Today we dispatched the June 2022 edition of our Leadership That Works Newsletter, a curated digest of the best leadership links from around the web, sent at the end of each month. In this month’s best leadership links to read right now: Find your purpose, measure well-being, get curious, and more. As always, we’re sharing the content from our newsletter on our blog in case you’re not subscribed to our mailing list. If you find these links enriching, you can sign up to receive our newsletter right here.
Find Your Purpose
There’s a lot of talk about purpose in today’s leadership conversation, and for good reason. The merits of an anchoring ‘why’ for your work are well documented: Research shows that purpose is essential to experiencing personal and professional fulfillment, and can even increase prosperity and lower mortality rates. But for all the discussion about why purpose is important, there’s not as much practical advice for how to figure out what drives you. In this helpful Success piece, there are actionable prompts for discovering your unique purpose at the intersection of three key areas in your life. To get started, grab a pen and paper, draw a simple three-circle Venn diagram, and follow these steps: “Identify your strengths,” “Clarify what you care about deeply,” and “Discern where you contribute the greatest value.” Get the full story and instructions here.
**For more on uncovering your unique ‘why’ and finding fulfillment, explore our 6-step Blueprint process which guides you through the articulation of your purpose through a series of patented prompts and exercises.
“How do ordinary people ascend to extraordinary leadership?,” asks this smart Harvard Business Review article about the miniscule mechanisms that drive big behavioral changes. This question is central today when it has become unrealistic for “a few leaders at the top to take on the full burden of envisioning the future and advancing change,” especially now that “the best organizations rely on their workforce, not executives, to lead change.” If everyone is to share the responsibility of leadership, it is useful to analyze effective interactions, break them down into smaller steps, and extract key takeaways. In a review of over a thousand “exemplary leadership moments,” a research team found that little actions made a large impact, and they uncovered three common themes. The first and most important theme was simple: Interactions are more successful when you set the right intention before engaging with a colleague or superior, asking yourself “How can I bring out the best in myself, and the best in others, in the pursuit of our common positive purpose?” Get the full story here.
**For more on this, explore our post from the archives, “3 Small Ways to Make Big Change.”
How to Talk about Meaning
“The more employers try to tell employees where to find the meaning in their work, the less likely people are to actually find it,” says this MIT Sloan Management Review piece on why “meaning-making should be a grassroots project.” In order to engage both managers and employees in cultivating and committing to shared meaning, everyone must first “learn how to talk with one another” about what meaning is and why it matters. But there are roadblocks. Researchers found four barriers that make these conversations challenging: “Talking about meaning can be unsettling,” “People have a limited definition of meaning,” “Complaints aren’t recognized as quests for meaning,” and “Meaningful work is treated as the preserve of leaders.” Thankfully, the article offers an antidote to each of the four obstacles. Get the full story here.
Meet Your New Metric: Well-Being
“Spurred by lingering fallout from the pandemic, financial pressures, and other factors, stress in the workplace continues to rise,” says this Deloitte Insights piece on the growing crisis of employee dissatisfaction. Research shows that when worker well-being, “defined holistically to include physical, mental, financial, and social aspects,” suffers, productivity declines and employee attrition skyrockets. Whereas, “the upside of well-being is just as compelling,” with 59% of survey respondents reporting they would take a job with “better well-being benefits than their current employer.” So how do you track which organizations excel and which fall short? The authors say companies should lead the charge by publicly reporting metrics on their workforce’s well-being: “Organizations have much to gain from metrics that can help them better understand worker well-being and communicate about it to their stakeholders,” including a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining talent and earning consumer trust. Get the full story here.
“Curiosity may be the missing link in your career success,” writes Francesca Gino in this LinkedIn blog. She offers three ways to be more curious, the first of which is to ask more questions: “Too often, when facing problems, we rely too much on our own assumptions and expertise,” but before “identifying solutions or offering recommendations,” we should engage in inquiry to fully understand the issue. The need to ask questions may seem obvious, but crucial questions often go unasked because leaders are afraid of “signaling that they’re unqualified or lack vision,” especially when they have more “status or power” than others. However, asking questions doesn’t telegraph ignorance as some managers fear—quite the opposite: “When we ask questions, we signal we’re interested in what other people are thinking, which strengthens our relationships and their trust in us. In fact, people who ask questions are perceived as smarter and more competent than those who don’t.” Get the full story here.
