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Employee engagement has been a hot topic in the workplace for years. It’s probably because most organizational efforts to address the issue have fallen flat. The harsh reality that we, as leaders, must face is that we’ve been doing it wrong.

Yes, you read that correctly. It’s time for those in leadership to acknowledge that we’ve simply been missing the mark. Somewhere along the line, we convinced ourselves that engagement was about perfecting the employee’s circumstances in exchange for better performance. We gathered feedback from employee surveys, conducted team days away and offered other fun perks.

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This time of year is bittersweet for me on a personal level. On one hand, October is a very special month as it marks the birthdays of two of my precious sons. Yet it’s also Breast Cancer Awareness Month and serves as a reminder of my loving mother who lost her battle with breast cancer years ago.

The simple truth is, we’ve all experienced or will experience challenging times at some point in our lives – and I’m no exception. I’ve lived through everything from divorce to financial struggles to losing loved ones far too soon. But as I reflect on both the good and the bad I’ve seen during my lifetime, I’m left with feelings of gratitude rather than anger, sadness or spite. You’ve probably heard me talk before about the fact that there are two ways to navigate life- in misery or happiness. And I choose happiness.

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Developmental feedback can be tough to hear, but it’s an inevitable part of life. No one is perfect and there will always be room for improvement.

However, while developmental feedback doesn’t have the ability to hold us back, a lack of willingness to act on it does. Whether you realize it or not, this is a poignant moment in your career – one in which you have the power to use the information to either boost your career or stop you in your tracks.

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While sometimes considered synonymous, there is a world of difference between confidence and the ego. Confidence is having faith in your ability to handle whatever comes your way, while the ego operates out of personal motive. It seeks approval, accolades, validation – and it does so at a high cost, forgoing the potential for a greater outcome in order to be “right.” As a result, it keeps us from learning the lessons at hand.

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“I shouldn’t have to do that, it’s not my job.”

“My co-workers or manager don’t respect or appreciate me enough.”

“There isn’t enough time to get it all done.”

Sound familiar? Probably. However, the facts are what they are. Maybe it’s not in your job description, maybe your boss could be more appreciative, or perhaps there isn’t enough time to get it all done. Challenging the facts of situations like these is something that we’ve all been guilty of. The problem is that arguing against these facts is a battle we are sure to lose.
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The pressure and stress among today’s workforce is palpable. Deadlines are tight and expectations are sky high.

But the truth as to why our teams and organizations are struggling might surprise you. Here’s a hint – it doesn’t have anything to do with our teams or organizations. It all comes down to those in charge. That’s right, it’s us, not them.
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There are many challenges in today’s work environment. Here’s the reality check: challenging times are not the source of our pain. The source of our pain is the absence of great leadership that’s based in reality. Many times, people misconstrue my message as one of “tough love.” Well, not really. Reality is tough. Leadership is love.
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