Ed Jackson, Ed.D.

Ed Jackson, Ed.D.

Dr. Jackson has a passion for inspiring others and helping them reach their fullest potential through Meaning-Centered Leadership.

The Power of Purpose

In a recent presentation, Sheryl Connelly, a futurist with the Ford Motor Co. shared that people become disengaged because they lack purpose in their work. In our book, Meaning-Centered Leadership: Skills and Strategies for Increased Employee Well-Being and Organizational Success, we share the power of purpose and how it can lead to workplace meaning. In presentations, we often share the hierarchy of meaningful work (pictured below).  We identified the connection between finding purpose and significance in your work and how…

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One Simple Step to Reduce Burnout 

In our book, Meaning-Centered Leadership: Skills and Strategies for Increased Employee Well-Being and Organizational Success we describe how leaders can activate multiple pathways to meaning. When employees find their work meaningful they are happier, healthier, more productive, and three times as likely to stay in their organizations. Unfortunately, recent survey data suggest much work is needed.  Survey research suggests over 90% of employees report burnout. The respondents describe having unmanageable stress and frustration. In fact, they report that high levels…

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The Strongest Predictor of Employee Disengagement May Surprise You

A slew of articles and research attempting to explain the Great Resignation may be causing confusion. Employers are responding in a variety of ways, from raising wages to offering flexible schedules and focusing on work-life balance.  These are all positive steps for employees, but is it enough? Recent research has uncovered that a toxic work environment is 10.4 times stronger at predicting company retention than wages*.  This data suggests that employees are looking for more than just a wage increase.…

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What’s Got You Stressed: 5 Important Questions to Consider

Politics, COVID-19, Work, what’s got you stressed? It seems Americans have several major sources of stress. A recent study by Kevin B. Smith of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that over 90 million Americans say they have experienced stress due to politics. Smith states, “Large numbers of Americans are convinced that politics is exacting significant social, psychological, and even physical costs on their well-being.”  Gallup’s research also found that the United States and Canada report the highest rates of daily…

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Quality Coaching for Engagement and Retention

The “Great Resignation” has led to a plethora of offered solutions. Everything from flexibility to shared leadership has been suggested, but what do people really want? Research points not to workplace conditions, hours, or wages, but instead points to the need for meaningful work. Workplace meaning is substantially governed by relatedness, autonomy, and competence, or as we state in our book, Engagement, Empowerment, and Expertise.  What people want from work is meaning. Meaning-Making begins with establishing trusting relationships with your…

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Employee Well-Being for Increased Performance & Health

In our book: Meaning-Centered Leadership: Skills and Strategies for Employee Well-Being and Organizational Success, we focus on describing the importance of Meaning-Centered Leadership as a way to improve physical and psychological well-being. The direct connection between employee well-being and organizational success is central.  Recent research affirms our position that well-being and performance are connected. A study published in Management Research Review found evidence that promoting and sustaining employee well-being is essential because it acts as a significant predictor of performance…

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One Simple Resolution We Can All Use

One simple New Year’s resolution we can use this year is to have more fun. I know that sounds antithetical to most New Years’ goal setters. We seem to focus on goals that call for us to sacrifice. Give up this, do more of that, but you have to ask yourself, does that work?  As a chronic gym goer, I can tell you the January swell usually lessens by February. We set out year after year to get more out…

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Experts Call For Meaning at All Levels of Education

A Meaning-Centered approach is needed throughout the education system. Educational researcher Michael Fullan states, “New meaning must be evident at every level of the system, but if it is not done at the level of the student, for the vast majority of students, all is lost.” (The New Meaning of Educational Change, 5th ed.) He claims that the future depends on deep engagement at the teacher and student levels.  Unfortunately, Gallup research reports teacher disengagement levels at nearly 70%, and…

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5 Reasons I am Thankful for My Service

Whenever anyone thanks me for my service I am always a little sheepish in responding. Not that I don’t appreciate the recognition, but the truth is I owe more to my service than my country owes me. During my years of service in the United States Marine Corps, I completed high school and started college, and I was gifted with several exceptional lessons.  Show up on time and never be late: This lesson has stuck with me, albeit there have…

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Ignite Your Leadership with Effective Coaching

Effective Coaching has been shown to inspire strong employee outcomes.* Coaching has the potential to profoundly deepen employee engagement, empowerment, and expertise. Throughout the book Meaning-Centered Leadership: Skills and Strategies for Increased Employee Well-Being and Organizational Success, we discuss the impact of effective coaching. (Your Coaching Playbook – chapter 13) Effective coaching begins with active listening, which involves hearing the whole statement without jumping to a quick fix or conclusion. It helps to set the stage for deep interpersonal influence. In…

