We Need Organizational Empathy

Recently I was in the grocery store and noticed one of the employees inspecting the fruit. Particularly, she was making sure that the fruit was appropriately stocked and fresh. When she encountered a couple of containers that had a few molded blueberries, she immediately communicated this issue to the produce employee. The young man came over to inspect the fruit that she identified and afterwards asked her “why are you doing this?” Her response was “this is what the manager asked me to do.” He gave her a look suggesting that this was a waste of time then proceeded to grumble a few words to the young lady. Being a customer who loves fresh produce, I appreciated the work this young lady was performing. I have often purchased a container of berries and been annoyed to find molded fruit in the container. Reflecting upon the exchange between the two employees, I, however, found it interesting that the employees did not understand the significance of their work and their impact on the organization. Particularly, how a poor product (i.e., fruit) can lead to unsatisfied customers, which, in turn, will lead to decreased sales. This inspired several thoughts:

1) When assigning employees with work responsibilities, it is imperative for employees to understand why their work is important. Leaders should take the time to communicate the significance of work role responsibilities and how it impacts the overall organization. This will assist employees with understanding why their work is important and, consequently, it will provide meaning to their required tasks.

2) Empathy, the ability to identify and understand another person’s feelings, will also develop when employees understand why their work is important. Often we take for granted that individuals have the knowledge or understanding of the impact of their assigned tasks without engaging the employee. Yes, I understand…poor quality produce should be obvious. However, how many organizations launch a product with poor specifications or functionality without engaging the consumer..only to realize a failed product and unsatisfied customers. Perhaps these two employees would have had increased motivation to complete their tasks, if not only they understood the importance of their work, but also had the ability to empathize with the consumer who purchases their products. Of course many of us are thinking this should be common sense, but when extending this notion to other work roles within various organizations, we can see how understanding the need of the consumer is often overlooked.

In sum, organizational leaders have a role with not only mentoring their employees, but they also have a duty with coaching their employees with understanding the impact of their work responsibilities for the organization. One way to address this issue is to focus on the Interpersonal dimension of Emotional Intelligence. Focusing on this dimension will not only improve an employee’s working relationships, it will also enhance their ability to empathize with the needs of their customers. Hence, a better work environment and product or service cultivates increased productivity and organizational performance.

Erica L. Anthony, Ph.D., is the CEO/Founder of Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC, a full service coaching, training, and consulting business seeking to assist high potential professionals with achieving their personal and professional goals. For additional information regarding Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC and the services offered, please visit www.innovative-leader.com.

3 Important Leadership Attributes I Learned from Prince

Prince A new day and I still find it unbelievable that Prince Rogers Nelson is no longer with us.  I am a big Prince fan…grew up on his music and have always loved his genuine talent and creative mind.  I remember as child watching Purple Rain, when I wasn’t supposed to, and loving the movie.  I also remember attending his concert in 2004 in Kansas City and impressed by his natural talent. He didn’t have any eccentric stage preparations..it was just his band, him playing his guitar, and his songs.  It seems as if it was just yesterday that I was sitting in the audience singing along with everyone else. To this day, Purple Rain and Adore are still my all-time favorite songs. As I listen to the tributes communicated on the radio, TV, and social media, I realize that not only did he have a profound impact on the world but he also embodied three key leadership attributes that should not be forgotten.

  1. Be genuine: Prince’s talent consisted of a musical medley of Funk, R&B, and Rock, Soul, and Pop. He had the ability to transform several genres of music and make it uniquely his own. This uniqueness extended to his fashion and stage appearance. His unique and innovative abilities enabled him to be a trendsetter in an industry where so many were trying to conform to a pre-existing pathway. It was for this reason why he was able to develop a legacy for other entertainers to respect and embrace. What are your skills and talents? Are you comfortable with being transparent of your abilities while leading others during a key transformational process?
  1. Stand in Your Truth: In 1993, everyone thought Prince was crazy when he decided to change his stage name to the symbol,
    Prince Symbol ”. Honestly, I thought it was very clever and strategic.  He sought to eliminate Warner Bros control over him and his music.  And, more importantly, he wanted this organization to transform their process of publishing music. His bold courage had a positive impact on the music industry and for other musicians following in his footsteps. Are you willing to stand in your truth, regardless of the potential adversity you may face?
  1. Invest in developing others: In a recent interview on CNN, Sheila E. shared her experiences with collaborating with Prince over the years on various projects. Particularly, her experience with the album Fabulous Life, that Prince helped to produce.  Interestingly, during her interview, she shared that Prince had the ability to bring out the best in the musicians he worked with.  Prince had a knack for wanting others to be successful and have control over their music.  In essence, he wanted to change the entertainment industry and felt empowered to do so by helping others develop their talent and being empowered as well. Hence, it isn’t surprising that he collaborated with so many of my other favorites artists, these include, but not limited to Madonna, Chaka Khan, and Sinead O’Connor. Impressive that he did not perceive the entertainment pie as limited, but big enough for all to share. Are you investing in the development of others? Or, are you fearful that as others succeed, it diminishes your ability to succeed?

