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Opinions and information on leadership and leadership development by Dan McCarthy
Updated: 1 hour 35 sec ago

How to Address Sticky Workplace Office Etiquette Issues

Mon, 09/17/2018 - 06:00

A Pennsylvania man was allegedly fired for farting too much at work. Seriously. Apparently he had some medical issues, and he’s now suing his former employer.
Given that I write advice for managers, my immediate reaction to this story was to put myself in the manager’s shoes who had to deal with this sensitive breach of office etiquette. How would you like to have that conversation?
According to the lawsuit, it went something like this: "We cannot run an office and have visitors with the odor in the office," and "We are having complaints from people who have problems with the odors." 
Unfortunately, as a manager, chances are, at some point in your career, you will have to deal with some kind of office etiquette issue. While it may not be excessive farting, it may be one of these:
1. Swearing. No, I’m not talking about politically incorrect language, although that seems to be making the headlines too these days. I’m talking about dropping “F-bombs” at work. Some would say that swearing at work depends on the culture. I happen to disagree. In my opinion, the use of the F word has no place in any work environment. A manager’s use of language sets a good or bad example, and overlooking it is the same as condoning it. Just be aware that the swearing may be a medical condition.
2. Too much aftershave or perfume. This one’s pretty common – it’s “that guy” who shows up for work in the morning after dousing himself with his favorite man-spray. This one’s a little more subjective, as some people are more sensitive to strong smells than others. I would tend to overlook it and chalk it up as more of a “pet peeve” (unless another employee is allergic to such odors). After all, the smell does eventually dissipate, and it’s not as bad as …….
3. Body odor and bad breadth. This one depends on type of work environment (outdoors vs. indoors), type of work (physical labor vs. office work) and proximity to co-workers and customers. And again, odor is subjective. While probably more than a pet peeve but perhaps not as serious as excessive farting, it’s something that a manager could at least discuss with the employee. The employee may not even know and again, it could be a medical condition.
4. Talking too loud.We had one of these at a former company I worked at. He was great at his job and a super nice guy. However, employees didn’t want to sit next to him because he was so loud on the phone. While there are some workarounds to this kind of thing, the manager may need to have a discussion about use of “indoor vs. outdoor” voice. It becomes even more of an issue if the loud phone calls are not even work related, i.e., arguing with a spouse or having an argument with the cable company.
5. Dress code violations. Some employees just don’t seem to know the difference between dressing for work and dressing for a night out clubbing. If just an individual employee, the issue can be handled with a little coaching on how to dress appropriately at work. Or, you may have to establish a formal dress code policy.
For any of these sceneries, you first need to decide if the issue is just a “pet peeve” or a legitimate performance issue. See Are You Managing or Just Nagging? to learn more.
Here are two acid test questions:

1. Can I make a clear connection between the behavior (or lack of) and the performance output?

2. If the behavior doesn’t stop (or start), are you willing to take progressive disciplinary action, up to and including termination?
If your answer is “yes” to both, then it’s a performance issue, and needs to be dealt with. See How to Discuss an Employee Performance Problem to learn how.
In any of these scenarios, I would suggest that the manager consults with their human resources representative. They all contain potential landmines (ADA, harassment, discrimination, etc.), so it’s better to be cautious and smart instead of making a mistake that gets you and your company in legal hot water.
Categories: Blogs

Leaders Returning to their First Love

Thu, 09/13/2018 - 06:00

Guest post by Janet Britcher:

Entrepreneurship: Exploring
When professionals demonstrate excellence in their chosen field, they are often promoted to leadership, leaving behind their foundational expertise and for some, their first love. Some scientists give up the joys of the lab, some physicians the satisfaction of clinical work with patients, some cooks give up the creativity in the kitchen, for leadership or entrepreneurship. Can you have it all? I recently interviewed restaurant co-owner Rob Evans. He and his wife Nancy Pugh own and run the wildly successful Duckfat Restaurant in Portland Maine.
Leadership Learning
Due to the growth of his restaurants, Rob Evans developed leadership skills which enabled him to move out of the kitchen. He was motivated to learn how to be a good leader to keep serving more customers. Working with consultants from GISC, he deepened his commitment to quality workplace by honing his own management skills. In order to delegate more effectively, he arranged for his managers to develop their leadership skills further as well. Despite a natural tension between the front of the house and the kitchen (in other industries, that tension is between operations and sales) his retention rate is unusually high, over 80% of employees have been there over five years.
Entrepreneur: Return to the First Love
Now in addition to Duckfat, Rob has been called by his love of cooking back to the kitchen. Entrepreneurs are creators and risk takers, and by building a strong management team, Rob was able to consider what else he wanted for his role. Prior to opening Duckfat in 2006 with his wife Nancy Pugh, they owned and managed a high-end restaurant, Hugo’s. So he knows a range of restaurant offerings.
This new opportunity provides space for a production kitchen to support the high volume in the small space of Duckfat. In addition, he has a creative new offering: Duckfat Frites. It is located next to a Brewery, Oxbow, where customers can buy a beer and then order Belgian style Frites to go.  The production space is new, the informal partnership with a brewery is new, and the take-out window for Duckfat Frites is new. Entrepreneurs thrive on creativity and all leaders need to find ways to tap into innovation and make time for activities which are energizing.
His motivation?  “I wanted to be back in the kitchen, and developing my managers enabled me to do that. Duckfat serves up to 800 customers a day, in peak season. In order to be able to serve that many people, and coordinate our 40 employees, we need a good management structure and systems. We have worked hard to create that. Now I’m ready for a return to the hands-on work in the kitchen.”
Transplanting Culture
The new location, Duckfat Frites, has its own culture. Initially Rob thought it would be a copy of their successful Duckfat culture, but the nature of the work they do, the location and the space have combined to create something different. Still good, still positive and connected, yet with its own flair.Culture is hard to transplant, as any company which has been through a merger can attest. What did transfer was the positive spirit and collegiality.
Keeping Vibrant
Some leaders find the move into management to be satisfying expansion of skills, and discover a new passion for strategy, developing others, and leveraging impact. Others long for their prior kind of work, where they had expertise and more hands-on satisfaction. Either one can represent career advancement and development. I’m a fan of playing to strengths, and spending time and energy where there is creativity and passion. That plus focus translates into success, on either path. Some fortunate leaders like Rob Evans find a way to combine both.
Some executives ask, how do I know which would be better? As an executive coach, I have seen that self-reflection has a big payoff. It’s important to nourish what is enlivening, whether that’s through growth, expansion, diversification or a return to your first professional love.  For those who invest in reflection and self-awareness, it’s even possible to combine both.
Janet Britcher, MBA, is President of Transformation Management LLC in Boston. She offers executive coaching, leadership workshops, and retreat facilitation.
Categories: Blogs

50 Development Ideas for the 9 Box Performance and Potential Matrix

Mon, 09/10/2018 - 06:00
When using the performance and potential matrix (9 box) to assess leaders, some organizations will assess each employee, then discuss development at a follow-up meeting, or worst case, not at all.