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Meaning: The Antidote to Antiwork

The Antiwork Movement is a global workers phenomenon. In an opinion piece in the NY Times, columnist Farhad Manjoo described a recent one-day strike in South Korea by tens of thousands of workers. In China, young workers have called for a laying flat movement to counter the 12-hour 6-day work week expectations. It seems many 20 somethings in China would rather tuck themselves back in bed than join the throngs streaming to work.  Manjoo reports in his column titled: Even…

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Workplace Meaning is Supported by CSR, HRD, and Leadership Development

A recent analysis of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reporting suggests that a company’s social mission along with CSR actions can support an employee’s sense of meaningful work. In the report, all of the companies identified an emphasis on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion efforts. The vast majority of companies also mentioned community engagement efforts.  Just 30% of the companies described efforts to support continuous learning and development, and 26% percent mentioned a commitment to creating an ethical workplace. This information suggests…

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Bring The Power of Purpose & Meaning to Your Life

In the third edition of The Power of Purpose: Find Meaning, Live Longer, Better, Richard Leider describes the importance of purpose by declaring, “Purpose is what gives life a meaning.” Throughout the text, meaning and purpose are often paired. He asks, “If we had to name what makes life worth living, what gives it meaning and purpose?” His use of the terms “meaning and purpose” as synonymous or twin tracks was evident throughout the book. He states, “It is clear…

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3 Steps to Inspire and Retain Your Workforce

Recent survey research continues to find high numbers of individuals who are ready to quit their jobs. Of the workforce, 54% are actively considering quitting their jobs, often listing burnout as the number one cause. In relation, 55% of employees report high levels of workplace stress. Combined, workplace stress and absenteeism cost businesses $300 billion annually. While global losses due to depression and anxiety are estimated to be as high as one trillion dollars.  In relation, a recent Forbes article…

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What Research Tells Us About Supporting Teachers

American teachers are approaching another very uncertain year. With COVID-19 accelerating among the younger populations, mask mandates have become a literal battleground. School boards have cancelled meetings, teachers have been assaulted, and guidance is often contradicted by policy. Amidst this whirlwind, teachers are considering leaving the field in ever greater numbers.  Every year 200,000 teachers voluntarily leave the profession. A recent report indicates that there is a 20% increase in the number of teachers who are considering leaving the profession.…

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Trusting Teams Versus “The Great Resignation”

The number of people who voluntarily left their organizations during the months of April (4 million) and May (3.6 million) has been referred to as “The Great Resignation”. Reporting on this topic highlight surveys that suggest upwards of 40% of the workforce is considering resigning. Burnout and lack of growth are often cited as the biggest reasons people voluntarily leave their organizations.  As reported in our book, businesses in the United States are losing a trillion dollars a year due…

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Trustworthy Business Leaders Needed NOW

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer of 2021, 18 of 27 countries experienced an increase in employer trust; unfortunately, the United States was not one of them. The report goes on to state that information quality leads to increasing trust. This seems an especially difficult task given the consensus offered in this report: both government and business leaders in the USA are suspected of lies and misinformation.  The Edelman report suggests four steps businesses should take: CEO’s must act on…

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A Meaning-Centered Approach for the Post-Pandemic School

Educators and communities across the country are preparing to return students to fulltime in-person learning. This is a positive direction and yet the way ahead is clouded with imperatives to assess and remediate learning loss. Many schools are supporting student learning with summertime remediation and credit recovery. This is necessary and supports students’ academic needs. The bigger question is, what do students need as they return to school?

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Trust: The Key to Optimal Performance

In our research into how exemplary leaders create meaning, we discovered that followers want a leader who can build an atmosphere where trusting relationships flourish. So it came as no surprise when a recent global study conducted by ADP research found that the single most powerful driver of resilience and engagement is trust. When trust is present, people are able to optimize their performance.  Sadly, according to this report, only 7% of people feel this level of trust in their…

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What Daily Yoga Practice Has Taught me About Leadership

During the last 14 months of isolation and worry, I began a daily practice of yoga. The breathing, focus, and acceptance required in daily yoga practice connects to many of the disciplines a leader must embrace.  First, a leader needs to be 100% present. Deep breathing is a great way to maintain presence and energy.  Pausing to take deep breaths can help you power through a long meeting or prepare you for a difficult conversation that will require 100% of…

