Readers of this blog and of our SmartBrief on Leadership newsletter in 2013 were overwhelmingly interested in being better communicators, and it showed in the results of the most-read posts of that year.

The difficulty of communicating well and consistently, even for high-ranking and talented leaders, spurred us to add a section in the daily newsletter this year specifically for smarter communication, as well as a blog series on communication with Switch & Shift. And this focus makes sense — leaders need to communicate with each other, with their reports, with clients and customers, the public and, sometimes, government. They must communicate feedback, bad news, motivation, strategy and shape culture. And we’ll continue to emphasize the human part of work.

What was this year’s focus?

That said, in 2014, the focus of our most popular blog posts shifted a bit. Readers still wanted to become better at communication skills, but they also wanted to know how to deploy those skills and read them in others. (read more…)

What you teach employees during mentoring, coaching or skills training will be out of mind as soon as you’re out of sight unless you reinforce the learning. For that you can thank the “forgetting curve.” This psychological principle, first identified in the 19th century, posits that much of what we learn is quickly forgotten, most of it within hours.

Here are five tactics you can use to help employees remember. You’ll get the best results if you begin the reinforcement right away, before the forgetting curve begins its swift effect.

Create memory aids

Remember the names of the Great Lakes? Some of us do because we were taught a mnemonic for their initials: HOMES. What are the colors of the spectrum? ROY G. BIV will help you recall them. Create your own acronyms for processes you want employees to remember. Think also of creating rhymes like the old standby “30 days have September, April, June, and November.”

Less memorable but also useful are checklists. (read more…)

SmartPulse — our weekly nonscientific reader poll in SmartBrief on Leadership — tracks feedback from more than 190,000 business leaders. We run the poll question each week in our e-newsletter.

Last week, we asked: What was your biggest leadership challenge this past year?

  • The business climate was tough and competitive: 26.72%
  • We had internal turmoil in the organization: 44.9%
  • I had big personal leadership challenges: 11.57%
  • My team members had challenges: 7.99%
  • Nothing — it was an amazing year: 8.82%

We have met the enemy and he is us. It seems like the biggest challenges we faced were from within. The good news is, we have more control over those types of challenges than we do external ones. The bad news is we’re causing ourselves more problems than we’re solving. If you’re in this large group facing internal challenges, identify them quickly and resolve to fix them or prevent them in the coming year. (read more…)

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of facilitating a webcast for the Association of Talent Development, which is the world’s largest professional training organization, with 40,000 members. ATD provides important training, information, learning opportunities and services that significantly help their members.

During the webcast we discussed the critical need for more women in business leadership. This is truly the most effective way businesses are running companies right now. We must combine the proven leadership skills and talents of women with men’s leadership strengths.

We discussed how men and women generally have different, yet very compatible leadership strengths. Where men tend to be aggressive, bold and decisive, women tend to be collaborative and inclusive, caring and risk-aware. Each of these skills is equally important. Men and women together have a lot to offer, and all benefit from this dynamic combination of talent!

Let’s face it, companies should not be run by men only, or predominantly by men, or by women only. (read more…)

There’s a reason why Nike adopted the slogan “Just do it.” Actually, the expression may have originated with Amelia Earhart, who said, “The most effective way to do it is to do it.”

The habit of procrastination deserves special attention because it is so widespread and so costly. In addition to robbing you of time, procrastination can cause you to question your own value and abilities. It’s a dangerous practice that feeds on itself and becomes stronger and more damaging with continued use.

You can stop procrastination in its tracks with this success formula:

Motivation + energy + action = results

Motivation generates energy. Energy cultivates action. And action over time will always produce results. Any action you take will generate energy and take you from a place of stagnation into movement.

The first step is to learn what motivates you. For many people, it’s the promise of a reward. (read more…)