An emerging best practice is to discuss specific development strategies for each employee as a part of the assessment discussion. That way, information concerning strengths and weaknesses is fresh in everyone’s minds and it’s a natural transition to move to strategies to move each employee to the next level of readiness.
While there may not be time to discuss every employee on the 9 box grid, high potential employee development should be discussed. These are the employees that will probably end up on succession planning lists, so it makes sense to involve the entire leadership team in brainstorming development strategies for these employees.
Here are general development guidelines for each of the nine boxes. These are of course just general guidelines, and judgment needs to be applied depending on context and the unique needs of the individual leader.
I would also caution against the temptation to come up with cute labels for each of the nine boxes (i.e., “rising stars”, or “steady performers”), or a list of descriptive characteristics for each of the nine boxes. These labels and/or descriptors will typically just cause confusion and add little value to the discussion.
1A (high potential, high performance):
·         Stretch assignments, things they don’t already know how to do, assignments that take them beyond their current role; high profile, where stakes are high
·         Give them a “start-up” assignment, something no one has done, a new product, process, territory, etc…
·         Give them a “fix-it” assignment, a chance to step in and solve a problem or repair someone else’s mess
·         Job change, rotations, job swaps, - an opportunity to experience a brand new role, short term or long term
·         Help them build cross-functional relationships with other A players
·         Find them a mentor – at least one level up. Provide an internal or external coach
Access to exclusive training opportunities
·         Access to meetings, committees, etc… one level up; exposure to senior managers, VPs; advisory Councils, Board of Directors
·         Watch out for signs of burnout
·         Watch for signs of retention risks; know how to “save” a hi-po
·         Next level up exposure, responsibilities, shadowing
2A (high performance, moderate potential):
·         Development activities similar to 1A
·         Difference is often degree of “readiness” for larger roles. Development is preparation for longer term opportunities
·         Continue to assess for potential
3A (high performance, limited potential):
·         Ask what motivates them and how they want to develop
·         Provide recognition, praise, and rewards
·         Provide opportunities to develop in current role, to grow deeper and broader capabilities and knowledge
·         Provide honest feedback about their opportunities for advancement if asked
·         Watch for signs of retention risks; know how to “save” a “hi-pro” (high professional)
·         Ask them to mentor, teach, and coach others
·         Allow them to share what they know, presentations at company meetings, external conferences, to be “the highly valued expert”
1B (good/average performance, high potential):
·         Development activities similar to 1A
·         Difference is current performance level
·         Focus more on competency gaps that will move them from B to A performance; good to great performance
·         Provide candid feedback and express your confidence
2B: (good/average performance, moderate potential):
·         May not be eager or able to advance; don’t push them, allow them to stay where they are
·         Continuously check-in regarding willingness to advance, relocate
·         Provide occasional opportunities to “test” them
·         Provide stretch assignments
·         Provide coaching and training
·         Help them move from “good to great”
·         Tell them they are valued
·         Listen to their ideas
·         Praise their accomplishments
·         Trust them
3B (good/average performance, limited potential):
·         Combination of performance management, training, and coaching to help them move from “OK to good”
·         Provide honest feedback about their opportunities for advancement if asked
1C (poor performance, high potential):
·         Find out the root cause of poor performance and together develop an action plan to improve
·         Consider moving the high potential to a different role (may have been a poor fit)
Provide additional support, resources
·         Look for ways to “attach” to 1As, 1Bs, or 2As
·         After a “reasonable” period of time, if performance does not improve, then re-examine your potential assessment
2C (often used for leaders too new to rate):
·         Focus is on onboarding, orientation, relationship building
·         Provide a peer mentor
·         Provide formal new leader training 
3C (poor performance, limited potential):
·         Use a performance management approach, not a developmental approach
Improvement action plan vs. an IDP
·         Clarify expectations
·         Identify and remove “blockers”, poor performers that are standing in the way of high potentials
·         Provide clearly defined goals
·         Be explicit about the ways in which they must improve
·         Provide remedial coaching and feedback
·         After trying all of the above, after a ”reasonable” amount of time, move the person out of the role. Dismiss or move to individual contributor role
Need help with your own talent review meeting and creating robust leadership development plans? I’ve run hundreds of them. Contact me to discuss.
Categories: Blogs

How to Be A Leader As An Individual Contributor

Thu, 09/06/2018 - 06:00
Guest post from Pam Didner:

When I speak at conferences, I frequently talk to young marketers. One common question they ask is “As an individual contributor, how can I be a leader, if I don’t ‘lead’ a team?” It certainly would be nice if you have a team that you can lead, but it’s not absolutely necessary. I tell them that the pre-requisite of leadership is not having a team to “lead.” Leadership comes in different facets. One of them is how you conduct yourself doing your job or working with your peers.

Here are 5 ways to become an effective leader as an individual contributor:

1. Know your strengths to provide value-add

You need to have a strong grasp of your own strengths. Working on a project is like playing a soccer game. To play a game effectively, you need to know what position(s) you want to play: defense, midfield or attack. Understanding your own strengths allows you to inform the project lead where he or she can better place you within a team. Most of the time, the placement is based on your current job scope. For example, you get pulled into a project because of your role in IT. Your engagement for the project is likely related to what you are doing in the IT department.

Say there is a project to source a technology vendor for a new marketing program and nobody on the team is responsible for vendor research. If your strength happens to be in conducting research, you can volunteer to take on the responsibility to showcase your expertise.

Yes, it’s more work, but it’s also an opportunity to demonstrate what else you can do, in addition to providing insights related to IT. Once you complete the research and provide your findings and recommendations, your team will come to look to you for answers.

Being a subject matter expert is one way to demonstrate leadership.

2. Tie your projects to business goals

Most of young individual contributors are very good at getting things done. That is great, but that is not good enough if you want to be a leader. One leadership trait is that you need to be able to articulate the impact of what you accomplish in the context of business goals or revenue.

Do you know your company’s or your group’s business goals? Can you quantify your contribution to the project in relationship to overall business goals? The ability to crystalize your contribution shows that you can think like senior managers and communicate in a way that they can understand. Consequently, you can help rally others to communicate their accomplishments in a results-driven manner. In a way, you lead by example.

3. Comprehend organizational structure, processes and decision makers

Most individual contributors only know their direct managers and team members. It’s important to know how your team fits into the overall corporate machine. Understand how your team works with other teams and who your key internal stakeholders are. Having that holistic view can shape conversations with your management and suggest ideas on how to better support your stakeholders.

Even though a company has a corporate culture, each business or product group can have its own vibe with unique processes and key influencers. This is tribal knowledge and usually is not documented anywhere. Being “in the know” shows that you know how to maneuver within organizations to get things done.

4. Plan and execute

Individual contributors usually focus on tactical execution. The overall mentality from individual contributors is “tell me what needs to be done. I’ll get it done for you.” That’s great, but it’s not what a leader does. A leader not only gets things done, but also engages in the overall planning process. Plan out the projects, identify the gaps, address the gaps, put the team together and more. If you want to lead, you also need to go extra miles to plan and strategize.

5. Share credit and recognize others’ contributions

One of the most important leadership traits is to appreciate other team members’ efforts. A sense of empathy goes far with your team members, such as a simple “thank you” and “please”. Recognize team members who go above and beyond. Everything we do in a corporation is teamwork. It’s OK to share credit, even though you do a good chunk of the work. It’s good karma. What comes around, goes around.

You don’t need a team to lead

As an individual contributor, your job is to demonstrate to senior managers that you have leadership traits and you think holistically. Find opportunities to showcase that whenever you can.

I recently completed my 2nd book, Effective Sales Enablement. This book is written from a marketer’s perspective on how to enable the sales team as a marketer. It’s not a leadership book per se. But if you are marketing leaders and are interested in how to plan and implement initiatives to better support your sales team, this book is for you.

Leadership is not only about leading or assembling a team. The core is about how we conduct ourselves and our ability to think and act strategically, being empathetic and getting things done.

Pam Didner is a marketing consultant, author, and speaker. Her second book, Effective Sales Enablement, provides unconventional insights into how marketing and sales can better work together. Her forte is creating and implementing marketing strategies by connecting sales and marketing to engage global audiences. For more information, please visit
Categories: Blogs

The Power in Vulnerability

Tue, 09/04/2018 - 06:00
Guest post by Rick Miller:
“Never let them see you sweat.” Like many baby-boomers, I heard this and many other similar phrases growing up. The message was clear. Don’t show weakness because it will be exploited.
Fast forward to today and you see the opposite is true.  
This shift may have started in 2010 when Brené Brown, a sociological research professor, published The Gifts of Imperfection, and perhaps took off with her next book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead in 2012. Both were widely acclaimed and New York Times bestsellers.
I learned about the power of vulnerability years earlier.
When I took over as president of a $12 billion unit at AT&T—overseeing 10,000 employees and a huge budget—I thought I had all the power I needed to succeed. I was wrong.
One of my first challenges was to engage with employees to learn about the business and what they thought was holding us back. I quickly found those same employees viewed people like me (AT&T corporate officers) as part of the problem, if not the problem. I did find a number of workers who stepped up to lead, however. I call these people Chiefs. But most needed a little coaxing to embrace change and become fully engaged in charting a different future for our unit.

To break down those barriers, I held a number of town hall meetings as forums for frank and open discussion. It was at one such meeting in New York City where I learned about the power of vulnerability.  
During a Q&A session an employee asked if, as a corporate officer, I truly understood the impact of losing health care benefits while a family member was battling cancer. The person was evaluating an early retirement program and was concerned about health care coverage options. From the question, I inferred that most of those in my audience assumed officers—like me—were somehow insulated from the impacts of voluntary retirement programs. The question provided an opportunity to share a personal vulnerability to illustrate that all AT&T employees—including leaders like me—shared many of their concerns and anxieties.
Although I never hid the fact that I was a type one diabetic, I had never publicly shared that I was also a cancer survivor. Years ago, while working at Sperry Corp, my doctor discovered a malignant tumor and recommended immediate surgery. At Sperry and later career stops, I had kept my cancer battle under wraps because I feared it would hold back my career advancement. Other than my boss and assistant, no one in my professional circles knew…until that fateful AT&T town hall meeting.
After I addressed the specific question (transition health care insurance would continue to cover his family), I took a risk. You could have heard a pin drop when I revealed, “I am a cancer survivor and know how important health insurance is.”
I deliberately put myself in a vulnerable position as a way to connect with my team. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, by exposing my vulnerability, I was actually being more courageous than muscling through my professional life without opening up about my bout with cancer.
The benefit of openly acknowledging the link between our personal and professional lives is huge. After my “aha moment,” more and more employees began to engage me in conversation. It was clear that the initial animosity I faced as an AT&T officer had eroded. As a result, more of my team members stepped up as leaders in the transformation.
From this experience, I was again reminded that title, position, and authority don’t automatically translate into power and influence. Rather, my vulnerability had made me more powerful and able to effect change. In turn, it boosted the impact and power of my team.
What choices can you make to become more powerful? What could you do to increase your impact and influence?
Rick Miller is an unconventional turnaround specialist, a servant leader, and a go-to Chief. He is also an experienced and trusted confidant, an author (Be Chief: It’s a Choice, Not a Title, September 4, Motivational Press), a sought-after speaker, and an expert at driving sustainable growth. For over 30 years, Rick served as a successful business executive in roles including President and/or CEO in a Fortune 10, a Fortune 30, a startup, and a nonprofit. Rick earned a bachelor’s degree from Bentley University and an MBA from Columbia. He currently lives in Morristown, NJ.If you would like to find out how to measure and increase your power, take this short free survey that Rick created.