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3 Steps to Combat the Teacher Shortage

Schools across America are returning to the classroom in varying degrees. Some schools still offer a hybrid for students who chose to learn online, while some are moving to return fully to the classroom. In either case, one thing is certain, teacher shortages are real. The rise in demand and lack of enrollment in teacher preparation programs signals tough times ahead. Especially for in-demand areas like Special Education and English Learner Education. One immediate thing educational leaders can do to…

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A Mindset of Grace & Gratitude

From a historical perspective, the times we live in will likely be remembered as one of the most challenging periods in our history. Resilience and perseverance are the constants of our current survival. Difficult times, it seems, call for us to embrace our ability to grind. However, as we described in chapter 9 of our recently released book, enthusiasm is key to maintaining energy and empowerment. In chapter 9, we describe how an attitude of gratitude is an essential tool…

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4 Lessons from Dr. King’s Message on Living A Meaningful Life

Six months before he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King shared his message with a group of junior high school students in Philidelphia. He started by asking the students what their blueprint for life was. He stressed the notion that the students were building a blueprint for their lives and they needed a proper foundation. He suggested that the number one thing on the blueprint should be an undeniable belief in your self-worth and dignity. He summarized: “…always feel that…

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Sharpen Your Leadership Focus

A team of researchers who developed and validated an instrument to measure well-being identified Five keys to well-being: purpose, social, financial, physical, and community. In this research, they described how organizations all over the globe have adopted a focus on improving well-being as a way of improving longevity, quality of life, productivity, optimal functioning, and improved health.  The researchers cited evidence, “subjective wellbeing influences health, longevity, and functioning.” They further mentioned that the World Health Organization has declared that improving…

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Recent Report Highlights the Need for Organizational Well-Being

The Wellbeing Project has recently published a report that highlights the way individual wellbeing impacts welldoing. In the section of the report titled: Evidence Based Theory of Change, they describe the impact of individual wellbeing at the organizational level. Interestingly, they report many of the same things called for in Meaning-Centered Leadership.  The MCL approach begins with Engagement born of trusting relationships, care and concern, and open communication with active listening. Similarly, the wellbeing project report describes how the participants…

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One Important Leadership Lesson I Learned in the United States Marine Corps

Ways to strengthen an organization and enhance well being for everyone came up repeatedly in our research of exemplary leaders. Upon reflection, I realized I learned many of those lessons years before while serving in the United States Marine Corps.  In the early 1980s, I was ending an overseas tour and heading back to Camp Pendleton. Our platoon commander would not make that return trip with us. His failings of leadership had been on display throughout the overseas tour. From…

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The Brain Science Behind Meaning-Centered Leadership

Engagement is the first essential component of Meaning-Centered Leadership. Our research indicated that followers want a leader who creates an environment where trusting relationships can take place. Neuroscience researchers have uncovered something surprisingly simple, “If you treat me well, my brain will synthesize OT (oxytocin) and this will motivate me to reciprocate.” It turns out the Golden Rule is supported by this simple biological fact. Caring and empathy will help your organization develop a culture that increases OT for its…

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Labor Day 2020: A Tribute to the Essential Worker

Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity…” On this Labor Day it’s interesting to note that many of the heroes of the CoronaVirus Pandemic are laborers we seldom celebrate. Sure the first responders, doctors and nurses are lauded for their heroism, but what of the grocery store workers, truck drivers, and laborers in our vast food chain. These workers are seldom placed on the pedestal of societal ardor like those aforementioned first responders.  The…

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Meaningful Online Instruction using the 3 E’s

At Meaning-Centered Leadership we understand that meaning has the power to transform our experiences. Teachers all across the country will begin online instruction in the coming days and weeks. They too can realize the impact of meaning on their instruction by using the 3 E’s framework.  Engagement: The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) provides an excellent framework to incorporate in lesson planning. They describe the need for having welcoming rituals. These rituals allow the teacher to create…

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3 Keys to Supporting Teachers as Schools Return

A recent article in Greater Good Magazine described the results of a national survey of 5,000 teachers. The authors concluded that the source of teacher frustration was feeling unsupported by their administrators. The Meaning-Centered Leadership approach calls for leaders to focus on building engagement, empowerment, and expertise. Engagement is built by creating trusting relationships throughout the organization. Active listening and transparent communication are essential components of engagement. Creating opportunities for teachers to regularly connect is essential. Professional learning communities, regular…