I could continue this discussion of Prince’s leadership qualities and attributes, but we know that there are too many lessons to learn from such a prolific artist and business man.  May his legacy forever live on in each and every one of us.

Erica L. Anthony, Ph.D., is the CEO/Founder of Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC, a full service coaching, training, and consulting business seeking to assist high potential professionals with achieving their personal and professional goals. For additional information regarding Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC and the services offered, please visit www.innovative-leader.com.

Leadership Lessons From My Grandmother

I was blessed to be raised by a wonderful Grandmotherwoman, my Grandmother.  She is full of personality and a has a laugh that will light up a room.  She has taught me many valuable lessons in life.   Some of these lessons have shaped my professionalism and ability to evolve into the woman I am today.   For instance, when I think about my work ethic and my drive for life, I attribute these characteristics to her. Now a retiree for 2 years, my Grandmother was employed since her teen years holding several different jobs over the years with the most tenure as a home health assistant.   While employed, for as long as I can remember, my Grandmother went to work every day.  She went to work regardless if she wasn’t feeling well or if there were extreme weather conditions within the Chicagoland area.

Chicago is known to experience extreme weather conditions from high heat and humidity in the summer to snow blizzards in the winter.  Regardless of the challenges, she would get up every morning and take public transportation to get to and from work.  Her determination was due to her desire  to provide a stable home for her family.  I will also add that she has a strong work ethic.  One that included a simple notion that has been forgotten by many today….keeping your word.  As an employee, you are an agent/representative for an organization.  As such, when taking a position with a company, you agree to perform your responsibilities to the best of your ability.  She knew that her employer and patients relied on her to show up, on time, and to perform. This taught me two key lessons about leadership.

1) Be Determined.  As you think about your goals for your organization, do not become discouraged when you encounter challenges.  There will always be a season of Summer or Winter, however, you have to be encouraged and determined to see your goals implemented.

2) Be Ethical.  Your stakeholders will not only want to see results, they will want to know that you are consistent, genuine, and honorable. They rely on you and your ability to align your actions and with your words.

These concepts are not only beneficial with the organization you work for, they are also relevant to other aspects of your professional and personal lives.  I challenge you to stay on the path of your goals, regardless of the challenges, and to be authentically you in the process.

Erica L. Anthony, Ph.D., is the CEO/Founder of Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC, a full service coaching, training, and consulting business seeking to assist high potential professionals with achieving their personal and professional goals. For additional information regarding Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC and the services offered, please visit www.innovative-leader.com.

Zombie Leadership

Zombie LeadershipRecently I was in a car accident which resulted in my car being completely totaled. The blessing from this accident was that I and the other driver were completely free from any physical injuries. What caused the accident? It was me…I was completely at fault.  Although physically present, being tired and stressed, my mind was elsewhere.

One evening while driving home from work, I completely spaced out and ran a red light. I notice a green left turn arrow and moving cars, regrettably, I failed to notice that the street light was red for the main traffic. I wasn’t aware that I was running a red light until I was in the intersection and saw a young lady make a legal left turn. I immediately turned my car to the right to avoid a head-on collision, however, unable to stop in enough time, she struck both driver and passenger doors of my vehicle.

As I shared my story with others, many agreed that they have ran a red light simply because their minds were preoccupied with the challenges of life (i.e., work, family, outstanding responsibilities, fatigue, etc). Some have also stated that because they often have a routine route to and from work, they are often unaware of the details that may have occurred while driving to their destination. This scenario got me to thinking about organizational leadership. Specifically, how many organizational leaders engage in the same leadership style and behaviors regardless of the various situational factors or challenges they encounter? Are you a mindless leader who engages in the same leadership style without considering the situation or your potential impact on others? Are you always autocratic, delegative, facilitative, or consultative? Do you consider yourself to be consistently transformational, transactional, ethical, or authentic?