Categories: Blogs

You Don’t Have to Be Gates (or Buffett) to Shake the World

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 06:00
Guest post from Steve Farber:

How do you become a great leader and a better person? Just do one simple thing: Help others achieve greatness. Here’s how.

Some of the world’s richest and most powerful people already know one thing you might not: philanthropy is so much more than a tax dodge. In fact, philanthropy is a way of showing that success is not measured by money alone, but by how money can help enrich the lives of others. 

You probably aren’t in the Forbes Billionaires List. (If you are, congratulations!) But you don’t need to be a billionaire or even have much money at all to fulfill a sense of mission to others. And if you succeed at that, your own success is absolutely guaranteed as well.

It’s not about the money; it’s about what and who you know. Leave the big-money contributions to the Gateses and Buffetts of the world. The rest of us can give our talent, time, knowledge, contacts – whatever resources we have – to other worthy people in our lives at work and at home.

I’ve made it my life’s work to pass along this message. In effect, you can make it your own, too, by treating everything you do as an act of philanthropy. Here are the three main tenets of what I like to call Greater Than Yourself:

1. Expand yourself. We expand ourselves in order to give to others.

2. Give yourself. Knowledge may be power, but the giving of knowledge is far more powerful because it enriches both the provider and receiver.

3. Replicate yourself. Teach others to do for other people exactly what you’ve done for them.

The principles of GTY are the foundation for a company culture in which everyone reaches out not just to help, but also to help each other excel. The role of a CEO is to ensure that everyone in the company becomes significantly greater as a result of working with one another. The CEO’s job is to lead the company, not to be the smartest, greatest, most talented person in the building. The ability to work well with others, tap into social networks, and draw on collective intelligence is critically important, adding to our knowledge of the world we live in.

My Greater Than Yourself philosophy is grounded in social network theory, which explores how the social processes involved in change are passed along between individuals and between managerial levels in an organization. This involves a shift from primarily focusing on the individual and individual attributes, to understanding the dynamic supports and constraints of the larger network in which the individual operates.

Diving In Deeper

Here are some details about each of these three tenets in the GTY process. Add your own items to the lists! 

1. Expand Yourself.

Take a personal inventory of:

· Things I do well

· Meaningful experiences I have had

· Life lessons I have learned

· People I know

· My admirable qualities

· My personal values

Then ask, what more can I do to improve the quality and depth of my experience and knowledge?

2. Give Yourself

Be clear on intentions to make a difference in others’ lives by offering all of one’s:

· Knowledge

· Connections

· Experience

· Insights

· Advice and counsel

· Life lessons

· Confidence

· Words and gestures of encouragement

3. Replicate Yourself

Ensure that GTY efforts expand far beyond one’s own relationships by:

· Making sure others understand that you expect nothing in return except that they take on GTY projects of their own

· Making sure they understand that their GTY project recipients will be required to take on GTY projects of their own

· Challenging everyone to practice GTY in their professional and personal lives

· Sharing one’s GTY successes and failures with others, so they can learn from your experience
By following the Greater Than Yourself, leaders will be empowered to help others—teammates, employees, and colleagues—become more capable, confident, and accomplished than they are themselves, and in the process achieve greater success in their personal and professional lives.

About The Author:

Steve Farber is author of GREATER THAN YOURSELF: The Ultimate Lesson of True Leadership and founder of The Extreme Leadership Institute, an organization devoted to changing the world through the cultivation and development of extreme leaders in business, nonprofits, education, and beyond. Listed on Inc.’s ranking of the Top 50 Leadership and Management Experts in the world, and #1 on Huffington Post’s 12 Business Speakers to See, Farber is a bestselling author, popular keynote speaker, and a seasoned leadership coach and consultant who has worked with a vast array of public and private organizations in virtually every arena. For more information, please visit
Categories: Blogs

How to Propel Your Career in 10 Minutes

Mon, 08/27/2018 - 06:00
Guest post by Dr. Dawn Graham:

Spring cleaning, New Year’s resolutions, summer vacations, back to school—these days, everything has a season. But what about career management? One would think that something we spend more than half our waking hours investing in, which sustains our families and lifestyle, and which for many is an integral part of our identities, would get more regular attention. Other than when we need a new job, that is.
There’s a well-publicized notion that professionals spend more time planning a vacation than planning for their careers. That’s an unfortunate truth for many of us, even though a successful career is much more important to our happiness—a research-backed fact. Towers Watson’s global talent survey found that career advancement opportunities ranked higher than base salary on a list of top reasons employees join their companies, yet less than 50 percent of these same employers said they effectively provide these advancement opportunities.
It’s no secret that today’s professionals need to take charge of their own growth and development. However, many haven’t stepped up to take the reins. We often dedicate time to challenges requiring immediate attention—we wait until a layoff, merger, or burnout before we dust off the resume, only to find that the market and required skills have shifted since we last interviewed.
Don’t let this be you. Whether time, know-how, or some other excuse has gotten in your way, NOW is the time to be proactive. The best way to remain marketable and achieve your professional goals is to practice consistency and discipline in managing your career.
Here are nine simple strategies to actively manage your career in less than ten minutes a day:
  1. Stay active on LinkedIn. As technology advances, social media is becoming increasingly critical to careers across all industries. In minutes each day, you can stay in touch with your contacts and build new ones by posting (or sharing) insightful articles, joining online discussions, inviting people to connect, or endorsing others. Maintaining a consistent online brand will ensure you stay top of mind with your network and keep you “in the know” about what’s happening in your field.
  2. Subscribe to an industry blog. New information and ideas are constantly generated and shared in all professions. These bite-size articles take only a few minutes to read on the train or over lunch and will sustain your marketability, which is critical to both your present role and potential future positions.
  3. Walk the halls. With a packed work calendar, it’s tempting to interact with the same few people, eat lunch at your desk, and skip the monthly birthday celebrations. But small interactions with colleagues go a long way in building trust and deepening relationships, which will ultimately facilitate future interactions. If you work in a large organization, strive to meet colleagues outside your department, to learn what they do. If you’re remote, travel to the main office for town halls, special events, or occasional staff meetings.
  4. Ask for feedback. Plain and simple, feedback is a gift. Welcome it with open arms. Since many shy away from providing constructive criticism, proactively seek it out and be specific as to how others can assist you. For example, before your next presentation, ask a colleague to note at least one thing you can improve, such as a bad habit (e.g., swaying, reading slides verbatim, talking too softly).
  5. Meet people outside the office. We’re typically drawn to familiar faces at networking events, children’s team practices, and/or weekly worship services. Going forward, introduce yourself to at least one person you don’t know. Be curious, and aim to find commonalities. You’ll instantly broaden your contacts, and you never know who you might meet. Everyone has something to teach you. Everyone.
  6. Read your local biz journal or daily newspaper. Okay, print media has gone the way of the fax machine. However, spending a few minutes each weekday familiarizing yourself with current events expands your perspective and makes you more conversant and interesting. If it’s more convenient, subscribe to an online news channel to receive a daily roundup of the latest headlines. For many, the hardest part of networking is finding something to talk about, so the more you know, the more topics you’ll have to choose from.
  7. Peruse job openings. Even if you aren’t currently searching, remaining informed about what skills, experiences, and knowledge employers are looking for in your role/industry. Periodically evaluate how you measure up to current job requirements, and update your resume and LinkedIn profile to reflect your latest accomplishments at least once a year (or more often). Sometimes the best opportunities in life come along when we’re not looking. Make sure you can be found.
  8. Help others. Building goodwill with your network will be invaluable in your career, and these opportunities are everywhere. Assisting someone could be as simple as providing an introduction, offering a word of advice, or sharing a resource. Take a few minutes to slow down and notice When you can serve someone else.
  9. Pay attention. In most cases, it’s rare to be completely blindsided. Usually, red flags precede a layoff, major leadership change, merger/acquisition, or other career upset. When we keep our heads down, we miss the signs. Tune in to watercooler talk, recognize any increase in closed-door meetings, understand potential implications of a hiring freeze or budget decreases, and pay attention to project delays. While none of these may indicate a major shake-up on the horizon, taken together, these signs may indicate you need to start sharpening your interviewing skills.

