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12 Weekly Challenges For Happier, More Productive Employees

12 Weekly Challenges For Happier, More Productive Employees

If you manage a team, you know hard it can be to keep everyone engaged, happy, and productive.

Some days, simply getting your employees to show up and get the job done feels challenging enough. But as a manager, you have a unique opportunity to help your team members learn and practice life skills that will help them become happier, healthier, and more productive, both at work and at home. They’ll love you for pushing them in new directions, and you’ll love seeing the increased collaboration and energy in the workplace.

One way to engage your team is to issue a new challenge each week that’s fun and simple to do — and if adopted as a habit, can become a powerful new life skill.

Here are 3 months’ worth of weekly challenge ideas. Announce a new challenge every Monday and check in with everyone during the week. A weekly team meeting is a great time to ask each team member to report on their progress, experience, and learnings.

These challenges were borrowed from the free e-book: 26 Weekly Challenges For Happier, More Productive Employees.

Week 1: Tiny Steps

Procrastination is a huge time waster, but overcoming the inertia can be as easy as taking one tiny step. After that the Zeigarnik effect kicks in — the voice in your head that prompts you to finish what you start. For this challenge, organize your team into pairs. Ask each person to choose one task they’ve been avoiding at home or work and break that task into 5 tiny steps. Starting Monday, each person’s goal is to complete one of the 5 steps each day and report back to their accountability partner by an agreed-upon time. For some people, finishing one step may generate the momentum to complete all 5 steps on the first day, and that’s great!

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    Week 2: Mindful Meetings

    When everyone is present and tuned into the discussion, meetings are more fun, productive, and efficient. For this week, challenge your team to commit to being mindful during meetings. This means taking a couple of deep breaths before the meeting, setting an intention for what they will each contribute and take away from the meeting, and staying engaged for the duration of the meeting by taking notes, listening actively, and speaking up thoughtfully.

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      Week 3: Authentic Smiling

      A genuine smile conveys warmth, trustworthiness, and interest. It’s the number-one way to boost likeability. To smile authentically, you have to engage the muscles around your eyes, not just those around your mouth. Practicing this in the mirror first may seem silly, but it does help! Challenge your team this week to smile at everyone they pass in the building or, for extra credit, everyone they come in contact with inside and outside of work.

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        Week 4: Hunger Awareness

        Overeating during the workday can leave you feeling sluggish and unproductive. Tuning into your hunger will help you slow down, enjoy your food, and feel satisfied with less, so you finish your meal feeling light and energetic. This week, challenge your team to stop and note their physical hunger level on a scale of 1 (famished) to 10 (stuffed) before, during, and after eating each meal. By the end of the week, their goal should be to start eating when their hunger level is at a 3 and stop when it’s at a 7.

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          Week 5: Walking Breaks

          Walking breaks ease mental tension, free your mind for creative thinking, and help to counteract the physical stress caused by long bouts of sitting. The challenge this week is to integrate 10-minute walking breaks into the work day. Have your team schedule their walking breaks into the calendar the day before to ensure they don’t forget them. You can set a good example by converting any 1:1 meetings you have this week to walking meetings, whether you walk outside or just around the building.

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            Week 6: Tech-Free Hour

            Disconnecting from technology, even just for an hour a day, can help you reconnect with the people in your life and experience the world more fully. Challenge your team this week to pick one hour every day when they would normally be connected and completely unplug — no phone, tablet, or Internet access of any kind! It could be during the work day, first thing in the morning, or right before bed. Encourage them to use the tech-free time to do something no-tech like writing with pen and paper, reading a book, sketching, or having a face-to-face conversation.

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              Week 7: Must-Do List

              Taking a few minutes at the end of each day to set your top priorities for the next day is a powerful time management and productivity technique. This week, challenge your team to set aside time at the end of every day to write down the 3 most important tasks they will tackle the next day. For extra credit, ask each person to post their 3 tasks in a shared document. This will add both transparency and accountability, and you might be surprised by the discussion and collaboration it creates.

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                Week 8: Small Talk

                Small talk at the office may seem like a waste of time, but it’s actually one of the most effective ways to build rapport with other people, and that leads to open communication, collaboration, and creative problem solving. This week, challenge your team to practice making authentic small talk with someone they barely know, whether it’s a customer, client, coworker, or even their barista. To establish genuine rapport, you need to go beyond “Crazy weather we’re having!” and generate conversation by offering up an opinion or story: “What did you do over the weekend? Even though it was crazy cold, my kids wanted to go out for ice cream, so we did!