As I am passionate about improving my personal development, I reflected upon my leadership skills and the lessons learn during my interactions with the police officers who assisted us with the accident, the driver of the other car, and my car insurance company. To begin, I was more concerned about the other driver than my own well-being. On more than one occasion, I asked the other driver, a young 25-year old woman, if she was ok?…in any pain?..in need of any medical assistance? I remember being on the phone with my car insurance company the next day and crying because I was extremely worried about the physical well-being of the other driver.  I wasn’t concerned about myself…I honestly felt horrible for putting her life at risk and was praying that her physical well-being would not be adversely affected for the days to follow.  Lesson #1: Are you more concerned for yourself or the employees and stakeholders who support your organization?

Next, dishonesty wasn’t an option or consideration. When the police officers asked me what happened, it was important for me to take full responsibility for my actions….regardless of the consequences. Therefore, I gave an honest response. I recounted my actions while driving and what I saw…more importantly that I spaced out and didn’t see the red main traffic light.  Lesson #2: When encountering challenging situations, are you a person of integrity? Will your followers view you as someone who is ethical or authentic?

Last, this experience was an eye opener that I must do a better job of “being present”. In today’s society, it is very easy to become consumed with what happened during the day or week, and what needs to happen tomorrow. We utilize so much of our time thinking about our interactions with others, planning for outstanding responsibilities, work, family, friends, etc to the detriment of paying full attention to what is occurring around us. Since this accident, I decided to find creative ways to remain engage in my current environment, to RELAX more, get plenty of rest, have more FUN (it is sad to say that almost forgot what that word meant), and more importantly….STRESS less. Accordingly, I have spent more time doing just that. I have traveled, seized opportunities to pamper myself, as well as, danced and laughed more than I have in the past 10 years. Talk about finding balance and being replenished!  Lesson #3: As a leader, how do you step up to the challenge with finding new ways to resolve problems? Are you innovative/creative? Or, do you have supportive people in your immediate circle who are innovative/creative?

As you can see, stepping up to the challenge to be accountable, authentic, ethical, and innovative is not only applicable to our professional lives….we have the opportunity to demonstrate these behaviors in our personal lives as well. Being a strong leader should resonate within and  through us regardless of our surroundings and the challenges we encounter.

Erica L. Anthony, Ph.D., is the CEO/Founder of Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC, a full service coaching, training, and consulting business seeking to assist high potential professionals with achieving their personal and professional goals. For additional information regarding Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC and the services offered, please visit www.innovative-leader.com.

Career Transition: Having The Courage To Move

Several months ago, my aunt asked me a question that I still consider Courageto be interesting today. That question was, “What made you decide to move from Chicago? I never considered moving away from home.”

To provide you with a quick summary of my background, I am currently in my third (and final) career….Glad I love what I do. My first career was an engineer with Honeywell in Phoenix, AZ. With a newly minted Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Illinois Institute of Technology, I found that there were better job opportunities away from home, Chicago, than were offered in the Chicagoland area. Although afraid and uncertain, I decided to relocate to Phoenix and embark upon a new journey. Since that initial move, I have relocated several more times to pursue better educational and job opportunities. Each transition brought a certain level of fear, self-doubt, and uncertainty about my success and the ability to take care of myself. With each transition, I challenged myself to have courage to implement these career moves without knowing the potential outcomes. My courage was developed by considering three key factors that I also challenge you to consider when faced with a scenario of uncertainty:

1. Why not?: Returning to my aunt’s question….I responded, “I didn’t have a reason not to relocate”. I was a single professional without any familial obligations or considerations. Thus, I did not have a clear reason to not accept the job offer. I realized that if my professional growth and development were important to me, I had to change my perspective on life and be willing to take risks. Furthermore, relocating afforded me the opportunity to learn about a different area of the U.S. that I was not familiar with. My aunt, too, is single without any family obligations and considerations and has been for the duration of her life to date. Although educated, the thought of experiencing life beyond Chicago had not previously been a consideration. While discussing this topic, we both realized how important it is for an individual to “step out of their own way” and the courage it takes to do so. So when faced with something new..ask yourself, “why not?” and truly examine the pros and cons.