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The Antidote for Surviving Tough Times

From ancient philosophers to modern day psychologists having a sense of personal meaning has long been identified as a prerequisite to survival. Socrates claimed that we are beings in search of meaning. More recently, a leader of the positive psychology movement, Martin Seligman, explained that the meaningful life focuses on the strengths of an individual and how they use their strengths to impact more than just their own life, but also the lives of others. Perhaps Viktor Frankl described the…

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Social Justice Leadership: Through a Meaning-Centered Lens

In a 2019 report: Being Black in Corporate America, Key Findings uncovered that Black professionals are more ambitious than their white counterparts. Yet they are nearly 6 times as likely to hold the opinion that someone of their race can never achieve a top job in their company. With only .03% of the Fortune 500 CEO positions held by Black Americans that opinion is not surprising. Add to that the findings that well over 50% of Black Americans report that…

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New Research Highlights the Need for Leadership Training

A nationally representative research study reported some startling findings about Americans’ beliefs about the current state of leadership. Researchers at Christopher Newport University in Virginia conducted a nationwide sampling, and they discovered that less than one third of the respondents believe that leadership in the United States is effective. That score drops even further in the areas of religion, education, national politics, and the environment. In those areas, less than a quarter of the respondents expressed that leaders were effective…

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Lessons in Leadership – The Positive Impact of Female World Leaders During This Crisis

A brief review of the literature on managing during a crisis yields some similarities in suggested approaches. Engagement via communication that it is confident, honest, and displays empathy. Empowerment via positivity and a focus on the greater good. Expertise via decisive and reliable action and information.  As we watch this crisis unfold and view its impact across the globe, we see a variety of responses by governments and reactions to that by its people. Recently being touted for their effectiveness…

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Finding Meaning In A World Without Work: 3 Important Actions that Can Help You Flourish

President Trump recently warned that the recession related to the COIVD-19 shutdown will result in “suicides by the thousands.” He clearly referenced the economic collapse as the potential fulcrum to drive this mass self-annihilation. Previous research has shown a link between recessions and suicide rate. However, this research is inconclusive and several studies have indicated that the link between economic recession and suicide may be incidental to other factors.  As income shrinks the money available for mental health services also…

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One Simple New Years Resolution Will Enhance Your Impact

According to Johnny C. Taylor, CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, “Ineffective people management was 2019’s biggest issue.” In a recent USA Today column he described the breakdown of communication and trust that leads to employee dissatisfaction and loss of motivation. He suggested that leaders need to master the art of people management and make culture a priority.     One simple way to create a positive culture and enhance your leadership impact is to focus on optimism. An optimistic…

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A Salute on Veterans Day: What Gold Star Families Teach Us About Living With Grief

Viktor Frankl’s logotherapy teaches, “…there are three main avenues on which one arrives at meaning in life.” He goes on to explain that work, love, and the opportunity to rise above personal tragedy can lead one to meaning.  Triumph over tragedy was the topic of Jocko podcast 201. In this episode, Jocko Willink talks with Ryan Manion, co-author of The Knock at the Door: Three Gold Star Families Bonded by Grief and Purpose.  In their discussion, Jocko reads from the…

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How Kindness can Supercharge your Leadership

If you’ve ever had a boss that tried to rule through fear and intimidation, you know how dysfunctional that approach can be. Years ago I started a job in a company that I had longed to join. Within the first few hours on the job, it became apparent that everyone feared the boss. I decided on the spot to quit within the first week. The atmosphere was tense and unsettling. The employees acted like kids trying to avoid the school…

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From Paycheck to Purpose

According to Gallup CEO and Chairman Jim Clifton, “The very practice of management no longer works. The old ways: annual reviews, forced rankings, outdated competencies, no longer achieve the intended results.” This opening statement from the Gallup Report, The State of the American Workplace, points out that only one third of the more than 100 Million American workers are engaged in their work.  Clifton suggests, “If American companies were simply to double the number of engaged workers from one-third to…

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“Americans Deserve a Life of Dignity and Meaning”

At Meaning-Centered Leadership we believe that everyone deserves a life that brings them meaning and dignity. Our position was recently echoed by 181 CEOs who signed a Business Roundtable pledge to serve all their stakeholders. This presents a switch from the long held view that the corporation serves its shareholders.  In part the statement reads: “Americans deserve an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity. …we…

