates employee disengagement." So, what's the secret?
DR. NICOLE LIPKIN: Give your people agency, which means give them the freedom and flexibility to come up with their own solutions for their workflow as well as the chance to do their work without someone breathing down their neck. If the work they turn in doesn’t meet your standards, then have an “expectations discussion” with them.
In fact, an expectations conversation should be had at the onset of a new hire – if not during the interview process – to figure out how they work, what they need to be productive, and what hinders their work.
During that onboarding conversation, managers and employees can work together to create the right working relationship so that everyone understands each other’s expectations. If someone was hired because of their qualifications and past experience, then it makes sense to let them do what they were hired to do.
QUESTION: You wrote a post for Forbes entitled, "How to Protect Yourself When Working with A Narcissist." What three ways can employees protect themselves in this situation?
DR. NICOLE LIPKIN: This is a very tricky situation as you may not know you’re working for a true narcissist until way down the line, when you’re already caught in their web of manipulation. Even if you do recognize that they are a narcissist, it’s still difficult to maneuver around their tactics, but there are a few self-protective things that can be done:
 Avoid vulnerability. Anything you share about yourself in such moments will definitely be used to hurt you down the line. You may not even realize it’s happening, but it will happen, and you will regret letting your guard down.
 Create boundaries. Both professional and personal. Don’t hang out with them after work, avoid going to lunch with them, and avoid – if possible – getting into work teams with them. They will steal the spotlight and exploit you.
 Don’t try to change them. Surrender your own ego. Narcissists, particularly of the DSM variety, don’t change easily. They are skilled manipulators and can dance around any accusations thrown their way, and then turn it back on you to the point where you feel discombobulated. Not to mention they are likely to erupt in a narcissistic rage if they feel they are attacked, and that can be very scary.
QUESTION: You wrote a post for Forbes entitled, "How to Work with Someone You Don't Like." What are three ways to survive in this scenario?
DR. NICOLE LIPKIN: Though not desirable, this is one of those times in life when reframing challenges as opportunities is necessary. They’re not necessarily opportunities you jump for, but they’re growth opportunities, nonetheless. Here are three:
 Remember that everyone’s a mirror. Typically, what we loathe in someone is something we don’t like about ourselves. This is a chance to do a little self-reflection and ask yourself what it is about this person that you find terrible and then see if there’s some part of you that is similar to that quality, though you may not want to admit it. If they’re unyielding and you want them to bend, aren’t you also being unyielding? It’s not easy, but that’s when you need to find a workaround.
 You can try to adapt. Whether it’s someone or a situation you don’t like, there will often be some aspect of life that is less than desirable. Avoidance only tucks the issue under the carpet, so to speak; if you can adapt and cope maturely, you grow as a person. Over time, these things/people will not bother you as much if you adapt and rise to the challenge in the moment. You thus become more resilient and ultimately happier.
 Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. The more we can see life from another’s perspective, the more we can work with other people and get things done. Compromise is a huge part of life, both in and out of the office. Learning to compromise and see things from another’s point of view breeds empathy, understanding, and influence.
TWEET THIS: The more we can see life from another’s perspective, the more we can work with other people and get things done. ~@DrNicoleLipkin #EmployeeExperience #DebbieLaskeysBlog
QUESTION: What three leadership books do you recommend all leaders read, and why?
DR. NICOLE LIPKIN: Here are my three:
 Mindset, by Carol Dweck. This book is life changing and a must read for everyone, not only leaders. To learn where you land on the fixed/growth mindset spectrum is crucial for personal and professional development. The distinction she makes with fixed mindsets thinking their abilities are set in stone versus growth mindsets looking at their abilities as works in progress is eye-opening to say the least. It changes one’s perspective from “I’ll never be great” to “I can get better if I keep trying.”
 Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman: I’m a fan of anything that helps me understand the way I think, and the way others think. Applying metacognition (thinking about how we think, how we feel, how we behave) enhances our ability to be self-aware and more effective in our personal and professional lives.
