Want Top-Performing Employees? Make Them Feel Understood

“I think that every human being requires a certain type of soil, temperature, and altitude, very narrowly defined for some, almost universal for others – in order to feel free and happy.” –Isak Dineson
 
Isak Dineson was right. On the broadest level, people often need the same forms of social acceptance and belonging; but as individuals, we need a specific set of circumstances to thrive.
 
In other words, the Golden Rule doesn’t work.
 
Don’t treat me as you want to be treated. Treat me as I want to be treated.
 
The same applies to your employees.
 
Don’t just make them feel understood, understand them. Only then will you be able to fully unlock their potential, engender their loyalty, and create a bond that accelerates the performance of the greater team.

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The Secret to Leading Successful Teams: Small, Daily Actions

Starting small is about the questions we should ask ourselves every day, but never do. It’s expected that we shoot for the stars, but not that we think of the millions of little steps that must be taken to reach them. By focusing on the slight improvement, the incremental change, we can perfect our practice while still moving forward day by day.

Small actions are easier to take than big ones. I may not be able to run an ultramarathon now, but I can do my five miles today and add on more distance tomorrow.

As a naturally impatient person and a new entrepreneur, I rarely look at time as my friend. Yet, behavioral psychologists, scientists studying performance, and the most accomplished athletes, musicians, and business leaders all understand that the combination of repetition, time, and practice ultimately produces the greatest results.

I’ve seen this in practice running my company Ethos, which focuses on driving tech company performance by supporting the teams powering them. Small, daily actions become employee habits, and if they’re the goods ones, cultures thrive. I haven’t seen this success with major restructurings or team shakeups.

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Announcing Ethos — Talent Strategy for Tech Companies

My co-founder Kaleb and I started Ethos with one goal in mind: help the tech companies we spent our careers supporting grow and thrive by investing meaningfully in their employees. Today, we are proud to announce the website is live, the company is launched, and we are officially open for business.

At Ethos, we drive company performance by shaping talent and developing culture, always with growth in mind. While we plan to launch many offerings to achieve this mission, we’re starting out with resources that help tech companies hire the right talent, retain that talent longer, and bring in diversity practices that spur greater innovation.

We want to be part of your growth story, so without further ado, here’s what you need to know about us.

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The Ultimate Guide to Structuring a 90-Day Onboarding Plan

It’s an employee’s market, especially in tech.

Unemployment nationally is at 4.1% and even lower in areas like professional and business services, financial activities, healthcare, and of course, technology.

The effect is that retention numbers in tech are at critically low levels, including an average tenure of one to two years at some of the most respected tech companies.

In other words, onboarding has never been more important.

A study from BambooHR found that approximately 17% of employees who are hired leave in their first three months at a new job, while nearly 30% leave in their first six months.

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My Ethos: A Growth Story

After three and a half years at Hyde Park Angels as Director of Platform, I’m realizing my dream: to become one of the entrepreneurs I’ve worked so hard to support. I’m launching Ethos, a talent strategy firm for tech companies.

Before I share more about Ethos, or my deep-seated gratitude for all the opportunity and challenge HPA has afforded me, or my sincere thanks to the community that led me here, I want to pay homage to my industry.

In venture capital, we focus on growth stories. Today, I’m going to tell you mine.

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How My Research Journal Changed My Writing and My Life

Before I break down the what and how of the research journal, I want to make a case for the why.

On the everyday level, this journal means that I never run out of ideas. Each one of my research journals holds 249 pages of well-organized thoughts, and the process I use forces me to reflect on lessons from every important experience each day. The articles I publish come straight from the pages of my journal.

And over longer time scales, my research journal evolves me. It opens the possibility for deeper learning no matter the circumstances.

Reflections about what I want in work become a four-page evaluation of my intrinsic purpose, informed by personal notes, reading highlights, and patterns that emerge from many entries in the journal.

Once it’s written down, I can intelligently talk about it, learn from it, and grow.