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                  Week 9: Posture Check

                  Chronic sitting triggers back pain and neck tension, contributes to stress, and saps energy and productivity. While a daily stretching regimen can help counteract all that, what affects your posture most is how you hold your body throughout the day. This week, challenge your team to set a reminder on their phones or computers for an hourly posture check. At each reminder, they should adjust their seated position, stand up straight and stretch for 5 minutes, or scooch forward to sit upright on the edge of their chair.

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                    Week 10: Mindfulness Meditation

                    The idea of stopping to meditate for even 2 minutes during a hectic workday may be hard to contemplate, but the benefits make the sacrifice worthwhile. You’ll notice reduced stress, improved creativity, and enhanced focus. This week challenge every person on your team to stop and take 2 minutes during the workday to meditate (this guided track will help). For extra credit and to help reinforce the benefits, encourage them to take note of how they’re feeling before and after each session.

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                      Week 11: Eye Contact

                      Eye contact is one of the best ways to establish trust and rapport with other people, but many of us struggle to make and sustain eye contact, especially with people we don’t know well. The challenge this week is for your team to practice making eye contact with everyone they pass in the building or with friendly strangers. They should try to hold the contact for a few seconds before looking away, and for extra credit, add an authentic smile.

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                        Week 12: Pomodoro Technique

                        Do you often look back after a day at work and struggle to identify what you actually accomplished? We have so many temptations and distractions vying for our attention that it’s hard to get anything done. The Pomodoro Technique helps solve that problem: You carve up the work day into 25 minute chunks separated by 5 minutes of indulgence in social media, online shopping, or socializing. Challenge your team this week to work in “pomodoros,” using a phone, an app like Freedom, or a kitchen timer to signal the start and end of each break.

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                          These challenges were borrowed from the free e-book: 26 Weekly Challenges For Happier, More Productive Employees.

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                          Last Updated on March 15, 2019

                          How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

                          How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential

                          When I began managing people 15 years ago, I thought having a fancy title was synonymous with influence. Over time, I learned that power is conferred based on likeability, authenticity, courage, relationships and consistent behavior. When leaders cultivate these attributes, they earn power, which really means influence.

                          Understanding influence is essential to professional growth, and companies rise and fall based on the quality of their leadership.

                          In this article, we will look into the essentials of effective leadership and how to be a leader who is inspiring and influential.

                          What Makes a Leader Fail?

                          A host of factors influence a leader’s ability to succeed. To the extent that leaders fail to outline a compelling vision and strategy, they risk losing the trust and confidence of their teams. Employees want to know where a company is going and the strategy for how they will get there. Having this information enables employees to feel safe, and it allows them to see mistakes as part of the learning journey versus as fatal occurrences.

                          If employees and customers do not believe a company’s leadership is authentic and inspiring, they may disengage, or they may be less inclined to offer constructive criticism that can help a company innovate or help a leader improve.

                          And it is not just the leadership at the top that matters. Middle managers play a distinct role in guiding teams. Depending on the company’s size, employees may have more access to mid-level managers than they do members of the C-suite, meaning their supervisors and managers have greater influence on the employee and the customer experience.

                          What Is Effective Leadership?

                          Effective leadership is inspiring, and it is influential. Cultivating inspiring and influential leaders requires building relationships across the company.

                          Leaders must be connected to both the teams they lead as well as to their own colleagues and managers. This is key as titles do not make a person a leader, nor do they automatically confer influence. These are earned through trusting relationships. This explains why some leaders can get more out of their teams than others and why some leaders experience soaring profits and engagement while others sizzle out.

                          Eric Garton said in an April 25, 2017, Harvard Business Review article:[1]

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                          “… inspiring leaders are those who use their unique combination of strengths to motivate individuals and teams to take on bold missions – and hold them accountable for results. And they unlock higher performance through empowerment, not command and control.”

                          How to Be an Inspiring and Influential Leader

                          To be an inspiring and influential leader requires:

                          1. Courage

                          The late poet Maya Angelou once said,

                          “Courage is the most important of all the virtues, because without courage you can’t practice any other virtue consistently. You can practice any virtue erratically, but nothing consistently without courage.”

                          Courage is required in the workplace when implementing new strategies, especially when they go against professional norms.

                          For instance, I heard Lisa TerKeurst, bestselling author and founder of Proverbs 31 Ministries, explain her decision to move away from her company’s magazine. While the organization had long had a magazine, she saw a future where it didn’t exist.

