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Alexandra Reese's Growth Guide

Practical insights to accelerate your growth in July


Thank you for being a valued member of my community! I hope you enjoy this fourth edition of my monthly newsletter, which includes timely insights to accelerate your growth.

Here are links to the first three editions:

June(1) The mid-year review, (2) Sharpen your creative skills, and (3) Win through failure

May(1) Prepare for the next downturn; (2) Make better, faster decisions; and (3) Embrace difference to improve performance

April: (1) The Q1 review, (2) Prime yourself for success, and (3) Focus your innovation investments for impact

If you are curious about how we can partner to accelerate your growth, please don't hesitate to book your free consultation today. 


Strategic Leadership: Win with values

The Atlanta Falcons have been called many names, which often include adjectives like, worst, disappointing, bad. And yet, their fans love them! The NFL surveys fans at all 256 regular-season games on all dimensions of the fan experience. Then, at the end of the year, they publish a report card that ranks teams. Despite the Falcons losing record, the NFL report card ranks the team #1 in terms of fan experience.


What’s the Falcons’ secret? Owner, Arthur Blank, says it’s their strong organizational values. Every decision they make, from which seats to use in the stadium remodel to ticket and concession pricing, comes down to values.


And the Falcons’ results demonstrate that values-based leadership can be profitable. When Blank mandated concessionaires charge the same price for the same product at their in- and out-of-stadium venues, some in his leadership team feared the 50% drop in prices would lead to a commensurate drop in revenues. But fans were so elated, that they spent more on concessions. Total fan spend increased by 16%. 

The Atlanta Falcons story is a great reminder that strong organizational values are among leaders’ most important tools. Great leaders use them to:

  • Inform difficult or ambiguous decisions by asking questions like, How would we respond to this situation if we were approaching it from our core values? Or, Which choice best aligns to our values?

  • Communicate better with key stakeholders by tying decisions to core values

  • Give feedback by sharing how a colleague's behavior aligned to one or more values

  • Anchor performance management by evaluating individuals, teams, and the organization in terms of how they lived each core value 

If you’d like to learn more about the anatomy of strong organizational values—and how to assess yours—please check-out my free, downloadable resource.


Organizational Leadership: How to get hybrid work right 

In a recent survey of HR professionals from 700+ organizations, 80% of respondents whose organizations have adopted a hybrid work model say it’s exacerbating exhaustion and burnout. Here are the top three future of work mistakes I see organizations make—and what you should do instead:

Mistake # 1: The future of work plan isn’t mission-driven

Most organizations seem to be making decisions about when, where, and how employees work based in-part on stated preference surveys (see sample McKinsey survey below). While it’s great to take employee feedback into account, there is no single solution that will work for every individual and team. So, decisions that rely on majority rule or manager preferences are bound to leave a large percentage of your team feeling disengaged.


What to do instead: Put your mission at the center of your future of work plans. If your organization produces physical goods, then most of your people will need to work from a physical location. And where your frontline staff work, their leaders should also work.*


If your organization produces a service or digital good, delegate future of work decisions to teams. You can provide an agreement template that outlines the types of norms and practices each team should discuss and adopt to set teams up for success.


*Mistake #2: Leaders aren’t modeling the way

A recent Pulse Report from Slack shows a troubling disconnect between executives and employees. Although it's executives who say they want to return to the office, it’s their employees who are being forced to show-up. And non-executive employee work-life balance and engagement have dropped significantly as a result of inflexibility.


It gets worse. The report further shows that many leaders aren’t taking action to address the challenges faced by their employees. Of course, they’d need to know there’s an issue before they could respond—which is hard to do if they're not present with their people.


What to do instead: Model the change you expect from your team. When you lead the way, you build buy-in from your team to follow. And, when you’re in-it with them, you build empathy for their experience and hear first-hand how change is going. These insights will enable you to quickly identify strengths to scale and challenges to course correct.


Mistake #3: Organizations aren’t addressing root issues

Most people don’t want to work from home because they value staying home 24/7 or only want to interact with their co-workers through a computer screen. They need to work from home because childcare is expensive or unavailable, long commutes eat-up valuable personal time, and open office environments kill productivity. Leaders are going to be hard-pressed to bring employees back to offices—and maintain engagement—until they address these root issues.


What to do instead: If you’d like to bring your people back to the office, you need to understand both their motivations for returning to work and staying at home. Then, you need to find creative ways to address those stay-at-home motivators.


Personal Leadership: Vacation like a European

Burnout and stress are at an all-time high, according to the American Psychological Association’s 2021 Work and Well-Being Survey. One of the biggest myths about burnout is that a week or two of vacation can undo the damage done.

Time-off alone is not enough to heal burnout, especially the way most of us take vacations. Consider if the following sounds familiar:

  • You have an email away message, but you still check your inbox regularly

  • Your away message includes your cell-phone number, just in case

  • You didn’t delegate responsibilities and include alternative contacts in your away message, so you return to a full inbox and lengthy to-do list

  • You didn’t move deliverable deadlines to account for time-off; you expect to do the same amount of work in less time when you return

  • You're under-water and exhausted after only a few days back at work

If you can’t truly disconnect from work without “paying the price” when you return, you won’t reap the long-term benefits of time-off. If you typically "need a vacation from your vacation," follow the lead of Europeans:

  • Set reasonable deadlines that will not require you to do more work in the weeks surrounding your trip to “make up” for time-off
  • Delegate your internal and client responsibilities (including email!) to team members in your absence
  • Prepare your clients and colleagues in advance by telling them when you will be out and who to contact during that period as well as inviting them to postpone all additional requests until your return
  • Don’t check your work email while you’re away!

As a leader, taking a European-style vacation has compound benefits. Not only will you return with renewed passion and energy, but your employees will have a great example to follow when they take their vacations. And, on that note, I’ll leave all who lead a team or organization with the following parting advice: make sure each of your team members not only uses their PTO balance this year, but also that they’re able to do so without being swamped upon their return. Your team members need the break as much—or more—than you do.  


Opportunities to Partner

Growth Advisory: You've been working diligently to grow your organization, but have yet to achieve sustainable results. Or perhaps you've done exceptionally well and are ready to take things to a new level. I can help you hone a compelling vision and strategy, then execute with confidence, ease, and joy. 

Coaching: You're ready to improve your life, leadership, and impact. As your coach, I'll work with you (and your leadership team, if desired) to clarify your vision and purpose, set bold goals, build an actionable strategy, and cultivate the mindset, beliefs, and behaviors necessary to achieve sustainable results.


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