Thursday, April 13, 2023

Secrets to Create Better Leaders and Productive Workplaces

Do you know what today marks? On this date in 1743, Thomas Jefferson was born. Known as a Founding Father of the United States, he was also a diplomat, a lawyer, an architect, and a philosopher. He was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence and served as the third President of the United States from 1801 to 1809. He spoke six languages including English, French, Greek, Italian, Latin, and Spanish; and he graduated from the University of William and Mary two years after he enrolled. He was the designer of several buildings, and as a result, his influential style has become known as “Jeffersonian Architecture.”

So, today, as we celebrate leadership, I’d like to introduce you to Ros Cardinal from Australia. We recently discussed leadership and workplace culture, and highlights follow a brief introduction.

When she was growing up, Ros could not decide if she wanted to be an astronaut, a librarian, or the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup. She achieved none of those goals, but a fascination with human behaviour and neuroscience led her to a career in Organisational Development, specialising in improving business outcomes by developing individuals, teams, and organisations. After more than 20 years in corporate human resources and organisational development roles, a successful battle with cancer gave Ros the nudge to take her passion for transforming leaders and improving how individuals and organisations cope with change, in a new direction. Leaving her senior corporate role in 2012, Ros established her consulting business, Shaping Change, which allows her to be a solutions and results-oriented facilitator with expertise spanning strategic planning, leadership development, organisational culture, change management, emotional intelligence, and employee engagement.

QUESTION: You describe yourself as being "in the business of making a difference by creating better workplaces, great leaders, and inspired teams." Can you please elaborate?

ROS CARDINAL: Our work is creating great leaders: Leaders who are mindful, connected, emotionally intelligent, values-driven, and purposeful. The leaders who work with us want to create a better, sustainable world of work, both for our generation and for the future. They say to us, "There must be a better way to lead," and we help them find their authentic leadership voice. We create leaders who strive toward personal and organisational transformation, and as contributors to a more effective society.

As we support the growth of these leaders, we see their commitment to sustainable organisations become integrated as a personal value, and their leadership identity, rather than just "the right thing to do."

Leaders affect change in our world. When we equip individuals with the resources and tools that they need to reach their potential, they have a revolutionising impact on their organisations and within their sectors. We enable people and businesses to do the work they’ve been called to do and to bring more of it into the world.

QUESTION: We met when I read one of your articles, a post on the website of The People Development Magazine entitled, "Boss or A Leader - Which One Are You?" What are the key differences?

(Read the full post here:

ROS CARDINAL: I covered three points in that article: Goal setting, Support, and Influence. The key differences though are that a boss gets things done, they set goals, they manage performance, and they insist on respect. A true leader though achieves results (and usually much better results) through engaging and inspiring people.

Being a boss and being a leader are not the same thing, even though they may seem similar on paper. There are key differences between managing a team and truly leading a team. A leader involves the team in goal-setting and ensures everyone has a common goal. A boss may set unrealistic goals without involving the team. A leader supports their team and finds ways to improve them, while a boss may use fear and criticism to control the team. A leader inspires and encourages growth, while a boss may intimidate and be overly critical. A leader develops healthy relationships with their team, while a boss may have a negative impact on the workplace. By understanding these differences, you can become a better leader of your team.

There are two key reasons why someone may be a boss rather than a leader:
The first is about skills and ability. If you are not a good communicator, or if you haven’t learned how to delegate. If you've had a boss-type as a role model in your early career, it's really easy to follow that lead. If you don’t have natural emotional intelligence and empathy, it can be hard to connect and inspire people.

The second is about ego and fear. If you are insecure in your management position, it can show up as micromanaging and controlling people. If you tend to be egotistical, you might believe that nobody else has the ability to make good decisions, and you have to make them yourself. You might even enjoy the ego boost that being in control gives you.

And of course, being a leader is the converse of that. Not only the skills to lead effectively, but the lack of ego is key. If you are a leader, you are non-defensive, open to other's ideas. You love to brainstorm with people rather than tell them what to do. You empower people and support them to be successful and are not threatened by their successes.

SHARE THIS: Being a boss and being a leader are not the same thing, even though they may seem similar on paper. ~@CardinalRos #DebbieLaskeysBlog

SHARE THIS: There are key differences between managing a team and truly leading a team. ~@CardinalRos #DebbieLaskeysBlog

SHARE THIS: If you are a leader, you empower people and support them to be successful and are not threatened by their successes. ~@CardinalRos #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: You wrote a post on your blog entitled, "Navigating the Challenges of Leading Remote or Hybrid Teams: 14 Leadership Strategies." What are some of the key strategies?

(Read the full post here:

ROS CARDINAL: Leading a remote or hybrid team comes with its own set of challenges, such as, maintaining effective communication, fostering a sense of teamwork, managing remote workers, ensuring productivity, providing support and resources, dealing with time zone differences, and managing work-life balance. However, with the right strategies and support, these challenges can be overcome and lead to a successful team.