For better or worse, career management is your responsibility. Make the time to invest in yourself.
Happy hunting!  
Dr. Dawn Graham is one of the nation’s leading career coaches. She is the career management director of the MBA Program for Executives at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, where she counsels business leaders on making strategic career choices. A licensed psychologist and former corporate recruiter, she hosts SiriusXM Radio’s popular weekly call-in show Career Talk on Business Radio 111 and is a regular contributor to Her new book, Switchers: How Smart Professionals Change Careers and Seize Success, gives professionals tools to draw a new roadmap for success—and happiness. Learn more about the book and get free bonus content at




Categories: Blogs

Why You Can’t Pick the Winners!

Thu, 08/23/2018 - 06:00
Guest post by Soulaima Gourani:
 I’ve conducted (or participated in) countless conversations with some of the most successful entrepreneurs in the world through the years. I live alongside the wealthiest and most influential people in our day and age here in Silicon Valley– but what do their lives consist of? Aside from the generic comments about passion, hard work, the ability to innovate and think creatively, and knowledge of their craft, there are a couple of other personal characteristics that tend to be behind their success. You always hear people talk about “if only” they had more time or more money or they lived somewhere else, and so on. You hear it from companies too – “if only the Planning Act were more flexible, if only we had more investors, and if only our clients would understand.” The vast majority of innovative people and companies I’m personally familiar with became innovative because they didn’t have time or money or because they were excluded and unappreciated. It was the lack of resources, understanding, and exclusion from others that motivated them. Others were driven by the desire to make the world a better place or to reach a particular status. And then there are those who just needed to make a living, but who had the ambitions, the will, and the innovative mindset that allowed them to make it big.  Two years ago, I was having dinner with Travis Kalanick, the founder, and ex-CEO of Uber. Uber is one of the most profitable, recognized, and debated companies in the modern world.That said, it’s also one of the world’s most hated companies. Travis told me all about how he randomly came up with the name, (which doesn’t exactly make much sense), and how all he wanted was access to cheaper transport. His vision and drive ended up changing the way we get around, who we trust to transport us, and how we work (through apps rather than in miserable office spaces). Regardless of whether we like Uber or not, the company remains famous and successful. Before launching Uber, Travis wasn’t doing well financially, and he didn’t have the time or support when he started Uber. Nobody believed in him, and his friends/family only gave him money because he talked their ears off. They felt sorry for him. For Travis, his vision and faith in it proved to be the deciding factor in establishing something nobody ever saw coming.
In other words – you can’t pick the winners.

Nobody predicted that he would be successful. The same goes for Alibaba and Jack Ma from China. He wasn’t particularly intelligent as far as the school system was concerned and he applied to more than 30 blue collar jobs as a server and a busboy (etc.) but received nothing but rejection letters. Now he has an estimated net worth of $50 billion.ho ends up being the most innovative and successful? Can you walk into a classroom and pick the winner? Almost never. It’s a kind of x-factor that can be difficult to spot. Most people don’t recognize talent if they haven’t seen it before, and that’s why most people can’t spot a good idea if it’s staring right at them.

Soulaima Gourani, E-MBA. Speaker, Author, Advisor, Investor, Life Leadership and Life Design Coach for more information please visit
Categories: Blogs

Out-of-the box Leadership / Leadership From Within

Tue, 08/21/2018 - 06:00
Guest post by Pratima Rao Gluckman:

My daughter once told me, “Mom, I am awesome. I am good at math. I run fast. I am better than my brothers. Right?” As I looked into her darling eyes as she was desperately seeking validation, I thought, “This is where the problem lies.” It’s cute when a four-year-old thinks she is better than the rest. And yes, I want to encourage her to think that way, because it will build her self-esteem (as this is important for girls). But the problem is that adults feel that way all the time. Adults don’t say it aloud because it's not cute anymore. But we think it. Stereotyping starts at a very early age. Each of us believes we are better than everyone else around us. We believe specific groups of people who think and look like us are better than the rest. And so we begin to stereotype. We put people into little boxes, label them, and thereby create boundaries. We divide women and men into separate boxes. We place different races and cultures in separate boxes. We box people based on their sexual preference. As we compartmentalize, we grow up developing strong values of what is right and wrong.

Who gets to break these boxes, silos, and stereotypes? Brave, self-aware and fearless people. When a brave person comes in, breaks open these boxes, and removes the labels, slowly changing the mindsets of people—that’s when a change occurs. Real change. That’s what a true leader does. Someone who is fearless, someone who is not afraid of criticism, someone who believes in making a difference will destroy the boxes. Someone who is aware of the power struggle between genders, races, and cultures will transcend the stereotypes.

You can become one of these brave, fearless leaders. First, you need to tell yourself that you are not better than someone else. You must say to yourself that you are not better than someone else because your skin color is different, or because you are more educated, or because you are better looking. You should be grateful that you had the opportunities that came your way, but that doesn’t mean you are superior to the rest. However, this is hard to do. Because you then need to internalize that. You must go deep into your subconscious and undo all the wiring. You must become aware of your strengths and weaknesses. You have to know who you indeed are and what you stand for. And you need to forge these changes from within before you go out to change the world. Once you can genuinely transform yourself from your childhood beliefs, biases, and stereotypes, you can transform others, because when you see the change in yourself, you know what change looks like. While you transform others, you know what to look for, and most importantly that change is occurring.

So where do you begin? Start with awareness, just noticing your thoughts as you go through the day. It’s a meditation: you don’t need to analyze and judge every thought and reaction. Thoughts come and go, with the power to shift your viewpoint all the time. For instance, you meet an interview candidate who seems older than you expected. Your first thought might be, “I don’t think she will be the right culture fit because she seems different from the kind of people we hire here.” Let that thought pass through your head. Don’t analyze it any further. Give that person a chance, because you never know—your internalized bias may be kicking in. So let other thoughts in as well. Now after you interview the candidate if you still feel that person is not right for your team, sure, pass her up. But you have opened your mind to other aspects of this person. To be effective leaders, we have to know ourselves well. From the inside out. Once we have an awareness of ourselves and the factors at play in our personal environment, we will be able to make better decisions for ourselves and for other people. Change comes from within, and in today’s world, we need this more than ever.

Pratima Rao Gluckman, author of Nevertheless, She Persisted: True Stories of Women Leaders in Tech, knew she wanted to be an engineer from a young age. She attained a master's degree in computer science (University of Texas at Arlington), a master's degree in chemistry, and bachelor's degree in instrumentation engineering (BITs Plain India). Currently, in her field of enterprise software, she is Engineering Leader at VMware and manages a team of engineers.
For more information, please visit
Categories: Blogs

Leadership at the Symphony

Thu, 08/16/2018 - 06:00
Guest post from Barbara Mitchell:
I’ve always loved the performing arts—symphony, ballet, theatre, live music concerts…doesn’t matter what but seeing a live performance is powerful! While enjoying a live performance, it became obvious to me that, in addition to hearing great music or watching talented dancers, I was also seeing examples of good leadership.

Members of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts are sometimes invited to attend a rehearsal of the National Symphony Orchestra.  It’s quite an experience to sit in the beautiful Concert Hall and watch the musicians come in wearing very casual clothes as opposed to their formal evening attire, chatting with each other while tuning up their instruments.  But when the conductor arrives, it is all business. The first time I attended a rehearsal, I expected that the orchestra would play a few bars and the conductor would stop and give them feedback but that’s not what happened. the way it was. The conductor led the orchestra almost all the way through the piece without stopping. When he finally paused them and began providing feedback it was clear that the musicians were listening intently—he had their total focus. He pointed out specific bars where he wanted certain instruments to play louder, softer, faster, or slower—all from his memory of what he had just heard. He hadn’t taken a note while they were playing—he was totally focused on what he was hearing. What an amazing gift to be able to listen to so many sounds and hear each one individually as well as in total!

When the conductor (leader) pointed out the very specific changes he wanted to hear, his orchestra (team) listened closely. He complimented musicians who had done something special and then they replayed specific portions of the symphony. When he raised his baton, they were ready to play at the exact right bar of the music because he gave them clear directions. What an example of leadership and followership in action. The conductor as a leader demonstrated he was listening to his team. He showed that he understood he couldn’t make music without them—he could wave his baton around all day, but if they weren’t sitting in front of him, focused on his direction, he would be totally ineffective.

Today’s business leaders could should learn to listen more closely to their employees, praise them when appropriate, point out needed changes, and acknowledge how important each one is to the success of the organization—in other words, set clear expectations, provide frequent feedback and development opportunities, praise when appropriate, listen to the team, hold people accountable, and let them know where their work fits in the overall objectives of the organization.  That’s leadership! At the end of the first piece, they took a short break while chairs were rearranged on the stage. Some musicians came back while others who weren’t needed for the next piece did not return. I see another lesson here about how leaders need to know the strengths of their employees in order to put the most effective teams in place—teams that take advantage of the strengths of the participants. This piece featured a world-famous violinist.  I wondered if the conductor would lead differently in the presence of a star but it sounded as if she and the conductor  were almost operating as one as she played her solo with the conductor bringing the orchestra in to provide background and harmony.

