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June 30, 2023

By Amy Federman, ConantLeadership Editor in Chief & Director of Content

At ConantLeadership, we're committed to lifelong learning and continuous improvement. In service to your leadership growth, each month we curate this digest of timely resources from around the web toβ€”
  • Share actionable advice from top leadership luminaries
  • Celebrate a range of viewpoints worthy of consideration (inclusion is not an endorsement)
  • Contextualize workplace trends through a leadership lens
  • Illuminate cultural recalibrations in the world of work
  • Support your personal development in life, leadership, & beyond

In this edition of the Leadership That Works Newsletter: Employee engagement on the rise, how to think like Leonardo da Vinci, a neuroscientist's tips for performing under pressure, and more.
Gallup, a global analytics firm that studies and tracks employee engagement worldwide, released their "State of the Global Workplace: 2023 Report," and its findings show a mix of both encouraging and concerning trends. For example, while engagement reached a record high last year, employee stress continues to skyrocket. Overall, Gallup shares seven key findings for leaders to explore:

1.Engagement is on an upswing. "After dropping in 2020 during the pandemic, employee engagement is on the rise again."
2.Globally, the majority of employees remain disengaged. "Nearly six in 10 employees" are psychologically disengaged and "low engagement costs the global economy 8.8. trillion dollars, or 9% of global GDP."
3. Employee stress is higher than ever. "Worldwide, 44% of employees said they experienced a lot of stress the previous day."
4. Job opportunities are surging. "The increase in available jobs signals that the world economy is open for business."
5. Many employees are on the job hunt. "51% of currently employed workers said they are watching for or actively seeking a new job."
6. Engagement is more important than where people work. "How people feel about their job has a lot more to do with their relationship with their team and manager than being remote or being on-site."Β Β 
7. Disengaged workers want improvement in three primary areas. Employees want improvement in the three key areas of "engagement or culture, pay, and wellbeing," and are also seeking "more recognition, opportunities to learn, fair treatment, clearer goals, and better managers."

The report links to in depth analysis and actionable insight for each of the seven findings and you can explore it in its entirety here.

In Michael Gelb's book published in 2000, How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci, the author shares seven essential elements of genius gleaned from Da Vinci. Now, artist Tanmay Vora brings Gelb's ideas to new life in this QAspire Consulting "sketchnote" which celebrates the Da Vincian principles with vibrant drawings and words. If leaders want to emulate Da Vinci and think like a genius, they must embody these seven tenets captured in the sketchnote:

  • CuriositΓ  (An Insatiable Curiosity & Thirst for Learning)
  • Dimostrazione (Test Knowledge via Practical Experience)
  • Sensazione (Constantly Sharpen the Senses)
  • Sfumato (Be Comfortable with Ambiguity)
  • Arte/Scienza (Develop Balance between Logical & Creative Thinking)
  • Corporalita (Develop Poise between Body & Mind)
  • Connessione (Maintain a Big Picture Perspective)

Together, these seven tenets represent a peek into the mind of one of history's most revered thinkers and offer a path to more effective thinking and leading. Get the full story here.

**For more on this, discover a process for articulating your own core tenets and threading them into a unique leadership model at one of our upcoming BLUEPRINT Boot Camps.
New research covered in this Atlassian piece shows that most companies are not effectively managing distributed work, which refers to "any work happening in more than one place." With "71% of knowledge workers working remotely at least once a week, most companies are already collaborating in a distributed way," whether they realize it or not, so it's important for leaders to understand what well-executed distributed work can look like. Atlassian's findings show a central flaw in the current state of affairs: "The corporate world’s myopic focus on where work gets done is outdated," and managers "need to redirect our efforts towards how work gets done, in a way that benefits both workers and their organizations." It starts with adapting the "how" to the ever-changing "where," instead of the other way around. A major issue with distributed work "is not the physical separation of employees. Rather, it's that companies don't have the right tools, norms, and ways of working in place, and are relying on practices that are better suited for in-person, in-office collaboration." To evolve workplaces for the future, leaders should champion flexibility, provide remote collaboration tools, invest in training, and more. Get the full story here.
"Understanding the interaction between motivational and stress systems is crucial for performance under pressure," writes neuroscientist Juliette Han in this Forbes piece on how to keep your eye on the prize when the stakes are high. Studies show that medium to large rewards can boost performance, but as stakes or incentives increase to extraordinarily high levels, they can cause people to "choke under pressure." Han's advice to "avoid choking," as pressure mounts are threefold.