Some of the key strategies are:

Ensure that everyone is really clear about the goals and outcomes expected of them. When you are not co-located with other people, it can be hard to stay on track and motivated. Having clear expectations is important to keep everyone on track.

Have regular check-ins with the team. Along with regularly-scheduled team catchups on Zoom or Teams, make time to call team members for a chat regularly. Working remotely can be isolating. In addition to creating connection, it's an opportunity for your team member to ask questions, get your thoughts, and to share their ideas. This problem-solving chit chat happens easily when people are in the same room but isn't available to remote workers.

Encourage work/life balance. One of the things that research shows about remote workers is that they feel the pressure to be more productive than when they were in the office, almost trying to prove that they are working just as hard. This can lead to long hours. For workers at home, with a laptop and phone close by all the time, it can be tempting to work on weekends, or after hours. Make sure that your conversations with your remote workers include encouraging them to switch off.

Create connection and teamwork. When workers are remote, they can feel disconnected and isolated. Create time for not just work-related team meetings, but opportunities to connect as humans. You might organise a team games night or a team lunch, where everyone joins a Zoom or Teams session just to hang out together.

QUESTION: The onboarding experience is essential for long-term employees. In a post on your blog entitled, "10 Easy HR Video Ideas to Engage With Employees," you shared a wonderful list of video ideas. What are some of your favorites, and why?

(Read the full post here:

ROS CARDINAL: Video is a great way to connect with people if you can't meet with them face to face. As we get more accustomed to technology at home and in the workplace, everyone is more comfortable with watching videos.

My favourite uses for video in the workplace are:

Employee training: We run a number of our programs as blended learning. The participants get a video training per week, to watch or listen at a time that suits them, and we catch up as a group at the end of the week for questions, deeper dives, and case studies.

Onboarding: When I was the Organisational Development Manager in my last job before starting my business, onboarding was in my portfolio. We had a large and geographically dispersed business, with very diverse roles. I commissioned a "day in the life of" video where we had a film crew follow people around at work and get an introduction to what they did during the day. This video gave new employees an overview of what all the different functions did and also put a real employee face to the different parts of the business.

Employee and Team Introduction: These are a great way for people to get to know a new hire, and for teams to get to know each other. Some of the negative silo behaviour we see in organisations is simply caused by teams not understanding what the other teams do. In the past, I've suggested that teams invite members of other teams to visit and explain what they do, but a video can do the job too.

Workplace Guidelines and Policies: Particularly for those dry, but important policies that everyone needs to understand. Some people are not inclined to read lengthy documents, so an engaging video that explains the policy can be a great way to go.

SHARE THIS: Some of the negative silo behaviour we see in organisations is simply caused by teams not understanding what the other teams do. ~@CardinalRos #DebbieLaskeysBlog

QUESTION: What are some key take-aways you hope all readers have upon finishing your book entitled, THE RESILIENT EMPLOYEE?

ROS CARDINAL: The key takeaways would be these:

Change is a normal part of life, and our emotional reactions to change are normal too. Whenever I run my program that the book is based on, one of the most common pieces of feedback I get from participants is the relief of knowing that how they feel is normal and expected. They are also pleasantly surprised to find that most people in the room feel the same emotions, anger, grief, disappointment, excitement, and so on. The feeling of not being the only one is a great help.

Resilience is something you can build. Some people are naturally more resilient, but we can all exercise our resilience muscles and get better at it. Having a sense of purpose, having a good social support network, having a growth mindset, and learning from experiences, are things we can all do.

If you are a leader in the workplace, leading change is hard. Planning for change, thinking about how people will respond, creating a vision for the change, and supporting people through it are things that you need to do in addition to your normal day job. Where it goes wrong is when leaders ignore those things because they are too busy doing the day job. Sometimes leaders disappear during change, because they are struggling too, or they are worried that people will ask questions they can't answer, or people might be angry or upset and they don’t know how to handle it. It is better to be visible and imperfect than invisible.

QUESTION: If you could have dinner with three leaders from history or the modern era, who would you choose and why?

ROS CARDINAL: My three would be Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, and Winston Churchill.

Richard Branson: I'd love to talk business with him. He's got such an interesting story and has disrupted industries. He's had a lot of failures as well, so he's a great role model for resilience.

Arianna Huffington: I've seen her speak at a conference and really admire how she completely changed her life after a health scare. Selling the Huffington Post, starting Thrive Global, and resetting everything, is such an inspiration.

Winston Churchill: My grandfather worked with him, and he was very funny and entertaining. He also had some epic inspirational speeches, and I'd really like to understand what it was like to lead a country at war.

My gratitude and appreciation to Ros for sharing her inspiring perspective about leadership, corporate culture, and the employee experience.

Image Credit: Swati B via Unsplash.

Connect with Ros at these links:
Twitter: @CardinalRos

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