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10 Zen Ways to Lead

Today’s guest blog post was submitted by Workforce Institute reader Kelly Gregorio.  Do you agree with this advice?  How hard is it for you to stay in the Zen zone at work?

When we think ‘lead’ our thoughts tend not to go automatically to ‘Zen’.  This is not too much of a surprise considering leaders carry the heavy weight of responsibility and accountability on their shoulders.  Those in management positions can be wired for stress, anxiety; some may even suffer from the dreaded burnout.

However, whether you’re new in a leadership role or a seasoned senior staffer, you can still reach nirvana…or rather, you can find some peace in your everyday leadership with these easy-to-implement outlooks.

1. See the silver lining

Bad deals, poor choices and regrettable moves are unfortunately inevitable.  Your Zen practice comes into play when dealing out reactions.  Instead of commiserating over what went wrong, strive to find the silver lining in the lessons learned and perspectives gained.

Not only will this approach better prepare you for next time, it will encourage your staff to communicate with you rather than cover up their mistakes to avoid additional backlash.

2. Show humanity

No, this does not mean you need to become the office therapist.  However, showcasing caring consideration for your staff’s lives outside of work (health issues, family life, etc.) can foster a more loyal and appreciative team.

Strive to show compassion and empathy for your staff.  While their responsibility is to get the job done even through difficult personal times, your kindness, acknowledgement and understanding can make the struggle that much easier.

3. Play from people’s strengths

A Zen leader is an encouraging leader.  A great way to encourage and motivate your employees is by nurturing their strengths.  Recognize the unique attributes of each member of your staff and capitalize on any ways their strengths, passions and talents can benefit the good of the group.

Tap into strengths by cheering team members on when they take on a challenge and by being available for coaching and mentoring.  Not sure of a staff members most outstanding attribute?  Ask them; encouraging open communication is a great way to learn and grow together.

4. Encourage the collective effort

Leadership asks you to balance the fine line of working and letting others work well.  A truly Zen leader is always willing to roll up his/her sleeves, but can also delegate responsibly, step back and humbly watch their staff make it’s magic.

A teamwork approach can energize people and strengthen their bond as a group.  Characteristics of a secure, stable leader include resisting micromanaging and affording the group enough space to flow as a cohesive whole.

5. Handle conflict via conversation

Despite your best efforts, conflicts will arise every now and then.  However, they can be handled in a healthy manner by keeping a keen eye on the big picture and having a conversation with only constructive criticism.

Set an example by calmly pushing egos aside, acknowledging hurt feelings or prior misconceptions and then, figuring out a plan that details how each party can move on together.

6. Cut through the noise

As the leader of a group, conflicting insights and conversations are bound to flood your news feed.  This is why it is so important to stay true to yourself and the goals and tasks at hand.

Resist getting caught up in gossip, rumors and speculations.  Instead, keep your focus clear by defining your goal in one sentence and then detailing how you will contribute to that effort during this day/this meeting/ this hour.

7. Be consistent

A staff that can rely on you is a staff that can trust and respect you.  Make good on any verbal commitments you make, regardless of how casual.  If you want people to value your word, you’re going to have to repeatedly follow through.

Also, pull the curtain back and keep expectations both consistent and in clear view.  Detail job duties and project tasks in simple black and white, and be welcoming to any members that may request additional clarification.

8. Be patient

Displaying restlessness, rushing through tasks and making snap decisions are very un-Zen like.  If you find yourself becoming impatient try to identify what/who it is that’s triggering you.

Reel yourself back in with slow, deep breathing, active listening and the understanding that being impatient does not kick start quality output; if anything – it hinders it.

9. Keep a cool head

The repercussions of a leader that yells and loses his/her temper are devastating.  Not only does it negatively affect employee retention but it de-motivates everyone within earshot.

Pay respect to the image that you’re upholding and refuse to let difficulties visibly affect you.  Afford yourself necessary breaks by closing your office door, taking a longer lunch or a quick walk- whatever you can do to set your temperature back to -cool-.  In short, have your moment in private, and then carry on with business as usual.

10. Keep it simple

Keep the overall goal of running a successful business the guiding light through your every action.  Set clear expectations, be available to support and motivate your team and allow things to happen.

The inevitable bumps will come along with the successes; by keeping a steady, simple flow of genuine effort you will add longevity to your leadership for years to come.

No need to start wearing flowers in your hair – you can easily adopt these Zen leadership styles into your current routine.  Hopefully the efforts will mark notable changes in stress levels for you and your staff, making it a happier, more peaceful working environment for all.  Namaste.

How do you stay Zen at work?  Build your karma and share your helpful tips below!

About the author: Kelly Gregorio writes about entrepreneurial trends and leadership tips while working at Merchant Resources International, a merchant cash advance provider. You can read her daily business blog here.

20 Years on with the Family and Medical Leave Act – How Prepared are You?

In February of 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act  was passed with bipartisan support. (Those were the good old days, hey?) Its purpose is to ensure  that workers should be able to recover from major illnesses, help ill relatives, or care for new babies without fear of losing their jobs.  In the twenty years since its passage, the Act has helped many employees manage through difficult family circumstances without fear of losing their jobs.  It has also presented employers with the challenge of monitoring employee absences carefully to avoid the risks associated with failures to comply with the Act.

Per the Department of Labor, the key provisions of the Act are as follow:

The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered employers to take unpaid, job-protected leave for specified family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance coverage under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. Eligible employees are entitled to:

  • Twelve workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for:
    • the birth of a child and to care for the newborn child within one year of birth;
    • the placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care and to care for the newly placed child within one year of placement;
    • to care for the employee’s spouse, child, or parent who has a serious health condition;
    • a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job;
    • any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty;” or
  • Twenty-six workweeks of leave during a single 12-month period to care for a covered servicemember with a serious injury or illness if the eligible employee is the servicemember’s spouse, son, daughter, parent, or next of kin (military caregiver leave).

I recently sat down with my colleagues Toni Kellam and Todd Black, to talk about how the FMLA impacts organizations and what changes we might expect in the future in the provisions of the FMLA.  Toni is our in house expert on absence management and has worked with hundreds  of our clients to help them design appropriate absence management programs.  Todd is an expert in human resource management systems, and likewise has worked with many Kronos customers to enable their policies via workforce management technology.  I asked Toni and Todd to respond to the following questions.

  • How has the FMLA helped employees in the last 20 years?
  • How do “covered” organizations typically manage their FMLA compliance?
  • What are the penalties to organizations for not complying with the FMLA?
  • When the FMLA was originally passed 20 years ago, there were concerns that it was anti-business, that it would impose excessive financial burdens on employers.  What has actually come to pass in these 20 years?
  • Changes being proposed to expand the FMLA and other paid and unpaid leave programs at the municipal, state and federal level.  Can you comment on how employers should prepare for possible changes in the regulations governing employee leaves?

You can hear their answers in this FMLA podcast.

If you want to learn more about the FMLA, the following links are helpful:

How well does your organization perform when it comes to tracking employee absences?

Boston on Lockdown

For what? This is what we’re all asking this week. These two men went to school here, had friends here. We may never know why they did what did. One is already dead and the other is on the run with every flavor of law enforcement looking for him.

This is unbelievable. Boston on lockdown. So many innocent people killed or injured this week. Hundreds of thousands of people are locked down in their homes as a result of a city wide order to protect citizens from any further harm. Email and phone calls have come to a complete halt while we all wait for the end of this.

My sister and my daughter locked in their homes in Jamaica Plain and South Boston. I know the odds of them coming to any harm are tiny. But that was true on Monday, too, for all those people at the marathon finish line.