1. Take your eyes off the prize. "Focusing on the prize can better your performance up to a certain reward threshold. Once the potential reward becomes exceptionally high, focus instead on the step-by-step execution of the task."
2. Simulate a high-stakes practice environment. "Prepare and practice for the most complex, difficult situations by visualizing all possible scenarios: questions that would stump you, a non-responsive audience, delays in counterparties, and mishandling of sensitive information."
3. Create room to decompress. "Researchers found that college students who wrote about their anxieties before taking a math exam showed a 5% improvement on a second test taken under stressful conditions," showing that finding ways to express worries "frees memory resources and increases the ability to focus."

Get the full story here.

**For more on this, explore Doug Conant's post from our archives, "3 important Reasons Why Pressure Is a Privilege."

For decades, psychologists and researchers have studied and reported on the positive effects of gratitude on overall well-being. In this New York Times coverage, many experts weigh in to assert that gratitude is still a boon to physical and mental healthβ€”and evidence in support of the power of gratitude has only increased in recent years. Dr. Emmons, who led an early landmark study on the topic says, "gratitude heals, energizes, and changes lives," and multiple studies show that activities like writing thank-you notes or listing things you're grateful for "provide mental health benefitsβ€”reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety, increasing self-esteem, and improving satisfaction with daily life." Dr. Emmons also marvels at "the objective, biologically verifiable outcomes," of gratitude such as "lower blood pressure," and other physical health markers. Leaders looking for practical ways to apply the research can rest assured that incorporating gratitude doesn't have to be a lofty undertaking; experts say "one moment a day is enough," and you can link "your gratitude practice to an already ingrained routine," like drinking your morning coffee or turning on your computer. And, when recording your gratitude in writing, or expressing it to someone else, the experts say to "be specific," because specificity "intensifies our grateful emotions and thoughts." Get the full story here.

**For more on this, explore our post from the archives, "Lead with gratitude," and engage with the host of resources on gratitude included at the top of this newsletter from November 2022.
Pew Says 'P.U.' to Past Generational Framing
If you've ever complained that you don't identify with the traits popularly associated with your generation, you're not alone. Pew Research Center, which has been at the forefront of generational research in recent historyβ€”often framing how the public contextualizes trends attributed to "Gen X," "Millennials," "Gen Z," and "Boomers"β€”announced drastic changes to their reporting methods on generations in this blog post by Kim Parker, their Director of Social Trends and Research. Moving forward, they hope to set the tone for generational conversations to proceed with more nuance and accuracy.

Parker says, amidst a field "flooded with content" that looks like research "but is more like clickbait," and against the backdrop of growing criticism of the usefulness of generational labels, Pew decided "to take a step back and consider how we can study generations in a way that aligns with our values of accuracy, rigor, and providing a foundation of facts that enriches the public dialogue." After a yearlong process of assessment, methodological testing, and experimentation, Pew arrived at the following new guidelines.

1. "We’ll only do generational analysis when we have historical data that allows us to compare generations at similar stages of life."
2. "
Even when we have historical data, we will attempt to control for other factors beyond age in making generational comparisons."
3. "When we can’t do generational analysis, we still see value in looking at differences by age and will do so where it makes sense."
4. "When we do have the data to study groups of similarly aged people over time, we won’t always default to using the standard generational definitions and labels."