2. Dreams and Desires: Next, facilitate introspection and evaluate your dreams and desires. Are your dreams and desires bigger than your fears? When afraid or uncertain regarding a new opportunity, I have to assess if I would be more disappointed in myself if I didn’t attempt the new opportunity. I would never know my full potential for success if I wasn’t willing to take risks. Therefore I ask you, would you be more disappointed in yourself if you didn’t have the courage to move?

3. Do You Have A Plan?: Last, develop an action plan. The best way to have the courage to move is to have a plan outlined. With every step I decided to take, I had an action plan created. For example, when leaving a full-time job to pursue better educational opportunities, I realized that I needed to create a savings account, reduce debt, determine my last day of work, determine when I would communicate my last date of employment to my immediate superior, research movers, etc. What are your steps for your action plan? And…as an old cliché states “anything that can go wrong will” With that said: What is your contingency plan if your initial action plan cannot be implemented? For instance, will you give yourself a timeline to achieve your goals and if it doesn’t come to fruition implement another strategic move? Always develop a Plan A and a Plan B. When a contingency plan is created, you will also have more courage to make a move towards your goals, dreams and desires.

Do not let your fears guide you….Have the courage to move towards the dreams you have for your life.

Erica L. Anthony, Ph.D., is the CEO/Founder of Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC, a full service coaching, training, and consulting business seeking to assist high potential professionals with achieving their personal and professional goals. For additional information regarding Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC and the services offered, please visit www.innovative-leader.com.

Communication: The Importance of Interpersonal Skills

EmailRecently NPR wrote an article “We Are Just Not Here Anymore” and it got me to thinking about the interpersonal relationships, or lack of, which occurs within the workplace.  Although technology affords us the opportunity to accomplish more with our work role responsibilities, we seem to have forgotten how to build a rapport with our direct reports, peers, and superiors.  Technology (i.e., email, text messages, or instant messages) is the preferred style of communication, however, although convenient, it inhibits individuals with effectively developing a bond with others.  More importantly, we have forgotten why building interpersonal relationships are important.   I attempt to address this issue with my clients as well as with my undergraduate students.

My area of expertise focuses on Leadership, Organizational Behavior and Human Resource Management.  To summarize, I focus on people psychology; understanding what contributes to the attitudes, thoughts, and behaviors of individuals within the workplace, as well as, their associated outcomes.  Employees want to feel valued and that their concerns are “heard” and are considered important.  Interpersonal communication that occurs only with technology (e.g., email, text messages, instant messages) within a workplace, especially between a leader and his/her direct report, can desensitize the interpersonal interaction that is transpiring…leaving the employee feeling as an unvalued member of the organization.   When this level of desensitization continues over a period of time, employees will perceive their work to be less meaningful and may become less engaged in their work.  Consequently, this reduces organizational productivity and profits.  To address this issue, training on interpersonal interactions has become more prevalent over the past few years.  The purpose of management courses or workshops pertaining to Leadership, Team Building, and Conflict Management, to name a few, is to assist students/participants with understanding the importance of engaging in soft skills and how these interpersonal skills affect those around them.

To hone in on this concept in my undergraduate courses, I employ one key rule. I mandate a policy where technology is prohibited…yes you read correctly; cell phones, laptops, tablets, etc are not allowed in my class room.  I enforce this rule because it is a distraction for everyone in the class room and I am also seeking to develop the students’ ability to focus, develop discipline, and engage in communication and interactions with others without the veil of technology.  I know my clients/students ability to effectively engage in interpersonal communication without hiding behind technology will be instrumental for their professional future.  I share similar advice for young professionals seeking to propel their career and offer some additional insights.  Here are two tips to keep in mind:

a)    Get Out of Your Chair:  If you are seeking assistance or information from someone whose office is only a few feet away, instead of sending an email, take the time to walk over to their office.  Saying “hello”, introducing yourself, and getting to know the people you are working with is not only an asset in your professional role, but it can also afford you an opportunity to build friendships outside the workplace; and

b) Network: Attend events where you can meet other individuals within your organization or industry.  Professionals are successful not only for their technical expertise; their success can also be attributed to their ability to build partnerships internal and external to the organizations they work for.

