As Chief Energy Officer (CEO) of The Resiliency Group, Eileen McDargh guides leaders and organizations into developing powerful responses to change through keynotes, coaching, and facilitation. She has been called profound yet personal, pertinent yet playful. We recently sat down with Eileen to hear her thoughts on resiliency, leadership, and team building.
Tell us about your background. Why did you decide to become a motivational speaker?
I never decided to be a motivational speaker. I have always said that motivation is like dandruff: it’s in your head! My work is to offer learning points captured through stories, examples, and mnemonics so that audiences can remember and use. The audiences decided to call me “motivational,” but it is really their response!
Since you wrote a book about it, could you define the term “resiliency” and tell us why it’s so important for strong leaders to have?
Throw out the dictionary when it comes to human resilience. It is not about bouncing back. It is growing through challenge or opportunity so you become wiser and better.
Resiliency is predicated upon mental, emotional, and physical energy. In short, you need resiliency when faced not only with a crisis but also when offered a great opportunity. It is a life skill to be practiced daily rather than searched for because of an “event.” And it is needed by everyone – not just strong leaders.
What can leaders do to help increase the commitment level of their employees – especially those with a “punch in, punch out” mentality?
My first question would be to find out what the root cause is behind this mentality. No employee starts a job with a punch in, punch out mentality – something has happened! Onboarding could have been poorly done. It could be a sense that their job is meaningless in the larger picture. It could be a lack of feedback and growth opportunities. It could even be a wrong fit. Leaders who don’t explore a cause are like a doctor offering a prescription without a diagnosis.
What skills do today’s leaders need in order to effectively interact with and lead millennials?
First, stop culling them out as a separate group. Despite all the books and articles that have been written claiming that millennials are different, there is no substantial research to support that. On the contrary, a growing body of evidence suggests that employees of all ages are much more alike than different in their attitudes and values at work. Here’s a quote:
“To the extent that any gaps do exist, they amount to small differences that have always existed between younger and older workers throughout history and have little to do with the Millennial generation per se.”
Workers of all ages want to do work that makes a difference in their organization and they want that organization to be among the best in the field. They want to help solve environmental and social problems. They want a life outside of work. They want work that they are passionate about and that offers opportunities to develop skills.
Could you tell us the most “snore-worthy” thing(s) that many leaders do in their presentations – as well as what to do instead?
“Snore presentations” are done with boring slide decks of 12-point type, data dumps, and a monotone delivery. What makes presentations come alive are stories that illustrate a point, the enthusiasm of the presenter, and the simplicity of the message, Think Steve Jobs.
Finish this sentence: “When leaders are trying to change their corporate culture, the most common thing they do incorrectly is…”
…assume that a mantra to “embrace change” will work. First, build a culture of trust and then offer “why” a change is necessary. In the absence of real information, people connect the dots in the most pathological way possible. Go after the low-hanging fruit first, and then move to the more difficult challenges. Remember: an inch is a cinch. A mile takes awhile.
What are your thoughts on the efficacy of team-building activities – especially those in an outdoor setting?
I am a backpacker, a mountain climber, and a runner, so anything outside appeals to me. Where I have a problem with any team building activity is that the facilitation afterward doesn’t really tie the activity with the team’s real world. There has to be concrete learnings and actions as a result of a team building activity and not just feel-goods and high fives.
What types of leaders and leadership skills will be most in the demand in the future?
The complexity of today’s world requires leaders to have learning agility. This means a curiosity about the world, a humility to ask for help, and the flexibility to shift course. Leaders of the future will need superb communication skills and a diversity mindset.
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