Overall, Pew's new guidelines aim to help leaders and the public understand employee populations and behavior more deeply. By no longer defaulting to generalizations and catchy buzzwords, Pew intends "to avoid reinforcing harmful stereotypes or oversimplifying people's complex lived experiences." Get the full story here.

**For more on this, explore Yahoo's coverage of Pew's new guidelines.

Improve Your Meetings with 'Generous Exclusion'
Priya Parker, an expert in the "art of gathering," shares advice in this recent blog post for using "generous exclusion" to protect the purpose of your meetings and events. While "the more the merrier" is an appropriate approach for some gatherings, Parker says it's often essential to be more discerning. When there is a specific or narrowly focused reason for a meeting, she recommends using "generous exclusion," which is "the intentional drawing of a temporary line for the good of the guests and to help activate and fulfill a gathering's purpose." Parker shares the example of a biotech firm's product manager gently denying the legal team's request to join a brainstorming meeting like so: "The purpose of this meeting is to dream up ideas, and not think of risks just yet," but when the time for risk assessment arrives, "you'll get the first invitation." The denial was generous because it was "purposeful, not personal," and delivered "with warmth and care." Parker shares five tips for leaders wanting to practice "generous exclusion":

1. "Get clear on your purpose. When we don’t know why we’re gathering, we can over-include."
2. "Determine who would help most fulfill the purpose this time."
3. "Think through a way to explain (if you choose to and you feel you want to) the logic of the line with care."
4. "Stand by your convictions with openness and honesty. By articulating that purpose with care and trust, you’re protecting your guests’ time and experience, and creating a culture of intention (and permission) for others to do the same."
5. "And when you might find yourself on the opposite end of the stick, be a generous non-guest and defend a host’s right to thoughtfully define a gathering."

Parker adds that any gathering "is an invitation to become more thoughtful about how you spend your time and with whom." Get the full story here.

**For more on this, explore Doug Conant's "CEO Manifesto for Better Meetings."
What Is the 'Glass Cliff'?
You've likely heard of the "glass ceiling," the obstacles women face to getting promoted, but what about the "glass cliff," which is a pernicious barrier to success post-promotion? In this WRAL TechWire coverage of the phenomenon, Nicole Case, a corporate HR veteran, defines the "glass cliff" as "the set up to fail." She explains the "glass cliff" happens "when companies find themselves in crisis mode," and "decide to elevate or bring in a woman or another person of a historically marginalized group to quote-unquote 'turn things around.'" Case says that often women will get the promotion but not "the resources they need to be successful," and are frequently placed in "impossible situations," where there is not enough time, money, or personnel to fix the inherited crises. The resulting "glass cliff" is a "win-win for companies that can pat themselves on the back for hiring a woman or person of color," while leaving the "promoted person very little chance for success and a lot of opportunity for blame." Get the full story here.
InsightsΒ & Resources from ConantLeadership
Now Available! Our NEW LinkedIn Learning Course: "Finding Your Leadership Purpose with Doug Conant"
Purpose is essential. But it can be a nebulous concept. To help leaders find their own leadership purpose, Doug Conant developed a unique process, and a series of reflection prompts, for finding and writing your one-of-a-kind leadership purpose, which he is elated to share in his new
LinkedIn Learning course. Access the course here.
In this recent blog, leadership experts Jon Gordon, Jade Gordon, and Doug Conant share four tips for using positive leadership to inspire people and get results.
In this conversation on the University of Chicago Booth School of Business CareerCast, Doug Conant shares life lessons and leadership tips for finding positive value in others.
In this recent blog, learn why Doug Conant and Malcolm Gladwell say that character is the most powerful competitive advantage in the new landscape of workplace talent.
In last month's newsletter: The ROI of employee wellbeing, the case for 'microvalidations,' one word to shift to a growth mindset, and more.
Yours in leadership,

- Amy Federman and the ConantLeadership Team

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