I challenge you to think about your professional relationships. Are you comfortable with engaging others without technology?

Erica L. Anthony, Ph.D., is the CEO/Founder of Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC, a full service coaching, training, and consulting business seeking to assist high potential professionals with achieving their personal and professional goals. For additional information regarding Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC and the services offered, please visit www.innovative-leader.com.

2014 Is Your Window of Opportunity

FocusWelcome to a new year full of wonderful opportunities! 2014 is an open window to achieve your specific goals…and more importantly a strategy for how you will accomplish them! As many of you are in the process of formulating your goals or making resolutions for 2014, I want you to also think about how you will hold yourself accountable for staying on the path with achieving these goals. We all encounter distractions in our personal and professional lives. Unfortunately, these distractions compete for our attention and energy. As a professor and entrepreneur, I am often overwhelmed with the workload I experience as a professor (research, teaching, and service) that often competes with the time necessary to build my personal business. Semester breaks would appear to be the perfect opportunity for enhancing my business outside of my academic career. However, I still have research and school service requirements that necessitate my intellectual abilities, time, and energy. The question is, “How to prevent these distractions from side-tracking me from my goals and desires of having a successful business?” This is the same question I ask of you, “How do you minimize the distractions that hinder you from achieving your goals?” I have developed a number of strategies that you may also find helpful. To get started, here are just a few pointers to keep in mind:

1. Specify Your Goals. What are you working towards? What are your goals? What are your plans for accomplishing these goals? If you are unsure, now is a great time to get that list together…and more importantly…be specific! Associate a time frame of when you would like to achieve these goals. Keep in mind that specificity is the driving force behind accomplishing your goals. Specifying your goals with time frames is similar to driving your car to the grocery store. You wouldn’t drive to the grocery store without a clear idea of how to get there …the concept of specifying your goals with time frames is just as important, if not more-so, for building your business.

2. Allocate Time. Just as many of you dedicate time for exercising, meals, or house hold chores, you must also dedicate uninterrupted time towards your business. I suggest setting aside dedicated time either daily or weekly towards your business goals. Anything beyond weekly and you run the risk of not making much progress with building your business. You know what they say, “out of sight, out of mind.” The same is true with your business goals. If you do not keep them on the forefront of your mind or include them as part of your everyday agenda, you cannot expect significant growth towards the actualization of your goals.

3. Choose Wise Company. Have a GREAT network. Notice I did not say a good network, but a GREAT network. Specifically, have people in your circle that will support your goals, people that you respect, and people that you would like to emulate. Many entrepreneurs have a strong fear of market competition. This fear hinders them from reaching out to others for advice and assistance. Consequently, it places additional pressure on the business owner to be a subject matter expert in all aspects of their business. Although there are similarities in services offered by many business owners, entrepreneurs have to keep in perspective that we also operate in a community of abundance and opportunities. Each of us offers unique services for our specific niche. Therefore, do not be afraid to seek advice from your network.

Having trouble building your network? Looking for additional services to build your network more quickly and jump-start your business? You may also want to consider investing in the services of a business coach to advance your business to the next level more quickly. A business coach is a thought partner who can assist you with developing a roadmap for taking your business to the next level through the experience of tried and true business and personal practices. A good business coach is well worth the investment for both individual and business growth goals.

4. Track Your Progress. Last but not least, it is important to track your progress. Having goals for your business but not monitoring your progress can sabotage your sense of achievement and your ability to maintain momentum. How will you be able to know if you are making progress towards achieving your goals? Set up measurable points of progress to motivate you to keep moving towards the completion of your goals. Keep your goals and your progress with achieving these goals in a location that will be visible to you. Not only will this keep you focused…it will also give you a sense of satisfaction as you move closer to completing your goals. And the closer you are to completing your goals, the more that you will realize that “yes, you really can do it!”

I am excited and committed to moving to the next level this year. Are you ready to make the commitment too? It’s time to throw open the window of opportunity in 2014 and commit to your goals of a better, wiser, business…YOU! Are you ready? Let’s work together to make your goals a reality!

Erica L. Anthony, Ph.D., is the CEO/Founder of Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC, a full service coaching, training, and consulting business seeking to assist high potential professionals with achieving their personal and professional goals.  For additional information regarding Lyceum for Innovative Leadership LLC and the services offered, please visit www.innovative-leader.com.