 The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni: As much as I’m a fan of anything that helps me gain a deeper understanding of internal human processes, I’m also a fan of anything that helps me understand group dynamics. I’ve always loved this book and how it so clearly articulates the destructive dynamics that can ensue when people work together.
QUESTION: You wrote a book, "What Keeps Leaders Up at Night." A few of the chapters addressed topics such as "I'm a Good Boss, So Why Do I Sometimes Act Like a Bad One;" and "Why Do I Lose My Cool in Hot Situations?" What were some surprises that you learned while writing the book?
DR. NICOLE LIPKIN: I would say that the main premise of this book is helping leaders understand their own psychology and how that impacts their own leadership and the leadership of others. The more committed we are to understanding our footprint as leaders (whether we are leading ourselves or leading ourselves and others) and committing to lifelong self-discovery and awareness, the better we can be for ourselves and for others.
The most eye-opening aspects for me were the neuroscience research studies that I read about for the book, i.e., the way our attention suffers with our technology; the way our brain has developed over time where it still reacts to stress the same way it did in paleolithic times but doesn't realize the dangers are different; how people react to change; that our brain's reward center is activated from schadenfreude; all the research studies cited in the book were eye-opening for me as well and informed my view of leadership and life in general.
QUESTION: You wrote an E-Book, that is available on your website entitled, "SLAM! A Leader's Guide to Engaging People and Building a Company Culture That Works." What are three take-aways from the E-Book?
(Here’s the link to download: https://equilibrialeadership.com/slam-ebook/)
DR. NICOLE LIPKIN: Here are three:
 Social connection figures prominently when it comes to not only employee engagement, but also the bottom line. When people feel connected to the people they work with and for, they are motivated intrinsically (from within versus externally, like paychecks, bonuses, etc.), which is the most powerful form of motivation. People want to come to work and feel like it is an extension of their personality outside of work. When they feel connected to the people in the organization, it supports them in doing their best work, which trickles all the way down to the customer.
 Leadership excellence means looking at the big picture and not thinking selfishly. This means considering everyone when making decisions, from employee to shareholder. They need to think long-term and what can keep everything going smoothly and positively for the long haul, rather than chasing a quick fix or some solution that serves only them. Furthermore, it means embracing soft skills like empathy, listening, and communication, to name just a few to drive engagement on all fronts.
 An aligned culture breeds trust and engagement, which means that it’s important for leaders and the powers that be to not only talk the talk but walk the walk. If they’ve espoused certain values – like integrity, respect, and communication, to name a few – as being the cornerstone of their organization, then they need to back it up in real life. When an organization only talks the talk, it creates disengagement, mistrust, workplace toxicity, and ultimately, high turnover. An aligned culture, on the other hand, breeds trust, engagement, a positive workplace culture, and positively affects the bottom line.
TWEET THIS: An aligned culture breeds trust and engagement. ~@DrNicoleLipkin #EmployeeAppreciationDay #EmployerBranding #DebbieLaskeysBlog
QUESTION: One of my favorite leadership quotes is from author and consultant Mark Herbert (@NewParadigmer on Twitter): "Leadership doesn't require you to be the smartest person in the room. It requires you to block and tackle for others." What does this quote mean to you?
DR. NICOLE LIPKIN: It means – in essence – you’re there to support your people and to ensure that the loudest voices in the room aren’t the only ones that are heard. It means creating a psychologically safe work environment and providing a workplace culture within which they can thrive. To me, it also means you advocate for your people when you believe in them – and their ideas – when they aren’t accepted initially.
TWEET THIS: You’re there to support your people and to ensure that the loudest voices in the room aren’t the only ones that are heard. ~@DrNicoleLipkin #LeadershipTip #DebbieLaskeysBlog
My gratitude to Nicole for sharing her insights and for appearing here on my Blog. How is your org showing appreciation for your employees today?
Image Credit: Mohammad Metri via WordSwag app.