**For more on staying curious, read our recent post on how to have more miraculous ‘aha!’ moments.
Let It Go
“Delegation is a challenge for leaders at all levels,” says this Forbes piece on the topic, but mastering the art of “letting go of the day-to-day minutiae” is crucial to leadership success. Why do some leaders struggle with relinquishing tasks and projects? There’s a “complex set of reasons,” one of which is a “sense of guilt” about handing off work, especially if you have a doer’s orientation. Getting better at delegation “requires a mindset shift,” that allows you to “keep your eyes on the prize,” which can only happen when you have adequate time for “the more impactful” aspects of your leadership role. It can also be a challenge to let go of certain “everyday tasks,” because “our self-worth is so closely tied to them,” and “we’re really good at these things,” which can make it hard to give it up, especially if you’ve only recently taken on more managerial responsibility. The best way to start letting go is to figure out “what you want to spend your time on,” and it will quickly become clear “what other projects and duties are eating up time in the day without contributing to those core things.” Get the full story here.
Performance v. Potential
A new study shows “that when it comes to getting promoted, men just need to show potential, while women have to prove performance,” explains this Chief coverage of the research. This unconscious bias “continues to cost women earned promotions,” “contributes to a snowballing gender pay gap,” “keeps women siloed in administrative or human resources positions,” and puts women at a disadvantage when hiring managers are seeking candidates for leadership roles that require “potential and vision.” There are ways to correct the gap, beginning as early as the application stage, where studies show women will not apply for a job unless they “satisfy every requirement in a listing,” not because they “don’t think they’re qualified,” but because they do not “assume that the qualifications are negotiable, whereas men have a default perception that everything is negotiable.” To combat this, companies “need to think about women as candidates all of the time,” and decision-makers “need to always be expanding their shortlist,” for filling senior leadership roles. By promoting people of all genders based on their potential, not just their performance, “leaders can help fix the stagnant pipeline problem and create a more equitable organization at every level.” Get the full story here.
Workplaces Respond to Roe
The recent SCOTUS decision overturning Roe v. Wade, “puts unprecedented pressure on businesses to lead in reproductive rights, similar to how they’ve had to step up on mental health, caregiving, and racial justice in earnest over the past few years,” explains this Charter article which asks four workplace experts to predict how the corporate world will support their employees in light of this earth-shattering change. The experts predict that while many companies “won’t make a statement,” they will step up to “provide reproductive healthcare,” which can be easily positioned as a “basic human right,” rather than “taking a stand.” One CEO advises that leaders should “shift the conversation from politics to how the organization is caring for its employees,” reframing the dialogue “as an affirmation of support for the workforce,” through ensuring “access to healthcare.” Whatever you do, you can’t ignore the news altogether; healthcare coverage in the USA is widely linked to employment, so “corporate responsibility is now the backstop” of this issue. If you haven’t already, start thinking about how your company will respond because “the world has changed overnight,” and “if you haven’t heard from your employees on this issue before, you will now.” Get the full story here.
**For more on this, read the New York Times coverage of how many major companies are already responding.
Insights & Resources from ConantLeadership
The Leadership Mindset That Sparks Miraculous ‘Aha!’ Moments
‘Aha!’s are no accident. In our new blog, learn how to train your brain to internalize this leadership mindset that sparks miraculous ‘aha!’ moments and allows you to meet the world with wonder.
Leading with Humility
In this episode of the NASDAQ ‘World Reimagined’ podcast, host Gautam Mukunda speaks with founder of ConantLeadership and former CEO of Campbell Soup Company, Doug Conant, and the CEO of Edelman U.S., Lisa Osborne Ross, about how leaders must orchestrate their organizations with integrity, empathy, and confidence. Listen here or read the transcript here.
At the third bi-annual BLUEPRINT Leadership Summit this spring, Doug Conant was joined in conversation by Susan Cain, world-renowned bestselling author of Bittersweet and Quiet. Read their tips for fostering deeper connections in today’s workplace in this recent blog post.
‘Empathy Is the Secret Source of Connection’—Brené Brown and Doug Conant on Leadership in the Pandemic Era
In last month’s newsletter: Forget perfection, battle ‘proximity bias,’ make a ‘done list,’ give feedback to your boss, and more.
Level Up Your Leadership at the BLUEPRINT Boot Camp
About the Author: Amy Federman is ConantLeadership’s Director of Content and Editor in Chief, and co-author with Doug Conant of the WSJ bestseller, The Blueprint.
(Cover Photo by Taofeek Obafemi-Babatunde on Unsplash)