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Music at work is good for team building.

Kniffin, Yan, Wansink and Schulze/ Journal of Organizational Behaviour 2016

Also in this compendium: Avoid failure hypocrisy and 10 small (but important) steps you can take today

Here are 10 cut-to-the-chase tips to improve your management, from blogger-consultants Jesse Lyn Stoner and Lolly Daskal. You can also use them as a test to see how effective you are and where you need to improve.

Ms. Stoner offers five punchy, provocative questions that you may find uncomfortable to answer. If so, that's probably a good thing:

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– What do you stand for? It's vital to know what you hold most dearly and to check you are upholding that belief.

– What do you strive for? You need challenging goals to move yourself and your organization forward. But she points out there is more to leadership than achieving results: "Great leaders set standards around character as well as results."

– How much do you need to be in control? Top leaders create opportunities for others to stretch themselves and assume responsibility.

– How do you see mistakes? Do you ask "What can we learn?" or "Who is to blame?"

– What do you really expect from your team? Your team will only be as successful as you believe it can be. "Your vision for your team arises from your own character, motives and beliefs. Your expectations for your team are a reflection of your expectations for yourself," she concludes.

In a separate post on her own blog, Ms. Daskal illuminates five important but often overlooked habits of great leaders:

– They admit mistakes. Nobody likes to admit they goofed but top leaders swallow their pride and admit they could have done better. They also learn from those mistakes, she adds.

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– They give credit. They acknowledge the contributions of others, taking the spotlight off themselves. Being appreciated and recognized inspires subordinates to greater commitment and successes.

– They tell the truth. They express honest thoughts in a spirit of respect and kindness.

– They inspire. "It can be easy to lose the forest of leadership for the trees of the day-to-day challenges. But finding the energy and time to inspire those around you is at the heart of great leadership," she writes.

– They lead from within. They learn about themselves so they can lead others. They know that developing themselves will help to develop others.

2. The hypocrisy around failure

It's common these days to hear about the importance of failure. We need to take risks and act quickly in an ever-changing world. But creativity consultant Justin Brady finds that when he asks leaders to share an epic failure and what they learned, they are in fact reluctant to openly discuss their mistakes.

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"Leaders don't want to feel vulnerable. They want to minimize their own failures. Doing so might seem harmless, but it's vitally important for leaders not only to accept failure with lip service but also to cop to their own specific failures," he writes in Harvard Business Review Blogs.

Not doing so is itself a failure, with four key consequences:

– If you can't admit failure, you can't connect to your team. Leaders look weak when they act like they know it all. "After all, a leader who has never failed at anything is either a human anomaly or a liar. Even if the specific failure isn't applicable to staff, simply admitting it helps them connect," he says.

– If you can't admit failure, you won't learn from it. To make the failure a positive experience, you must learn from it.

– If you can't admit failure, you won't tolerate it from others. You may preach that failure has to happen for your team to innovate and know enough not to punish failure. But it's likely that you will be signalling to others you're upset and unhappy if you lack comfort with your own failures. And that will shut things down, he says.

– If you can't admit failure, you'll find future failures tough to handle. This may seem obvious and thus trivial. But he says it's vital since you'll be hiding from failure forever rather than learning from it.

"Our failure hypocrisy is hurting our teams and our companies. If you're a leader, it's time for you to open up about failure. Yes, it will be embarrassing at first, but you will learn more and watch your team – and you – grow stronger," he concludes.

3. What you can do today

Toronto-based consultant Sam Geist was listening to another speaker at a conference recently who was discussing the importance of being present in the moment – living in today. "She mentioned several times that today is all we've really got," he recalls in his Quick Bites e-newsletter. "I realized that this mindset is also as appropriate to our business lives as it is to our personal ones."

That led him to outline these 10 business actions you could take today:

– Take action on at least two promises today.

– Learn something new today.

– Compliment an employee on something they have done well today, today.

– Be positive, encouraging, motivating and patient all day, today.

– Call two or three prospective clients today.

– Call an old client to tell them you are thinking about them today.

– Solve a problem you were told about today.

– Put in an extra 18 minutes of productive work today.

– Treat your co-workers with respect and dignity today.

– Refresh, rethink, and meditate for 10 minutes today.

4. Quick hits

– Businesses use music to soothe and encourage customers. But music also can have an impact on employees. Happy, upbeat music at work increases co-operation and teamwork, new Cornell University research shows.

– Leaders like to borrow best practices from more successful workplaces. But leadership blogger Ron Edmondson says you should borrow principles, not practices. Principles are almost always transferable but practices seldom are.

– When travelling, increase your consumption of water. Productivity consultant James Womack suggests one cup an hour. If that inspires more tips to the washroom, the activity – and cleansing of your system – should be welcomed.

– Ask job candidates "what kind of work do you avoid doing?" Christa Quarles, chief executive officer of OpenTable, says there's always a part of someone's job they hate and she likes to understand what it is, as well as what excites them.

– If you tend to use a set of PowerPoint slides as the base for different presentations, Mississauga-based consultant Dave Paradi recommends using the software's Custom Show feature, which allows you to create and name different shows with different arrangements of the slides.

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. E-mail Harvey Schachter

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About the Author
Management columnist

Harvey Schachter is a Kingston, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online column, Power Points. More


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