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How Kindness Should Really Factor into Leadership

Kindness gets a bad rap.

Culturally, we consider powerful language, strong positions, and direct feedback to be necessary for leadership.

We also tend to assume these characteristics run counter to kindness. But that’s because we confuse kindness with agreeableness.

We think we’re being kind when we spare feelings and avoid conflict, even though we’re in fact being agreeable, which is counterproductive. Or, we reject kindness entirely and run the risk of being so inconsiderate we provoke others to become defensive, shut down, or unnecessarily fight back.

Both scenarios stall growth, hamper progress, and cause serious people problems.

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Achieve Purpose and Balance in Life by Embracing Daily Imbalance

I overcommit constantly. Doing too many things is in my nature.

My morning routine comprises no less than six major activities, my work days are usually twelve to thirteen hours long, and my close circle of female friends is officially up to sixteen.

Consequently, every so often I will be hit with what my husband refers to as “emotional bad weather.” I will go from having seemingly endless mental energy and physical stamina to finding myself unable to even imagine standing up.

But I know my tendency to overcommit stems from an insatiable interest in so many different areas of life, work, learning, and relationships. Paradoxically, that interest is what gives me energy and makes my life meaningful.

Understanding this tension between my limited resources and everything I want has led me to develop a daily practice that lets me have almost anything without becoming overcommitted. And the inspiration for this practice came from a humorist’s memoir.

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Alida Miranda-WolffComment
Every Single Strategy I Use to Fight Decision Fatigue

Your brain is tired. So is mine.

That’s because our brains are like muscles, and we are overworking them with too many decisions. This phenomenon is called decision fatigue.

According to a study featured in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, we make 70 important decisions a day. With each additional choice presented and every new decision we have to make, we exhaust our brains, leading to worse overall decision-making.

In fact, limiting our options often results in better decisions.

Yet culturally, we deeply value personal choice. To limit or eliminate can feel counterintuitive. After all, isn’t abundance the ideal?

Abundance is only ideal when you have strategies and tools that shape the abundance to suit your needs.

Decision fatigue leads to bad choices or no choices, but it can be avoided and combatted. I use three strategies to do both: theming, rule-making, and scheduling.

 

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Alida Miranda-WolffComment
This Is How to Reduce Employee Turnover and Hire Top-Performers

The secret to lower turnover, healthier cultures, and more innovative workplaces is a streamlined, systemized hiring processes that privileges top-performing candidates with matching values and motivations.

The problem is that developing a hiring process is often neglected because companies are so pressed for time and resources that they feel a need to get bodies in seats as quickly as possible.

With this short-term view, they throw strategic planning out the window, and start interviewing candidates according to inconsistent processes and with a firm reliance on gut reactions.

Here’s the thing: that approach is a recipe for high turnover. The right people don’t get hired, which creates big problems down the road.

With a systematic, evidence-based approach, however, companies can hire better and faster by focusing on the first-minute, upfront work, and then letting the streamlined process do the work.

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Alida Miranda-WolffComment
The Case for Taking a Radically Buddhist Approach to Building Company Culture

What if instead of structuring company cultures around values, we structured them around the Buddhist principles of existence?

Hear me out.

If you look at Buddhism as a set of philosophical principles instead of a spiritual practice, there is considerable precedent for this approach. We already apply Aristotelian logic and the Socratic method to education, work, and life.

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Alida Miranda-WolffComment
This Is What You Need to Do to Write Better, Faster
Writing is the act of structuring thought.

Once you understand how to create structures to contain and shape your writing, it comes much more quickly and easily.

That’s why I think the secret to better, faster, more efficient writing is developing a repeatable process that combats blocks, interruptions, and uncertainty but still leaves room for creativity.

For me, that process breaks down into seven parts: reading, notetaking, setting intentions, organizing information, revision, turning to designated readers for feedback, and practice.

