Lower your guard, go slow to go fast, understand 'hedonic adaptation,' and more.
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   A curated monthly digest of the best leadership links from around the web.

September 2021
In this edition of the Leadership That Works Newsletter: Lower your guard, go slow to go fast, understand 'hedonic adaptation,' and more.
Hope > Optimism
It's common for people to conflate hope and optimism, but they're two distinct concepts says this interesting piece in The Atlantic: "Optimism is the belief that things will turn out all right; hope makes no such assumption but is a conviction that one can act to make things better," despite uncertainty. And research shows that hope is more effective in facilitating resilience, inciting positive action, and improving health and well-beingin work and life. While some studies suggest that a predisposition towards optimism might be genetic, hope is available to anyone and should be regarded as an "active choice," even a skill you might practice. To start transforming your outlook into productive hopefulness, there are three steps you can take and you can explore them in the full post here.
Research covered in this interesting Time article on the power of patience studied career "hot streaks," periods when a person's performance is at its peak and they appear to be on a speeding rocket to the top of their field. Researchers found that these "hot streaks" had one thing in common: "A foundation of prior work," honed over a long period of time during which "improvement was much less apparent." The takeaway? "In order to make a meaningful difference" in work that matters to you, "the work needs to persist long enough to break through inevitable barriers and plateaus." Fast-moving progress is usually preceded by slow-moving persistence, practice, and patience. Learn more in the full post here.
A record number of US workersmore than 15 million—have quit their jobs in the past four months, and the trend is on track to continue at this rapid pace says this McKinsey explainer. Companies are aware of the issue but have been struggling to respond because "they don't really understand why their employees are leaving," and are jumping to "quick fixes that fall flat," offering purely financial incentives without any effort to strengthen "relational ties." Many organizations, in their effort to retain employees, are actually reducing work relationships to purely transactional propositions. But research shows that while employees do value higher pay and perks they also "crave investment in the human aspects of work," and want to feel valued as people. The good news is that if companies "seize this unique moment" to "better understand why employees are leaving and take meaningful action to retain them," they can gain a significant edge in the talent wars. Explore the full slate of insight and advice in the full piece here.

**For more on a human-centric leadership approach that puts people first, get your free first chapter of The BLUEPRINT, a modern guide for leading in a way that honors individuals' humanity and unique contributions.
It's widely known that empathy helps with interpersonal connection but new research covered in this Forbes post shows its importance to effective leadership. Empathy is often derided as a "soft" skill but can actually "drive significant business results" in every area from "innovation to retention." In a time when mental health is measurably declining and work and life stressors are demonstrably increasing, empathy from leaders can act as a powerful antidote to negative pressures. A recent study showed that employees who experienced empathetic leadership were more engaged, better able to innovate, more likely to remain with their company, felt more included, and had better work-life balance. To unlock the benefits of empathy, learn more in the full post here.

**For more on engaging people with empathy, explore our post from the archives on how to 'listen like a leader.'
Last summer, "major public companies across the country pledged to increase diversity in their boardrooms," in response to calls for anti-racist action in every sphere of American life "after the murder of George Floyd in police custody"but what is "conspicuously absent is a discussion of diversity efforts at privately held companies," says this DealBook newsletter devoted to the topic. While public companies have some measure of accountability with "investors, activists, and others tracking their commitments on racial equity," there is no such check on private companies. The lack of diversity efforts at private companies is troubling because they outnumber public companies by the millionsand "today's private companies often become tomorrow's public companies." The time for these companies to prioritize diverse boards is now, before they become public, because "the culture of most companies is created in their early days." Learn more in the full post here.
Mental health, previously a "taboo" topic in the workplace, has come to the forefront in recent years as the ongoing effects of the pandemic have wreaked havoc on employee well-being and morale. According to this Today piece, leaders who want to retain employees must get comfortable having conversations about mental healtha topic that may have previously been "off-limits." Many employers have awakened to the fact that "even a relatively mild mental health issue can lead to absenteeism, declines in work performance, damaged relationships with coworkers," and more. To become comfortable with having these types of conversations, understand that it might be awkward at first and you might not have the "right words" but what's most important is keeping an "open dialogue." Learn more in the full post here.
Ever accomplished a big goal only to find that the feelings of satisfaction and fulfillment from the achievement were short-lived? You're not alone, says this fascinating Fast Company post. When you find your positive emotional upswings fading, it's likely you're experiencing a survival mechanism called "hedonic adaptation" which leads to "fleeting feelings of happiness," in the wake of achievements. As much as this adaptation works against you, it also works for you: The highs of goal-attainment aren't long-lived, but either are the lows from setbacks; the adaptation is meant to propel you towards continued effort. Rather than trying to "outsmart your neurochemistry," you can work with it by making small adjustments. The top tip for working in harmony with "your hedonistic tendencies" is to break big projects down into smaller steps which makes goals easier to pace and gives your brain bite-sized, "incremental wins and feelings of accomplishment." Learn more ways to work with this adaptation in the full post here.

**For more on a small-steps approach to bigger wins, explore the incremental six-step Blueprint process for getting unstuck, maximizing your impact, and transforming your life.
Leaders, Lower Your Guard
"Telling personal stories helps lead to more trust in relationships," reports this Harvard Business Review article that encourages leaders to share more of themselves with their team. Research shows that three key drivers of trust are "authenticity, logic, and empathy," and we "tend to trust people who we believe are acting as their real selves." You can tap into this desire for "realness" and build increasing trust with your constituents if you lower your guard and tell people who you really are. This ability to add "humanity" to your presentations and to connect more personally with others is a learnable skill. Find four tips you can put to work right away in the full article here.

**Explore one powerful practice for sharing more of yourself with employees in our post from the archives on 'Declaring Yourself.'"

Insights & Resources from ConantLeadership
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Doug Conant Talks 'Leading with Integrity' on The Knowledge Project Podcast

Last month, on the Farnam Street Knowledge Project Podcast, Shane Parrish talked with Doug Conant about how to lead with integrity, put people first, win in the workplace to win in the marketplace, and more.

Brené Brown with Doug Conant on Finding & Telling Your Leadership Story

This spring, on her Dare to Lead podcast, Brené Brown talked with ConantLeadership Founder Doug Conant about the principles and practices in his new book co-authored with Amy Federman, The Blueprint.


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'Performance & Purpose Are Self-Reinforcing': Indra Nooyi & Doug Conant on How to Be a Transformational Leader
In this recent ConantLeadership post, Indra Nooyi and Doug Conant share experience-backed wisdom and practical tips for becoming a highly effective transformational leader.
The Only Way Out Is in: Bill George & Doug Conant on Leading Authentically
In this ConantLeadership post, two revered leadership luminaries and former Fortune 500 CEOs offer expert tips for leading more authentically and finding 'true north' in times of tumult and crisis.
How to Build Trust Post-Pandemic
This ConantLeadership post compiles advice from three top leadership experts for building and strengthening trust with your stakeholders in a post-pandemic worldincluding telling your people how much you care, and then showing it tangibly and repeatedly.
August's Leadership That Works Newsletter
In last month's newsletter: Cultivate 'awe,' put outcomes before output, become a 'moral integrator,' and more.
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