                          In order to make the switch, she risked angering her team members and customers. She took a chance, and what started out as a monthly newsletter, has grown into a multi-dimensional organization boasting half a million followers. Had Lisa not found the courage to change the direction of her organization, they undoubtedly would not have been able to experience such exponential growth.

                          It also takes courage to give and receive feedback. When leaders see employees who are not living into the company’s mission or who are engaging in behavior that may undermine their long-term success, one must risk temporary angst and speak candidly with the colleague in question.

                          Similarly, it takes courage to hear constructive criticism and try to change. In business, as in life, courage is necessary for being an inspiring and influential leader.

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                          2. A Commitment to Face Your Internal Demons.

                          If you feel great about yourself, enter a leadership position. You are likely to be triggered in ways you didn’t think possible. You are also likely to receive feedback that may leave you second-guessing yourself and your leadership skills.

                          The truth about leading others is that you get to a point where you realize that it is difficult to take people to places where you yourself haven’t gone.

                          To be an influential and inspiring leader, you have to face your own demons and vow to continually improve. Influential leaders take their personal evolution serious, and they invest in coaching, therapy and mindfulness to ensure that their personal struggles do not overshadow their professional development.

                          3. A Willingness to Accept Feedback

                          Inspiring and influential leaders are not afraid to accept feedback. In fact, they actively solicit it. They understand that everyone in their life has a lesson to teach them, and they are willing to accept it.

                          Inspirational leaders understand that feedback is neither good nor bad but rather an offering that is critical to growth. Even when it hurts or is an affront to the ego, influential leaders understand that feedback is critical to their ability to lead.

                          4. Likability

                          Some people will argue that leaders need not worry about being liked but should instead focus on being respected. I disagree. Both are important.

                          When team members like their boss and believe their boss likes them, they are more likely to go the extra mile to fulfill departmental or organizational goals. Likable leaders are moved to the front of the line when it comes to being influential.

                          Relatedly, when colleagues feel management dislikes them, they experience internal stress and can spend unnecessary time focusing on the source of their manager’s discontent versus the work they have been hired to do.

                          So, likability is important for both the leader and the people she leads.

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                          5. Vulnerability

                          Vulnerability is critical for being an inspiring leader. People want the truth. They admire leaders who can occasionally demonstrate vulnerability. It promotes deeper relationships and inspires trust.

                          When leaders can showcase vulnerability appropriately, they destroy the illusion that one must be perfect to be a leader. They also demonstrate that vulnerability is not a dirty word; they too can be vulnerable and ask for a helping hand when necessary.

                          6. Authenticity

                          Authenticity is about living up to one’s stated values in public and behind closed doors.

                          Influential leaders are authentic. They set to live out their values and use those values to guide their decisions. The interesting thing about leadership is that people are not looking for perfect leaders. They are, in part, looking for leaders who are authentic.

                          7. A True Understanding of Inspiration

                          Effective leaders are inspirational. They understand the power of words and deeds and use both strategically.

                          Inspiring leaders appropriately use stories and narratives to enable the teams around them to see common situations in an entirely new light.

                          Inspirational leaders also showcase grit and triumph while convincing the people around them that success and victory are attainable.

                          Finally, inspiring leaders encourage the teams they lead to tap into their own genius. They convince others that genius is not reserved for a select few but that most people have it in them.

                          As explained in the article True Leadership: What Separates a Leader from a Boss:

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                          “A leader creates visions and motivates team members to work together towards the same goal.”

                          8. An Ability to See the Humanity in Others

                          Inspiring and influential leaders see the humanity in others. Rather than treating their teams as mere tools to accomplish organizational goals, they believe the people around them are unique beings with inherent value.

                          This means knowing when to pause to address personal challenges and dispelling with the myth that the personal is separate from the professional.

                          9. A Passion for Continual Learning

                          Inspiring and influential leaders are committed to continual learning. They invest in their own development and take responsibility for their professional growth.

                          These leaders understand that like a college campus, the workplace is a laboratory for learning. They believe that they can learn from multiple generations in the workplace as well as from people from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

                          Influential leaders proactively seek out opportunities for learning.

                          The Bottom Line

                          No one said leadership was easy, but it is also a joy. Influencing others to action and positively impacting the lives of others is a reward unto itself.

                          Since leadership abounds, there is an abundance of resources to help you grow into the type of leader who inspires and influences others.

                          More Resources About Effective Leadership

                          Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

                          Reference

                          [1] Harvard Business Review: How to Be an Inspiring Leader

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