Vera: Your mission is to help people make the most of their work. Important but I would imagine challenging if the statistics of the % of people dissatisfied with their work is anything to go by. What do you think the problem is and how do you help?
Gayle: I find that many people don’t know how to make the most of their work. They are used to “doing what it takes” to get the job done, but they have neglected to take a close look at themselves—their strengths, talents and what they really want out of their work. They may lack self-awareness or the support they need to do what it takes to move themselves forward in new ways. I support them by helping them gain new perspective, mindset or skills needed to create the change they desire.
Vera: In your book ‘’Take the Bull by the Horns’’ what are some of the things you challenge readers to do and why?
Gayle: I challenge readers to begin seeing what they themselves can do to create the impact they want. I saw too many leaders and executives whining and complaining, but not really doing what it takes to change the situation. Waiting for “someone else” to make decisions, provide opportunities or give guidance is futile. I believe people have the capability to take charge of their life and work. Life is too short to be settling for anything less than what you want and deserve. I want readers to have or build courage to do whatever it takes to achieve what’s most important to them.
Vera: Words like optimism, energy and passion seem to be associated mostly with small organizations and Start ups. Why is it difficult for bigger ones to create stimulating environments and what can do differently?
Gayle: It all goes back to leadership. Large organizations can create more stimulating environments when they make it a priority to do so. Businesses must see the correlation between employee happiness and business results. A first step leaders can take is to identify the people who are already a positive influence. Leverage their strengths. I advocate building on what’s working. Large organizations should look for people who exemplify what they want to create as a whole. Explore the areas of the business that are working well to understand their root cause of success.
Vera: Top leadership is accountable for the performance of an organization and rightly so. But what does it take to get everybody leading at their own level?
Gayle: Fostering leadership at all levels requires a different kind of dialogue. It often requires discussion about what good leadership really looks like. I facilitate those kinds of discussions with my clients. It sometimes involves rethinking the vision of what leadership can and should be. Engaging team members at all levels is critical in the process and there are specific techniques for doing that. Often cultural change is needed.
Vera: When should an organization or a leader persevere with fixing their own problems and when should they bring in help?
Gayle: It depends on the type of problem. A leader should draw on whatever resources are needed to resolve their issue if it has a significant impact on the business or their own wellbeing. Some leaders who are hesitant to spend time, energy or money on problems wait too long. Then the problem becomes even worse. Explore possible resources early.
Vera: Hiring smarter and tending to top talent is advice that organizational leaders accept but seem less enthusiastic about addressing the issue of toxic employees. Who is a toxic employee and what’s the best way to handle them?
Gayle: Toxic employees come in all forms. You need to determine if the employee issue is an attitude or skill problem. Employees with poor attitudes are more difficult to work with. I encourage leaders to act quickly once they know a toxic person or situation exists. By ignoring or avoiding the issue, it will likely spread like a virus to other parts of the organization.
Vera: What are some of the top dysfunctions of the workplace in your view; what are the causes and what should an employee do if things don’t get better?
Gayle: A couple of the top dysfunctions are ineffective leadership and poor teamwork. The issues are related and often center around communication issues. Causes can vary. If an employee is unable to tolerate the dysfunctions, I typically suggest that they try to be a positive influence to the extent they can. Some can be a positive change agent. However, if there is a significant or ongoing negative impact on them, they should explore other options.
Vera: If someone who is feeling uninspired by their work and wants to improve their situation came to you for advice, what would you say to them?
Gayle: I would ask them what would be most inspiring to them. I would encourage them to get very clear about the vision they have for their own work, so they can step into that place and make it happen. Too many people are wasting time and energy trying to make a bad situation better instead of moving toward something that is more energizing and rewarding to them. It will not happen overnight, but steps can be taken now. The more you talk about what inspires you, the more likely it is you can make it happen. It all starts with the intent to do inspiring work. Don’t settle for less.
Vera: You’ve been described as an exceptional listener. How do you listen?
Gayle: What a great question. I have always been a listener. Just seems to come naturally to me. I think good listening requires being very present with a person and not judging. Listening is a critical coaching skill and leadership skill. Many people don’t feel like they are really heard. They are busy, stressed, overwhelmed, etc. I think of listening as a gift. Some of the most impactful experiences in my own life have been when I have felt like someone is really listening to me. I want my clients to experience that.
Vera: What are you most proud of achieving in your work with workplace leaders and what do you do to ensure you’re the best leader you can be at any point in time?
Gayle: I’m most proud of experiences I’ve had that have helped clients think and work differently. People don’t work with me unless they are seeking some kind of change. I am honored to facilitate that process in a way that often helps them achieve results they did not think were possible. They can make a bigger impact. To be the best leader, keep learning and growing yourself. You’ll become the best leader by helping others develop as leaders. It’s an ongoing process. I continue that journey myself.
Gayle Lantz is a leadership expert and founder of WorkMatters, Inc., a consulting firm dedicated to helping leaders think and work smarter. A sought-after consultant, executive coach, facilitator, and speaker, Gayle works closely with executives and leadership teams to expand their vision, think and act strategically, and inspire change. Together, they increase business results and help make work matter at every level of the organization. Among her clients are NASA, Microsoft, MassMutual, Southern Company, Lockheed Martin, BBVA Compass Bank as well as a variety of small and mid-sized professional service firms. Gayle is author of the award-winning book Take the Bull by the Horns: The Busy Leader’s Action Guide to Growing Your Business…and Yourself. Gayle’s articles and/or quotes have been featured in a variety of national and global business publications including BusinessWeek, Harvard Management Update, Wall Street Journal Online, FastCompany.com, CEO Online and The New York Times. More about Gayle’s work at www.WorkMatters.com
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