Business leaders can learn from a symphony conductor and others in the performing arts. Leaders must be great listeners who know the strengths of those they manage. Strong leaders know how to put the best team together to maximize the organization’s success. Leadership and harmony lead to great things—not just in music but in the marketplace.  
The Manager’s Answer Book is an easy-to-use guide written in a question-and-answer format that focuses on many aspects of managing, broken down into the following categories:

- Getting started—moving from peer to manager, setting goals, managing projects, resources and much more.

- Developing your management skills—communicating, delegating, motivating, and facilitating.

- Building your management team: hiring, firing, and everything in-between.

- Creating your personal brand—building credibility for yourself, your team, and your department.

- Managing up, down, and around—working with people and functions in your organization.

- Avoiding potential land mines—conflict, change, and risk.

- Recognizing legal pitfalls—navigating the haze of laws and regulations.

Barbara Mitchell is an author, speaker, and business consultant. She is the coauthor of The Manager’s Answer Book, The Big Book of HR, The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook, The Conflict Resolution Phrase Book and The Essential HR Handbook. After a long career with Marriott International, she is now Managing Director of The Mitchell Group and works with a variety of clients to help them hire, develop, engage, and retain the best talent available. She resides in the Washington, DC area.
Categories: Blogs

Multiplying the Effective Intelligence of Your Organization

Tue, 08/14/2018 - 06:00

Guest post from Robert (Dusty) Staub: 

“Perhaps the only sustainable competitive advantage is increasing your ability to learn faster than your competition.”
 - Arie de Geus, former head of Strategic Planning, Shell Oil Company

Are you getting the best results from the people–the embedded collective intelligence–in your organization? Do you feel that there is something missing in overall performance, or your team and/or enterprise could achieve even more? Most senior leaders with whom I have worked would answer, “We can achieve more and be better if only we could work smarter and more effectively together.” The name of the game today is figuring out how to multiply the Effective Intelligence (E.I.) of your organization. Here is where you can gain a great competitive edge that is sustainable and also leads to more innovative and effective ways of getting things done.
Research and experience demonstrate that the only difference between so-so organizations and high performing ones is the quality of the teamwork and the collaborative networks that exist within an organization. This makes sense if you understand brain physiology. It is not the absolute number of neurons that determines intelligence; it is the number of dendritic connections between neurons that determines overall processing power and intelligence. The greater the number of connections, the higher the level of collaborative networking, which equals greater intellectual capacity to problem-solve and create solutions. The term I have coined to describe this capacity for teams and organizations is “Effective Intelligence.” What great leadership does is to use presence (demeanor an modeling), practices and processes to multiply E.I., thereby increasing the performance and capabilities of a team, a department or an entire organization.

Is your enterprise actually engaging and making the full use of the collective intelligence embedded in the human system (people, team work, relationships) in your organization? Is your organization realizing its potential and performing at its best? Are you multiplying the E.I. of your organization by how you are leading and encouraging the engagement of individuals, teams and departments? Perhaps you share the opinion one CEO gave me recently, “There is truly room for improvement; I just know, good as we are now, that we can do better than we have been doing to date.”

If you see room for improvement, then how can you increase the E.I. of your team, your department and your organization? The answers will sound simple yet applying the insights to multiply effective intelligence will take all three forms of critical leadership capacity: guts, heart and head. It will require that you focus your attention and processes on the following dynamic development as outlined by Wayne Gerber and Staub in Dynamic Focus: Creating Significance and Breaking the Spells of Limitation. Please consider the question at the end of each of the eight process steps below.

Increasing the Effective Intelligence (E.I.) of Your Team and Organization:

1. Expanding perspectives. This means seeing beyond the obvious and challenging conventional thinking. The status quo and old ways of thinking are the enemy of higher order processing, innovation and increased performance. “Good enough” is the death of being even better, let alone great. What are you doing in your leadership and in your workplace to help expand the thinking and to promote a wider strategic picture or way of looking at the business and how work gets done?

2. Clarifying and focusing attention on your core Purpose, your WHY. Astute leaders know that when the people in an enterprise know WHY it exists–in other words, the purpose and mission it serves beyond the usual answer of “making money”–that they perform better and expend more discretionary effort. They are more engaged. (See Simon Sinek’s Start with Why TED Talk.) Do the people in your organization know the fundamental WHY of the business? Do you use that to rally them and challenge them to help everyone step up to more active learning, interactions, collaboration and teamwork?

3. Consciously creating psychological safety in your organization. Google research on the core factor fostering high performance teamwork finds that a sense of “psychological safety” is key. \ This means people feel “safe” offering different opinions, ideas, suggestions and, as outlined in the research and findings in Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, engaging in “vigorous intellectual debate.” If people feel they will be punished, belittled or put down, if they do not feel it is safe to speak up, they won’t and you are then minimizing the E.I. instead of increasing it. How well are you creating a sense of psychological safety for your employees, teams and those around you? Do you have healthy, positive, vigorous intellectual debate around best practices, new ideas and better ways of moving the enterprise forward?

4. Leveraging strengths, focusing on what there is to celebrate. Research in the fields of psychology and sociology have revealed that human systems (from individuals to groups) get stronger by focusing on, leveraging and building upon strengths rather than by fixating on what is wrong. Yet many executives still manage by “exception,” ignoring what is right and working well and spending supervisory time on problems and issues. Are you focusing on strengths, on what is right and working well? What strengths in your people, teams and organization have you been celebrating? How have you been building on or leveraging the top 2 or 3 of these strengths?

5. Failing forward. This means giving reward and recognition for a specific category of mistakes instead of punishing for or treating all mistakes as the same, as if they are all “bad.” Mary Kay Ash of Mary Kay Cosmetics and Soichiro Honda, founder of Honda Motor Company, both subscribed to and taught “failing forward” as a way to promote innovation and growth within their organizations. Most executives and employees do the exact opposite. By treating all mistakes the same and seeing them as “wrong,” the E.I. of an enterprise is diminished instead of increased. Do you know which kinds of mistakes should be rewarded, or do you treat them all the same? Are you using the practice of “failing forward” in your organization?

6. Using Power Questions. Power questions enhance learning and improve performance. A great question is often more valuable than a good answer. The greatest danger you have as an executive is to be blindsided by issues or to miss key opportunities in your organization. One of the ways to minimize this is to make a practice of asking “power questions” – namely, Pareto- based questions that focus on quickly getting to the core or root cause of an issue or opportunity. For example a poor question is asking, “Is there anything here we need to improve?” A better question is “What do we need to improve?” A power question is, “What is the one thing we could do differently here that would make the biggest positive difference?” Asking power questions and teaching those around you to ask them will be a key part of increasing the E.I. of your enterprise. How are you and those in your organization doing with regard to asking power questions of each other, of customers, of key suppliers?

7. Knowing the difference between Symptoms and Root Causes. When you and those in your organization know how to recognize symptoms and use them to focus on root causes, you are helping to multiply the E.I. in your enterprise. For example the following should all be considered symptoms: poor teamwork, low employee engagement, quality issues, unhealthy conflict, customer complaints, lower market share and declining sales numbers. Do you know what the root causes of those kinds of symptoms are? For example, the symptom of low employee engagement has as a root cause a failure in management practices and leadership behaviors. The research shows that people quit supervisors as opposed to quitting companies. How a supervisor treats, talks to, engages, coaches, corrects, supports and otherwise makes an employee feel about the supervisor’s valuation of him or her is a huge determinant of how engaged and motivated that employee is. How effectively do you and your management focus on addressing root causes versus chasing symptoms?

8. Identifying and Utilizing Essential Behaviors as Core Leadership Practices. To address critical operational as well as human systems issues, make the best use of the seven practices outlined above. You will need to identify which essential behaviors you want to train for, expect, model and reinforce in all levels of your enterprise. Do you have a set of 4 to 6 essential behaviors that you know are clearly outlined, coached for and reinforced from front line supervisors up to the CEO? If you are like the vast majority of organizations and leadership teams, the answer to that will be a resounding no. If you want to really increase the effective intelligence of your enterprise then you will need to have an agreed upon core set of leadership practices, or essential behaviors, that are being used consistently throughout all levels. Do you know which essential behaviors will give you the biggest return on your investment of time, energy and supervisory development? Examples of essential behaviors include: active listening, using power questions, knowing how to design and engage in courageous conversations and making use of systemic-accountability. What are you doing to ensure there is consistent, effective modeling of powerful leadership behaviors? Are you living and modeling those behaviors with your teams and employees?

If you take the eight suggestions above to heart, and if you are working on engaging all of them, you will multiply the effective intelligence of your organization and can expect improved productivity, greater innovation, superior employee engagement, high performing teams, less waste, better quality, more loyal customers, better talent retention and higher profitability. The only barriers are either not following through or a lack of experienced guidance. Are you willing to build a learning-based, higher performing enterprise by multiplying the effective intelligence of your human system? What are you waiting for?

