A Recipe to Fix the Modern Workplace

Learn the ingredients to become a Catalyst Leader and reverse communication breakdowns to improve employee turnover, absenteeism, customer satisfaction, and retention.

What is the biggest disorder in the modern workplace? Without a doubt, it’s a lack of communication, most often stemming from a lack of self-awareness. The Harvard Business School conducted a study showcasing a massive 87% of interpersonal conflict in the workplace resulted from communication breakdowns in some way, shape, or form.

Feedback is indeed a gift, but how often is it given in ways that actually impacts behavior? And how often are we providing feedback that is truly heard and appreciated by the other party?

As I have experienced, and am sure many HR professionals would attest to, more often than not, the people who end up sitting in my office or on coaching calls are frustrated due to misunderstandings, lack of clarity around expectations, or intent not matching interpretation.

For example, the manager thought she was just asking a simple question, but the colleague felt attacked. Or the director rolled out the new procedure to the team, everyone said they got it, and weeks later, he is still having to explain what the new procedure is. It starts to feel as if the team or the individual “just doesn’t get it”. Sound familiar?

Catalyst Leadership

The cost to an organization when an employee quits is substantial, and often the real reasons for departure are not acknowledged or utilized as feedback to change. The Gallup Organization recently did a study showing the number-one reason (78.1%) people leave their jobs is due to their direct boss and factors the manager could have directly and positively influenced but didn’t.

Knowing all of this information is helpful, yet it begs the question: “So what do I do about it?”

The answer may sound simple, but as I am sure most would agree, great things usually are. My mother is an incredible baker, and when I first started thinking about how to summarize what it means to be a leader, it suddenly became clear that the answer was in fact a recipe.

The recipe for true Catalyst Leadership contains three major ingredients. But before explaining the ingredients, it is important to address the difference between management and leadership. Indeed, there are plenty of books and programs designed around executing these roles effectively that eloquently describe the differences, yet I summarize it simply as: Managers tell people what to do. Leaders help people choose to do it.

Leadership is the ability to spark action in others, to have genuine positive influence over someone’s behavior, to be remembered as a “game changer”, to give the team the tools, the training, the support, and then to get out of their way. Imagine if all people with manager titles led others in this way. I would be out of a job, but the workplace would definitely run a lot smoother.

First Ingredient

The first ingredient of being a Catalyst Leader is our level of self-awareness – perhaps the most difficult to self-identify, yet one that most people would say, at least initially, they have a very strong sense of.

Communication breakdowns are often not about what we are saying, but who we are saying it to. It’s a simple yet powerful concept, but we need help in order to accurately measure what behaviors to start, stop, and continue doing, not only to be more successful but also to positively spark action in others.

Communication breakdowns are often not about what we are saying, but who we are saying it to.

There are countless personality tools and programs that teach the soft skills of self-awareness and management. But in my 15 years of leadership training and development, I have never come across one as all-encompassing and academically robust as Lumina Learning. In order to see actual transformation and impact as professionals and in our personal lives, we have to start by looking in the right kind of mirror. Lumina is, in my opinion, the only tool that provides reflection in true clarity.

The Lumina Portrait is a personalized psychometric assessment that helps individuals explore their own personalities, increase self-awareness, and adapt behaviors to improve business relationships and teamwork. Unique to each participant, this Portrait provides a colorful and personalized framework for better self-understanding and improving working relationships with others.

The facilitated feedback process highlights individual diversity, indicates key strengths, and addresses potential blind spots to ensure action-based learning that enhances interpersonal skills. There are several different branches of this tool that can be utilized, including ones specific to sales, recruitment, and, of course, leadership.

Whether I receive requests from individuals or organizations to facilitate strategic planning sessions, increase sales competencies, service excellence programs, or manage the generations, I still encourage them to start by looking in the right kind of mirror for the most powerful foundational piece to increase revenues, retention, and respect among their teams and customers.

Second Ingredient

Although it might seem as if humility, the second ingredient of being a Catalyst Leader, is an innate quality that cannot be trained, I suggest it is in fact a skill that can be learned. For some, it might take longer to learn than others, but make no mistake, everyone can increase their levels of humility if they are willing.

We’ve all worked with someone who took real pride in knowing details and information that no one else did, or the type of person who is more likely to blame others for mistakes to save his or her own reputation or pass the buck to another division. The reasons for deriving a sense of purpose from having this scarcity mindset is worthy of a separate article. But for the purpose of this explanation, it is important to note this thinking is ineffective, and it ultimately depletes the trust and credibility between that individual and all other stakeholders.

In contrast, the person who is willing to stand up in front of the team and have enough humility to say “I was wrong. This one is on me. I don’t always have the answers” demonstrates effective Catalyst Leadership. The person who is willing to share knowledge, recognition, and information in order to influence and expand learning opportunities for those around him or her, because he or she is not threatened by those with greater knowledge or experience, will automatically start to build trust faster and stronger with team members, clients, as well as personally.

Humility is like a muscle. It takes practice to build it. Just make sure to do the right exercise.

Are you interested in learning the third ingredient?
Write to KayLee at kaylee@kayhconsulting.com.


Meet KayLee at the 2020 ALSD Conference and Tradeshow during her anticipated session entitled “The Catalyst Leadership Recipe.”