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Global Workforce Suffers from Lack of Engagement: Meaning is the Antidote

In a June 2019 study, ADP research reported the results of a global survey on workplace engagement. The results were in line with Gallup research that reports similar high disengagement scores. ADP surveyed 19,000 workers around the globe and found only 16% of employees report being fully engaged. Even worse, the United States was one of four countries that experienced a decrease in engagement during the last 3 years.  At Meaning-Centered Leadership, our goal is to support healthier workplaces. When…

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New AutoNation CEO Cheryl Miller Demonstrates Three Traits Every Great Leader Needs

On July 22nd, Cheryl Miller was announced as the new CEO of AutoNation. She became the first woman to lead a publicly traded dealership group. In the days following the announcement, stock prices jumped 15%. That jump supports industry insiders who have said she is the right person for the job.  CEO Miller appears to demonstrate the characteristics of expertise necessary for leadership success. At Meaning-Centered Leadership, expertise is described as wisdom, optimism, and humility. According to those who know…

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Three Steps to Creating a BHAG Like the One that Launched Apollo

On May 25th, 1961, President John F. Kennedy delivered a speech to a joint session of congress. That speech declared a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) for America’s space exploration program,  a declaration of intent to put a man on the moon. On July 20th, 1969 that dream was realized when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon.  On the Space Coast of Florida, events to commemorate the Apollo program took the forefront this month. Pub crawls, parades,…

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World Cup Winning Coach Jill Ellis offers 3 Cornerstones for Successful Leadership

Leaders in the world of professional sports face constant public scrutiny. So it was no surprise that former USA goalie Hope Solo took shots at her former coach. During the World Cup, Hope questioned Ellis’ leadership. It wasn’t enough that Coach Ellis was breaking barriers as a female coach, she had to endure ridicule from a former player. Yet, she handled it all with remarkable grace as her team stormed through to a record tying fourth gold cup win.  For…

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3 ways Meaning-Centered Leadership can Impact Education

In the Gallup Report, The State of America’s Schools: The Path to Winning Again in Education, the authors describe the impact of emotional engagement, well-being via a positive strength based school environment, and hope for the future as keys to school success. Meaning-Centered Leadership offers a paradigm that presents opportunities to address all three of these crucial areas. The three E’s framework of Engagement, Empowerment, and Expertise describe how leaders can create meaning to maximize their effectiveness.  The first E,…

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How Meaning-Centered Leadership can Combat “Burn-out”

On May 28th 2019 the World Health Organization included burn-out in the revised International Classification of Diseases. Burn-out is not listed as a medical issue, it is called an occupational phenomenon. “Burn-out is syndrome conceptualized as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. It is characterised by three dimensions: Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one’s job; and Reduced professional efficacy” The…

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How Draymond Green & Meaning-Centered Leadership Helped the Warriors Overcome a 17 point deficit

In game two of the western conference finals against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Golden State Warriors trailed by 17 points. The Warriors would go on to win 114-111. Many headlines the next day gave Draymond Green the credit for a halftime ajustement that lead to this victory. Undoubtedly, Draymonds willingness to speak up in the locker room combined with his ferocious defense and competitive spirit helped key this victory. Less known, and more hidden, are the leadership skills of…

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3 Ways Leaders Can Impact Workplace Stress

May 3, 2019      Ed Jackson Ed.D. A 2019 Global Emotions Poll released by Gallup found Americans with very high levels of stress. 55% of Americans report high levels of stress; that’s 4% higher than the saddest country in the world, Chad. These findings are not surprising when you consider that Gallup research has also found high levels of workplace disengagement. 71% of American workers report being disengaged at work and only 47% report they are satisfied with their jobs. Workplace…

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How Listening Can Magnify Your Leadership Impact

“Listening can help leaders expand their understanding and make a positive impact on culture.” According to Cyndi Sax of the Association for Talent Development, listening can have a profound impact on your performance. In a recent blog post, she identified the impact of listening: “Listening provides you with access to a diversity of ideas and potential solutions you could not have generated on your own. Listening expands perspectives and enables an organization to proactively address potential issues rather than simply…

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3 Ways to School Leaders Can Deepen Engagement to Support Educators

3 Ways School Leaders Can Deepen Engagement to Support Educators

A whopping 93% of teachers report that their stress levels fall into the high stress category. Furthermore, teachers report lower than average levels of job satisfaction and higher than average physical and mental health problems. By creating a meaningful workplace, you can begin to provide the environment necessary to care for your teachers.

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