 Robert “Dusty” Staub is an international speaker, best-selling author, and the CEO of Staub Leadership International, a business consulting company that trains executives and teams in creating high-performance outcomes. Staub is the best-selling author of The Heart of Leadership, The 7 Acts of Courage, and Courage in the Valley of Death. In his experienced speaking career, Staub has motivated audiences with his insightful and heartfelt keynote presentations on leadership, excellence, change management, conflict resolution, organizational and team communication, and the relationship between intent, behavior, and results.
Categories: Blogs

The Power of Leaders That Do What They Say

Thu, 08/09/2018 - 06:00

Guest post from Bethany Andell:
“To believe in something, and not to live it, is dishonest.” – Mahatma Gandhi
Recently a CEO friend of mine said that the three key ingredients to building a great culture are:
1) belief in the mission, 2) clarity of the vision and 3) having fun while living the values.
There is a growing movement in the business world that proves all of these points to be true. I have seen in my own business, and also in my clients’, that clarity of vision and passion for purpose are instrumental in long term success. However, having a clear purpose and vision alone are often not enough – his third ingredient, “living the values,” is critical in a company’s ability to bring its purpose to life. Even further, the key to that statement is the word “living.” 
To walk the talk as a leader should be an easy concept – just do what you say. Instead, what is probably more accurate is the phrase “easier said than done.” When companies list their values on a poster in the breakroom or on their website or even state them in a town hall they somehow expect everyone to adopt and abide by those values. But then you turn around and the same leadership team that posted the values is behaving in a completely contradictory manner – and you wonder why we don’t trust leadership.
Disturbingly, the 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed 63 percent of its survey respondents said CEOs are somewhat or not at all credible. Well… how many of you have heard a CEO say that his people are the company’s most important asset, but all decisions seem to benefit the investor over the employee? How many times have you heard that a company’s value is safety or quality, but an employee gets in trouble for calling out an issue? How many of you have heard a leadership team say they are accessible, but there’s a security code required to enter the executive suite?
In general, I would argue that most business leaders are good people with good intentions that unfortunately make some bad moves. It is hard to always walk the talk and it is hard to be called to the mat when you don’t. It is hard to always be looked to and looked at. I am a leader of a company and I admit from my own experience that it is hard and that I have failed at times. But hard is not and never will be an excuse – our ability to live out our purpose and values every day is what we, in a position of leadership, are looked to for. If you are a leader you are the example setter; you are the role model; you are the chief influencer. It is an absolute requirement to be the steward of your organization’s purpose and live out the values you claim.
I take heed of the Conscious Capitalism Conscious Leadership tenet: “Conscious Leaders focus on ‘we,’ rather than ‘me.’ They inspire, foster transformation and bring out the best in those around them.” There really is no better way to inspire your team than to be an example of your company values. It is in the actions of a leader that we see his true purpose and passion come to life.
Whole Foods states their purpose “is to nourish people and the planet.” In late 2014 co-founder and CEO John Mackey, notably the man most associated with organic foods, created the Responsibly Grown rating system so that his customers would have greater transparency about their food. But he also wanted to expose factors in production that were not being addressed in the standard organic certification. From soil health to farmworker welfare, the system takes into account issues that need to be addressed by growers. Through this program they buy first from producers that address these issues. It was not an easy decision and Mackey received push back from farmers. But he stood by the decision and found a way to nourish people and planet, aligning his actions with the company purpose.
But what of leaders who have failed their organizations? Steve Jobs, co-founder of Apple, stated in 1977, “What we’re trying to do is remove the barrier of having to learn to use a computer.” His mission to remove a barrier between people and technology proved successful, but his actions as a leader created a barrier between himself and his people.
After he was ousted as CEO he claimed that it took being a failure as a leader to open his eyes to what was needed at his company. In a presentation in 1997, after he came back to Apple as CEO, he stated, “Even a great brand needs investment in caring if it’s going to retain its relevance and vitality. And the Apple brand has clearly suffered from neglect in this area in the last few years. And we need to bring it back.”
At the time Jobs realized he needed to get back to his company’s core value, that people with passion can change the world for the better. He had become so focused on producing things that he forgot the heart of what mattered, and that was people.
When you lead by example you create a vision of what is possible for others. If you do it consistently you create a culture where anything is possible. But if your actions aren’t congruent with your values you risk the integrity and credibility of your whole organization. In all things tie back to your core values. No matter what you are doing in any given moment there is always an opportunity to tie it back to your values, and by doing so you will find that walking your talk is not as hard as it sounds.

As President of Savage Brands, Bethany Andell is on a mission to revolutionize corporate America by unleashing the inherent good in all companies. In her book, Get Your Head Out of Your Bottom Line: And Build Your Brand on Purpose, Andell, along with co-author Jackie Dryden, Chief Purpose Architect at Savage Brands, help executives at business-to-business companies shift their focus from solely improving the bottom line to instead prioritize the company’s long-term health, culture and non-monetary impact on the world. Bethany is also the host of The BusinessMaker’s radio program, “Brandonomics”. The show features CEOs and business owners sharing direct insights on their purpose-driven organizations and strategies.
Categories: Blogs

Indy 500 Races Can Be Won or Lost in the Pit. How’s Your Pit Crew Doing?

Tue, 08/07/2018 - 06:00
Guest Post from Glenna Crooks, PhD:

If you are a leader today you face a faster pace of change and far greater complexity than at any time in human history. As if the technical challenges, required skillsets and necessary mindsets were not enough to master, there’s more. It is likely your organization is multigenerational, multiracial, multilingual, ethnically-diverse and gender-fluid. It may cross time zones. If it is multinational, you comply with differing laws and regulations and adhere to differing cultural norms. Add to that, your world gets more hyper-connected with each passing day.  Any, even minor, mistake you – or others on your teams – make, can create instant, major blow-back. How could it not?  After all, you face 24/7/365, always-on media, government regulators, Wall Street analysts, company shareholders, community stakeholders, critics, customers and employees, each with different – and sometimes conflicting – demands.

My work as a global strategist organizing chaos and solving problems in health care puts me in touch with extraordinary people navigating these choppy waters. I have the “up close” view that comes from long days of working, long nights of dining and long weeks of studying together in development courses. What a privilege!  I admire them all and am pleased to say none succumbed to the pressures by cutting corners or losing sight of their mission to help and to heal. In 2005, however, I noticed a troublesome trend. Increasingly, the pressures were taking a toll.  I’d become a trusted, confidential counsel which is why, over time, more and more of them felt comfortable to share worries they’d not disclosed to others, even to spouses, coaches and counselors, and certainly not to Boards, other senior executives or employees. They were overwhelmed. They feared they were not up to facing the future successfully.  Even more, they feared their companies were destined for failure, their employees would lose jobs and the patients they served would suffer.

I don’t go looking for problems; they find me. That’s what happened here. These concerns sent me in search of solutions, and I found many. Some had worked in my own life: better fitness, Covey’s Seven Habits, active vacations and better stress management, to name a few. It seemed, however, that regardless of how necessary those approaches were, they were not sufficient. What else did they need? In 2007, I found the answer in an unlikely place – the fashion magazine W – and from an unlikely source: Robert Downey, Jr. In an interview, he’s quoted as saying he needed a “pit crew” of people to help him live his life. He wasn’t a Model T; he was a Ferrari, so it took a pit crew to keep him on the road. 

If you are like the leaders I know, you have a good pit crew at work: good assistants, talented staff, great consultants and policies and procedures to help it all run smoothly. What became apparent in a decade of research, however, is that (except in very rare cases) virtually all leaders lacked similar support for life outside of work. That not only left them with little downtime to recover from the demands of the job, it disrupted work days with avoidable non-work commitments, obligations, events and crises. Though this had not (yet) taken a toll on their performance, it had taken a toll on them and their relationships.   ·In that case, what should a leader do? What my favorite superhero called “pit crews”, I call “networks.” I urge you to learn about yours. Explore who’s in them. Learn if an important person might be missing.  Determine whether they’re supporting you well enough and if not – especially if it’s someone you pay for services – consider making changes.

