The "Leadership That Works" newsletter
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July 31, 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 to
  • Share actionable advice from top leadership luminaries
  • Celebrate a range of viewpoints (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: The right way to fail, how to be more persuasive, why vacation is good for your career, tips for developing resilience, and more.
The Right Way to Fail
In this Harvard Business Review interview with Amy Edmondson, the Harvard Business School professor shares insights from her upcoming book Right Kind of Wrong: The Science of Failing Well. Edmondson says that understanding the right way to fail begins with acceptance: "The truth is, the future of work will be riddled with failure. We can't just wish it away, even if we wanted to, we have to work with it." Then, it's useful to reframe some failures "as experimentation," because leaders must be "very pro-experimentation, but we have to be pro-smart-experiments," and "smart failures are the result of smart experiments." These "smart" failures can be illuminating, providing fresh discoveries and lighting a path for what to do next. However, Edmondson doesn't advocate a free-for-all; there should be a precise process to ensure failures don't repeat: "A failure, even an intelligent failure in new territory is no longer intelligent the second time it happens." To ensure problems don't replicate, she says leaders should always do a post-failure postmortem "for the express purpose of preventing that exact failure from happening ever again." Get the full story here.

**For more from Edmondson, make sure to attend our upcoming fall BLUEPRINT Leadership Summit Sep. 25-29, where Amy Edmondson will be a keynote panelist; sign up to be the first to hear when registration goes live here and explore our most recent summit lineup here. Then, explore our post, "Doug Conant and Amy Edmondson on How to Harness the Power of Psychological Safety."
New research covered in this edition of the Barking Up the Wrong Tree newsletter reveals five small tweaks you can make to your communication to become much more persuasive. At ConantLeadership, we define leadership as "the art and science of influencing others in a particular direction." Since influence and persuasion are closely linked, leaders can find actionable advice for making a bigger impact in these tips.

1. Turn actions into identities. "'Category labels' give a sense of stability. They imply a behavior will persist." For example, it's more powerful to say you are a runner, rather than you go running, or to say you're "a hard worker," rather than, "hard working."

2. Be concrete. The more specific your language, the more persuasive: "Research shows using concrete language increases attention, support, and drives action." For example, a customer service rep is more credible when they say, "Let me go find that shirt in gray," rather than, "I'll go look for that."

3. Convey confidence. Communication is more influential when it eliminates hedging and hesitation. For example, swap out "maybes," and "kind ofs," for words like "definitely and clearly," and reduce your "'ums,' 'ahs,' and 'like, you knows.'" Then, make recommendations in the present tense; talk about findings and observations in the here and now, rather than talking about what you "found" or observed in the past.

4. Ask more questions. Research shows that asking questions "makes people more likable," especially in first impressions. The best type of question is the follow-up question because "it shows you care and proves you're paying attention." In work environments, some "limit questions because they don't want to sound ignorant," but the opposite is true: asking questions "makes you seem more competent."

5. Talk to yourself. The more self-assured you are, the more persuasive you will be. Research shows hyping yourself up by literally talking to yourself can help e.g., saying "you can do this," rather than "I can do this," in your inner monologue. Another variation of effective self-talk is assuming desired behaviors as identities e.g., saying "I don't have three glasses of wine," versus "I can't."

Find a richer explanation of each tip and more examples in the full story here.

Summer 2023 is in full swing in the northern hemisphere and the season for beachy getaways is upon us. If you're feeling niggling guilt or stress about using your vacation days, there's no need. Based on research and experts, extensive reporting by Joanne Lipman in this Wall Street Journal piece shows: "Vacation isn't just good for your well-being; it's great for your working life and aspirations." Lipman, who spent the past three years researching innovation, creativity, and career breakthroughs has found, "If you want to be more successful at work, the best thing you can do is step away from it." Ernst & Young found "taking 10 hours a month of vacation time was associated with an average 8% boost in annual performance ratings," and Harvard Business Review found that professionals "who use more of their vacation days are promoted at almost twice the rate of their counterparts." One reason that "time off boosts work performance," is because "it acts as jet fuel to supercharge creative thinking," which leads to better problem solving and innovation. Yet, despite the well-documented benefits, "46% of employees with paid time off don't take all of it." Why? Lippman says, "part of the problem is disentangling ourselves from a culture that fetishizes busyness." Get the full story here (this article may appear behind a paywall).

*For more on this, explore our newsletter archive which includes many related links about the ROI of employee wellbeing and work-life balance.

"When you set out to create something, you're going to hear a lot more 'no' than 'yes'—but don't let that discourage you," writes Jane Mosbacher Morris in this Entrepreneur piece on how to grow a thicker skin. As Morris grew her business, she learned how to "accept rejection and turn it into a driving force," and she shares five tips for being more resilient in the face of adversity.

1. Not all feedback is created equal. While advice can be helpful, don't listen to all of it: "Always be discerning, especially if the feedback feels off, uninformed, or unrealistic," and focus primarily on "what comes from people who have actually done what you are doing," and who have "real-world, hands-on experience."

