We love TED talks. They’re valuable learning tools, packaged in a concise, convenient format: a specialist gives a rundown of a complex topic in just 10-15 minutes.
When it comes to project management, there are always new perspectives to consider and new ideas to explore. That’s why we put together this list of our favorite leadership and performance management TED talks, and their key takeaways:
1. Shawn Achor: The Happy Secret to Better Work
Runtime: 12 minutes
In this talk, Shawn Achor explains how we can train our brains to think more positively, which in turn promotes productivity and achievement.
TINYtakeaway: While constructive criticism is an important aspect of performance management, positive reinforcement should not be overlooked; it’s a powerful motivator. Incorporate positive reinforcement into your coaching technique to drive productivity.
Our favorite part (8:01): “75% of job successes are predicted by your optimism levels, your social support and your ability to see stress as a challenge instead of as a threat.”
2. Margaret Heffernan: Dare to Disagree
Runtime: 13 minutes
Margeret Heffernan delivers a talk on the topic of “constructive conflict,” illustrating how disagreement can improve business performance. She posits that instead of avoiding conflict, it’s better to open channels of communication for disagreement, and encourage collaborative thinking to achieve solutions.
TINYtakeaway: Encourage your team to participate in constructive disagreement. Create a culture where sharing different ideas is viewed as a positive.
Our favorite part (4:47): “It's a fantastic model of collaboration — thinking partners who aren't echo chambers.”
3. Drew Dudley: Everyday Leadership
Runtime: 6 minutes
In this talk, Dudley argues that we should redefine the way we look at leadership. He suggests that leadership encompasses consistent, everyday acts that make a difference — big or small.
TINYtakeaway: Foster a harmonious workplace atmosphere where team members perform daily acts of leadership, such as complimenting peers for a job well done.
Our favorite part (5:31): “If you change one person's understanding of [leadership], understanding of what they're capable of, understanding of how much people care about them, understanding of how powerful an agent for change they can be in this world, you've changed the whole thing.”
4. Simon Sinek: Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe
Runtime: 12 minutes
In this TED talk, Sinek explores what factors make employees cooperate with and follow those in leadership positions. He explains that environment impacts greatness, and that effectively leading a team is similar to being a good parent.
Sinek claims that when employees feel protected by their leaders, they naturally trust and cooperate, which improves performance.
TINYtakeaway: There is a difference between authority and leadership. While authority figures simply have a high rank, leaders earn trust by taking care of those around them.
Our favorite part (8:04): “Great leaders would never sacrifice people to save the numbers. They would sooner sacrifice the numbers to save the people".
5. Steve Jobs: How To Live Before You Die
Runtime: 15 minutes
In this famous speech, Steve Jobs explains how dropping out of college allowed him to pursue his true passions, and ultimately become the founder of Apple.
As Jobs learned from his professional journey, the most traditional path isn’t always the most conducive to creativity.
TINYtakeaway: Performance management involves embracing employees’ strengths, and being open to innovative ideas — even ones that change the status quo.
Our favorite part (8:27): “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.”
Leadership isn’t defined by a set of fixed performance management techniques — it’s about driving progress. As evidenced by these TED talks, great performance management requires a healthy balance of positive reinforcement, collaboration, creativity, and everyday leadership. So rather than reinforcing the status quo, challenge yourself to continually evolve your leadership strategy.
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