·What networks you should explore? There are six networks that support you outside of work: family, health and vitality, education and enrichment, spiritual, social and community, and home and personal affairs. And, there’s one additional; it is important because it impacts you, often without you realizing it. This is a network I call “ghosts”: the influential people from your past who shaped your life.  
·Why is this important? It is true for everyone, but especially for leaders: when it comes to your career, the strengths and the weaknesses of every other network show up in force. Unreliable child care, doctors who keep you waiting, or a contractor that walks out on a remodeling job, for example, drain your energy and rob you of the peace of mind you need to lead well.
·Then, what’s next? With new insights about your own life, realize that each of your employees – and customers – are facing similar non-work support challenges. Many may not yet have the skills you’ve developed during your leadership journey. What might that mean for how you manage? For the training you provide? For company benefits? For new products and services for your market? For customer service? Please keep me posted. I’d love to hear about it.
Glenna Crooks, PhD was a Reagan Appointee, a Merck&Co Global Vice President and Founder of Strategic Health Policy International, Inc. With Bruce LaMont, she recently c-founded CogentSageQI, an innovative performance optimization platform built on a unique data ecosystem aligned to key performance indicators and the bottom line. She is the author of The NetworkSage: Realize Your Network Superpower.
Categories: Blogs

10 Traits of Great Leaders in This New World of Work

Thu, 08/02/2018 - 06:00
Guest post from Glenn Elliott and Debra Corey:

The world of work has and continues to change. Our workforce, which now consists of five generations working side by side, expects and demands different things from its organization, its job, and most certainly its leaders. 
We conducted a study to better understand these new expectations of leaders, asking 350 millennials the question: What do you want and expect from your leaders? We asked the respondents to name and prioritize the leadership traits that they most respected and valued. 
The results show that what employees are looking for in a leader has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. These are the 10 traits that employees expect -- and I strongly believe that companies need -- from their leaders:
1. Own and live the company values. Leaders need to be role models for their company’s values. They should take every opportunity to communicate and apply the values constantly, incorporating them to guide and help make better decisions.
2. Communicate openly and early. Leaders need to be open, honest and transparent with their employees. They should communicate news and information early, not shielding them from bad news.
“Be as open with your people as you can, as early as you can. Employees are much more likely to go to bat for something they understand.” --Helen Craik, Reward Gateway Co-founder
3. Inspire people to reach higher. Leaders need to create an environment where employees are able to do their jobs well, and a culture where they want to do their jobs well, inspiring them to be the best they can be each and every day.
4. Own their mistakes. Leaders are no longer expected to be perfect. They are expected to be human and positive role models, which includes owning mistakes when they happen. Leaders should also think of mistakes as learning or teaching moments, using them as opportunities and not obstacles.
5. Recognize big wins, small wins and hard work. Leaders build a culture of employee recognition by modeling continuous recognition and where saying thanks is an everyday occurrence.
6. Trust people. Leaders should always default to trust and accept that most people are good and trustworthy. They must lead in a way that’s respectful and honors other’s good intentions, and not presume that their employees’ have malicious intentions.
7. Make the right decision, not the popular decision. Leaders need to prioritize doing what’s right over what’s popular. They should be accountable to their people and act as servants, being prepared to be unpopular when necessary, and striving to do what’s right for the business, the customer and their people as a whole. 
8. Add value to their teams, helping them to succeed. Leaders who deliver visible value to their teams, helping them bring their creativity, ideas and judgment to work, overcome the challenges of the new world of work and of more complex jobs.
9. Have the courage to be genuine and visible. Leaders need to bring their whole selves to work, having the courage to be authentic and to show vulnerability.
10. Take care of people. Leaders need to lead with compassion and kindness, showing their employees that they truly care about them and have their best interests in mind.
Great leaders understand and embody all of these qualities, and don’t just pay them lip service. They understand that in this new world of work they need to eliminate the barriers that separate them from their people, using every tool they have at their disposal to cut through the hierarchy and bring themselves closer to their people. By doing this, they will significantly improve upward feedback and employee engagement. And, they’ll earn the loyalty of not only millennials, but every generation they have the privilege to lead. 

Glenn Elliott is founder and Debra Corey is group reward director of Reward Gateway, a world leader in integrated employee engagement technology with more than 1,800 clients worldwide. Elliott and Corey's new book, Build it: The Rebel Playbook for World-Class Employee Engagement (Wiley, Feb. 27, 2018) highlights practical improvements that organizations can make to build a highly engaged company culture.
Categories: Blogs

A Proactive Approach to Tough Feedback

Wed, 08/01/2018 - 06:00
One of the hardest things a manager has to do is sit down with an employee and discuss a serious behavior or performance issue, especially when if it’s going to be an unpleasant surprise to the employee.

Tough feedback is just that . . . tough! And while we may not ever get to a point where we look forward to sharing difficult information, there are ways to make these conversations less difficult.

One of the biggest reasons tough feedback is so tough is that we realize what we are about to share will shock, disappoint, or even anger the employee. However, usually it’s not necessarily the information that causes the shock, disappointment or anger, it’s the fact that the employee never saw it coming. The difficult news seems to come out of the blue and completely contradict the employee’s perception of the circumstances.

A common myth of management is that people can’t handle bad news. WRONG! People can’t handle news that contradicts their frame of reference. If you want to make tough feedback less tough, focus on how to eliminate the shock and disbelief factor. Here’s how:
1. Clearly define and set the employee’s and your expectations up-front.
People don’t go from star performers to poor performers overnight and they definitely shouldn’t become aware of this fact for the first time at their annual review. Expectations should be clear and agreed upon up-front. Employees should know exactly what you expect from them, what they can expect from you, and what needs to be done to make improvements.

2. Give feedback throughout the year.
Don’t just stockpile your feedback for the formal review. Again, no one likes surprises, especially bad ones, so don’t keep people in the dark. If an employee has been reminded about a specific behavior issue eight times throughout the year and has failed to make an improvement, the feedback and lower rating will be less shocking (and less difficult to deliver) during the annual review.

3.  Focus on the task and the expectations around the task – not the person.
Give clear examples of actions that don’t meet your expectations. The feedback should focus on the task, behaviors and expectations, with specific examples.  
Here’s two examples:

- Too personal and general: “You are too controlling and need to calm down.”
- Specific, behavioral, and relevant to the job: “In today’s meeting, when you interrupted Dan, Jane and John to share your ideas, you made it difficult to gather full team input. Please let others complete their thoughts before you share yours.”

4. Make a plan with dates to discuss and update expectations – and document it.
Tough issues should be documentedand managed throughout the year. Keep checking in with the employee to re-state and clarify both your expectations and his or hers. Keep an accurate understanding at all times about how you both feel the person is doing relative to the performance issues. This understanding can only happen if you schedule planned meetings throughout the year to review and discuss.

Whether spoken or unspoken, expectations have a powerful impact on our thoughts, feelings, and actions. They play a key role in driving our attitudes. Research shows that employees who have clearly defined, well communicated expectations find more satisfaction and success in their work than people whose expectations remain vague and unspoken.

Believe it or not, the more you give feedback about uncomfortable issues, the less uncomfortable the sessions become. The sessions only become tough if you’ve been avoiding the issue.
Take a proactive, not a reactive, approach and you will help strengthen your relationships with your employees and head off many of those dreaded “sweaty palmed, sick stomach” discussions.  
Feedback sessions are tough when an employee is caught off guard. Taking a proactive approach to tough feedback eliminates the shock and surprise.
Categories: Blogs

When Work Has Meaning, The Culture Changes

Tue, 07/31/2018 - 06:00
Guest post from S. Chris Edmonds:
In order to value team members, or help them find meaning in their work - that is, contribution to the greater good, to their community or even society - you don’t need to start a formal organizational initiative. Helping employees find significance simply takes time, energy, and engagement.
Intention and attention from leaders can have a beneficial impact on employees feelings of contribution, value, and worth, which can boost productivity and service.
This was seen in a study called the Hawthorne Effect, which was run  by Elton Mayo at Western Electric’s Hawthorne Works factory, outside of Chicago, IL, in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. The purpose of the study was to analyze the effects of workplace conditions on individual productivity.
Mayo and his team focused on two groups – a control group which operated in an unchanging work environment, and a test group which endured the changes to their working conditions, including lighting, such as working hours, rest breaks, food offered during breaks, etc. Workers were involved in what changes were going to happen (how long and how frequently their breaks were, for example). Productivity was carefully monitored following each change. Workers were then asked if the change was beneficial, how it might be refined to test the change again, etc.
Mayo’s research found that, compared to the control group, nearly every change resulted in increased individual productivity. Even after all changes reverted to the original conditions, productivity increased.
The initial findings from this important study led to recommendations that leaders engage with members of the workforce. After all, it wasn’t the lighting or breaks that boosted performance, it was the engagement of the workers by the researchers.
The test team bonded together like no other team in that factory, because they felt their ideas were valued. They were working together to help work conditions be more beneficial for their peers across the factory – that gave their efforts meaning beyond the day-to-day production activities they faced.
This is the most significant finding from the Hawthorne Works research: Making team members and teams feel valued as well as helping them find meaning and purpose beyond their own tactical skill application boosts employee well-being and productivity.
What do you pay attention to in your work environment? Do you actively engage with players regularly to learn what’s going well and what’s not, or do they rarely see you? Or are you somewhere in between those extremes?
Leaders, it’s your job to engage. Embrace it and enjoy it!
S. Chris Edmonds is a sought-after speaker, author, and executive consultant. After a 15-year career leading successful teams, Chris founded his consulting company, The Purposeful Culture Group, in 1990. Chris has also served as a senior consultant with The Ken Blanchard Companies since 1995. He is the author or co-author of seven books, including Amazon best sellers The Culture Engine and Leading at a Higher Level with Ken Blanchard. Learn from his blog posts, podcasts, assessments, research, and videos at Get free resources plus weekly updates from Chris by subscribing here
Categories: Blogs