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Alida Miranda-WolffComment
The Ultimate Guide to Setting and Keeping Better New Year’s Resolutions

In the seven years since I have been setting New Year’s Resolutions, I have never broken one. Not once.

But I am the exception, not the rule.

Only 8% of people keep their resolutions. 80% of people who set them drop them by February. Jokes about breaking resolutions may actually be more representative of New Year’s Eve than the ball dropping in Time’s Square or a midnight countdown.

To set better resolutions and then actually stick to them, follow a thoughtful process and evaluate the product objectively afterwards.

Here are all the ways I do both.

 

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What Millennials Actually Want in Work

As a millennial, I am always being told what I am and what I want when it comes to work. But who takes the time to ask me, or people like me? In my latest blog project, I pulled together research that does.

For the record, I believe employees across generations want to feel autonomous, empowered, recognized, and masterful in their work. They just achieve those feelings differently.

For millennials, the research shows that two things help us achieve those feelings: mentoring and coaching and career path mapping.

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Alida Miranda-WolffComment
How to Prove Yourself Wrong When Being “Right” Is Holding You Back

To be wrong is to be human. We all make mistakes, hold misconceptions, and fall into misinformation traps.

The problem is not that we’re wrong, but that we convince ourselves we’re right anyway even when presented with the truth. This phenomenon is known as motivated reasoning. Motivated reasoning is the practice of trying to make some ideas win and others lose based on our own preexisting values. This bias also creates major problems in our work.

If the future of work demands we learn faster and more deeply, and if solving our current business challenges necessitates open-mindedness and a willingness to seek questions in favor of answers, we need to check our own biases to succeed. 

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Alida Miranda-WolffComment
To Be Successful, Stop Learning from Failure

Culturally, we are obsessed with failure.

A quick search on the term “failure” returns “Why Success Always Starts with Failure,” “Strategies from Learning from Failure,” and “The Gift of Failure.”

But is failure really a gift?

In Tribe of Mentors, Ben Silberman, co-founder and CEO of Pinterest argues:

“Whenever you want to learn how to do something well, you start by studying people who are really good. You don’t study all the failed sprinters to learn how to run fast; you study the person who’s really fast.”
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Alida Miranda-WolffComment
230+ Impactful Questions for (Almost) Every Work Scenario

I believe in asking questions. In fact, it’s my most strongly held belief.

All good content, relationships, and solutions start with good questions. I am lucky to have discovered this early.

I have collected questions along the way to help me sharpen my craft. Some of them are mine; many come from great leaders, interviewers, and innovators like Tim Ferriss, Gary Vaynerchuck, Debbie Millman, Seth Godin, and many others.

I am excited to share my collection — as well as advice for using it — with you.

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Alida Miranda-WolffComment
Here’s Why Soft Skills Are More Important Than Technical Skills

Currently, we are experiencing a genuine shortage of soft skills. Yet, the national conversation is focused on our lack of technical skills.

Technical skills do matter, and in some areas of STEM, we have a shortage of talent (while in others we have genuine surpluses). For example, software development expertise is in short supply, as is expertise related to manufacturing and skilled production.

However, our obsession with specialization and technical skill adoption has created a false divide that privileges one over the other, so much so that soft skills are discounted, dismissed, and disappearing.

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Alida Miranda-WolffComment
Forget Specialists Vs. Generalists — Hire Learners

Learning is underrated.

At least, that’s the case when it comes to our collective conversations around hiring.

The debate around whether to hire generalists or specialists, however, continues to loom large.

Researchers like Tulane’s Assistant Professor Jennifer Merluzzi and Columbia Business School’s Professor Damon Phillips have studied whether generalist or specialist MBA candidates entering investment banking get hired more or paid more (the answer is generalists). Online think pieces abound on whether tech startups need generalists to wear many hats or specialist coders to architect their products faster than the competition.

The research is interesting and so are the conversations. But they only focus on the way work exists today.

 

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Alida Miranda-WolffComment