2. Be patient. When "pitching to potential decision-makers, the initial silence can be deafening," but it helps to remember "no one cares more about our project than we do," so "others will not place the same level of urgency" on reviewing it. It's wise to "balance persistence with patience and grace."

3. Perseverance pays. Put in the work to refine and improve your offerings: "Your barometer for what's your 'best' is yours alone, but excellence takes refinement and experience," so practice, hone, rewrite, rethink, and put forth your "very best effort."

4. Use rejection as fuel. Although it's hard to hear "no" repeatedly, every no is "one step closer to a yes," and "the fastest track to failure is giving up." Try to treat rejection as "clarity," which is better than the uncertainty of no response at alland let it "propel you forward."

5. Lean on others. "Having a community is key," as is the support of people who are in a similar situation or sector. Find a "stalwart group of people" to cheer you on and know that "their encouragement will be a balm for your soul."

Get the full story here.

**For more on this, explore our post from the archives, "How to Build Leadership Grit."

In this Worth interview with workplace trust expert Stephen M.R. Covey, he explains why the new priority for leaders is to move past old management models to "inspire" employees. Covey cites research showing that "inspired employees are 125% more productive than merely satisfied employees," and "were even 56% more productive than engaged employees." The way to "inspire," which is "to breathe life into," rather than merely satisfy or engage, is to honor people's need "for human connection," and to build a "relationship of trust," followed by "an agreement with expectations and accountability." When constituents have parameters for what they are expected to deliver, they "feel inspired because they feel truly trusted," and consequently, "they perform better." Get the full story here.

**For more on this, explore two of our interviews with Stephen M.R. Covey, "A New World of Work Requires a New Way to Lead," and "Tips from 3 Top Leadership Experts for Building Trust Post-Pandemic."
Rookie Managers Are in Dire Need of Leadership Training
New research from Oji Life Lab, covered in this Oji blog post, shows that inexperienced rookie managers are a top contributor to employee stress and a huge threat to talent retention. Part of the problem is that rockstar individual contributors are promoted into leadership roles with a "sink or swim" philosophy that leaves them unprepared to shift their skillset from doing to leading. Oji finds that "inadequate or non-existent training leaves managers with significant skill gaps that reduce creativity, collaboration, and output," and causes workers to want to quit. Widespread reticence to train new leaders is galling: "You wouldn't ask a surgeon or pilot to learn on the job; that would be ridiculous and downright terrifying. But that's what organizations are doing every time they promote someone to be a first-time manager with no training." Instead of leaving freshman leaders ill-equipped, research shows that organizations should invest in leadership training that offers "opportunities to practice, reflect, gain feedback, and experience positive modeling." Get the full story here.

**For more on this, explore ConantLeadership's suite of resources, courses, and training, designed by 45+ leadership veteran Doug Conant to empower leaders at every level to lift their game and maximize their impact.

'Agreeableness' Is a Competitive Advantage
Emerging research covered in this CNBC piece shows that more managers are hiring for "agreeableness." A new study finds that "agreeableness" is a prized asset, especially "in situations with high levels of uncertainty." A co-author of the study explains, "the pandemic really showed people the value in being this kind of even-tempered, cooperative type rather than the star who wants to put themselves in front of everybody." As the world of work becomes more volatile and ambiguous, a higher value is being placed on collaborative temperaments because they are useful in building consensus "while addressing issues that live in a more grey area." The study's author does note one caveat to the power of agreeability: "If you have one competitive person and one cooperative person, the competitive person will always win," however, "two cooperative people will outperform two competitive people every time." The more cooperators, the more wins. Get the full story here.
Can DEI Leaders Solve Workplace Loneliness?
"Many organizations aren’t doing enough to address workplace loneliness," writes Karen Perham-Lippman in this Senior Executive piece on the topic. She cites a body of research showing "an alarming increase in workplace loneliness," which can lead to "severe health consequences such as increased risk of heart disease, stroke, dementia, anxiety, depression, and even premature death." Given these risks, Lippman says leaders should view ameliorating workplace loneliness as "an urgent imperative that requires comprehensive organizational commitment," and says that DEI leaders may be the right people for the job because they are "integral to fostering an inclusive, equitable, and engaged workforce." And research shows workplace loneliness is "more prevalent among employees from underrepresented groups." How should DEI leaders shape their strategy? First, they must "prioritize leadership practices that foster meaningful relationships.Then

  • "Take the time to understand employees and their needs."
  • "Recognize changes in behavior and provide necessary support."
  • "Listen to and show respect for employees."
  • "Focus on employee onboarding rather than orientation by going beyond 'check the box' activities."

Get the full story and more tips for combatting workplace loneliness here.

*For more on forging deeper connections, explore our conversation with Brené Brown, "Empathy Is the Secret Source of Connection."

Insights & 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 conversation with John-Philippe Courtois on the Positive Leadership podcast, Doug Conant shares life lessons and leadership tips for acting with courage and care.
'The Power Is Inside of You'—How to Use Positive Leadership to Make a Difference
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 last month's newsletter: Employee engagement on the rise, how to think like Leonardo da Vinci, a neuroscientist's tips for performing under pressure, and more.
Yours in leadership,

- Amy Federman and the ConantLeadership Team

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