Leading a Board of Directors

Thu, 07/26/2018 - 06:00
Guest post by Randy Komisar and Jantoon Reigersman:
OK, you are now a confident leader.  Comfortably demonstrating the skill, character and emotional IQ required for successfully leading your team.  Keenly aware that while your title makes you manager, only your team makes you leader. Your people are challenged, delivering, growing and fulfilled.  But, what about your board?
Leading a board is so very different from leading your organization.  For one thing, your directors are peers, or even better, mentors, and often your bosses.  They have different needs, desires and ambitions.  Your status with them is less about title and more about performance and confidence.  It’s a tough audience.  What do you do?
First understand what makes a good board.  Boards are deliberative bodies, not confederations of individual.  You need them to operate as a great team, not functionaries.
Operational boards are more valuable than governance boards.  Governance is for governments, not dynamic enterprises. You are looking for people who can help you solve problems and anticipate issues.  To help you develop. People who can train their experience on you and your business.  But if you treat them like your judges and confessors, they will become your judges and confessors. Instead, put them to work – for you.
Small boards are better than big boards.  You want a collegial team around you that is motivated to participate and contribute, not content to sit back and listen to your canned presentations.  Big boards regress to the mean.  You don’t want average, you want exceptional.
And diverse boards are best.  Too many business leaders build boards that resemble themselves.  They may be easier to manage, but a lot less effective. Harvard Business School Professor, Paul Gompers found that among venture capitalists that shared work history the company results decreased by 17%, 19% if they shared an alma mater, and 20% if they shared ethnic backgrounds. If you have taken venture capital you probably have a few of these on your board.
Adding diverse directors can be challenging for a leader because of the ensuing creative friction.  While differing genders, race, ethnicity, national origins, socio-economics, age, etc. can provide you with a more well-rounded perspective, it also means actively leading respectful debates.  You want constructive disagreement.  In fact, too many unanimous decisions may mean your board is disempowered, unengaged or simply not stepping up.
Because outside investment usually comes with board participation, you may not have the diversity you need.  Use your independent board selections to add diversity. Choose directors who bring valuable experience, unique perspectives and team skills.  If you choose only “Indian Chiefs, you may well find the egos are more trouble than they are worth.
And enlist some assistance.  Lead investors, the investors who price a round and set the terms, can help manage the syndicate of shareholders.  Partner with them to make sure your stakeholders are informed and aligned. 
Also, you should appoint a lead director.  On many boards the CEO is also the Chairperson.  But you are missing an opportunity to add strength to your leadership.  A lead director can make your job much easier because they can run point on sensitive issues, poll the board for concerns, help build consensus, and give you much needed feedback and guidance.  The lead director chairs the closed session at the end of the board meetings where the directors can talk amongst themselves and share their impressions of you.  The lead director is the best translator of this information to keep you and the board on the same page.
Expose your team to your board so they can build rapport.  It’s a motivator for your team, a chance for them to hear directly from the board and for the board to evaluate them, and a call to action for addressing the key issues.  Your board should spend meaningful time with your team outside of the boardroom so they develop an appreciation of the tough tradeoffs you are making. 
Board meetings should not be dog and pony presentations.  If you have built the right board, they will want to dig in on meaty issues, not sleep through the recital of the slides. Don’t use precious board time to rehash reports and financial performance that can be shared in advance.  Provide key performance indicators regarding your critical initiatives beforehand so you can focus on the deviations that matter. 
Most of all, reserve substantial time for group discussions about the most important matters facing your business.  The things that keep you up at night. Encourage them to challenge you and each other so that you get the full benefit of your brain trust. Then make the best-informed decision you can, regardless of unanimity.
Never oversell your point of view; encourage debate.  Remember, your directors sell and are sold to every day, they will spot a hard sell a mile away. You may lose precious credibility as a consequence.
To focus board talent on important issues, organize your board into committees, like audit and compensation, strategy and compliance.  This permits you to lead qualified subgroups deeper into critical issues.  It is best if the committees report out to the entire board rather than making decisions themselves so that you can keep the entire board in lock stop.
Remember, you are the leader not just of your team but of your board as well.  The skills required are slightly different, but your character and integrity remain critical.
Don’t undermine yourself with a poorly functioning board. A good board can challenge you to greatness, but a bad board can kill a good business.
In our book, Straight Talk for Startups, 100 Insider Rules for Beating the Odds, we present the best practices not just for building and managing boards but also for addressing the fundamentals, choosing investors, fund raising, and achieving liquidity. As Tony Fadell, founder/CEO of Nest and the co-inventor of the iPod and iPhone says, “Straight Talk is filled with real, raw and fact-based ‘rules of the road’ that you need to know when diving into our ultra-competitive startup world.  A must-read and a re-read!” Enjoy.
Copyright © 2018 Randy Komisar, All rights reserved.
About the Authors:

Randy Komisar is the co-author of Straight Talk for Startups (HarperBusiness; June 2018). He is a venture capitalist with decades of experience with startups. Jantoon Reigersman is the co-author of Straight Talk for Startups (HarperBusiness; June 2018). He’s a seasoned financial operator with extensive experience in startups and growth companies. He serves as Chief Financial Officer of publicly traded Leaf Group (NYSE: LFGR), a diversified consumer internet company.
For more information, please visit
Categories: Blogs

A 5-Step Training Plan to Think like a Navy SEAL

Tue, 07/24/2018 - 08:06
Guest post from Mark Divine:

The world is more complex and faster than ever. As a retired Navy SEAL and founder of several multimillion-dollar companies, business seems increasingly like a “VUCA” battlefield in Afghanistan or Syria—it’s Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous. 

Special Operators have thrived in these environments because of how they think. Fortunately for you, these skills can be trained. However, you need to know your starting point to customize your training. Here is a five-pronged plan for you:

1. Physical

Get fit. Being fit impacts everything else positively in your life: relationships, health, confidence, brain power, and more. So ask yourself: Do I follow a solid functional training regimen? Am I 100% conscious of what I eat and drink throughout the day? And am I free of injury and illness?

If you mainly answered “no” or “maybe” (meaning “I don’t know”), you’d greatly benefit from a good functional training program (using your whole body) for 30 minutes to one hour, three or four times a week: for example, SEALFIT, CrossFit, martial arts, or yoga. 

If time is a challenge (and it is for all of us), then I encourage you to take moments during your day to do up to three “spot drills” such as 50 squats as fast as possible, 100 burpees, or 10 sun salutations, These drills will burn calories, get the blood flowing and lead to functional fitness over time.

2. Mental 

Get mentally strong. It makes things easier, and you’ll be harder to defeat. So ask yourself: Do I regularly train my mental strength? Do I calmly respond to stressful situations? Can I make quick, good decisions? Do I routinely persevere when faced with a big challenge?
If you mainly answered “no” or “maybe to most of the questions, then I recommend you start practicing the “Big Four” skills for mental toughness.

Practice controlled breathing every morning when you wake up. Next, mentally rehearse a challenging event before attempting it. Calmly see yourself dominating every task, with a smile on your face. Third, as you go about your day, interrupt negative internal dialogue with “power statements” such as “Easy day, I’ve got this,” or “Well, it could always be worse.” SEALs learn to resist the urge to gripe when things are tough, or go wrong. This is a good skill to learn. The fourth skill is to chunk overwhelming tasks into micro goals. For instance, at the start of the infamous Navy SEAL Hell Week (six days of non-stop training with only four hours sleep), I chunked my focus to making it until sunrise each night, then as things got harder, just the next meal, then even the next step.

3. Emotional 
Get emotionally balanced. It brings you more energy and improves your relationships. So ask yourself: Am I aware of my emotions? Do I express them in healthy, productive ways? Can I recognize what triggers negative states? Do I have strategies to transmute negative emotions into positive energy?

If you answered “no” or “maybe” to most, then it’s time to develop emotionally. One powerful method I teach is a practice called authentic communication. With difficult conversations, maintain focused awareness on what your partner says and relaxed awareness on your own thoughts and feelings. This type of active mindfulness takes patience. As you engage in conversation, only speak if what you have to say is truthful, adds value to the conversation, and comes with respect for the other party.

4. Intuitional

If you’re solid on the first three, expand your leadership skills by tapping into the deep intelligence of your intuition. So ask yourself: Do you pay attention to your gut? Do you know things without knowing how or why? Can you sense danger or opportunities before they present themselves? Do you even acknowledge that intuitive insight is real?

If you answered “no” or “maybe,” then it’s time to start trusting your gut to lead in today’s VUCA world where intuition is a core skill. You can start to still your mind and body to hear the inner voice with my “Still Water Runs Deep” visualization: After a few minutes of deep, diaphragmatic breathing, imagine laying in a pristine, still pond. Allow yourself to sink to the bottom, where you feel protected from the chaos of the world. Empty your mind as you stay focused on the image of the clear water above you, sunlight filtering down warming your body. Do this for at least five minutes, and you will connect to a deep inner peace, tapping your natural intuition. 

5. Kokoro 

Kokoro means “merging heart and mind into your actions.” I believe this could be the single most important skill a leader needs to develop today. This ancient warrior concept asks us to develop a deep understanding of our purpose in life and to live it full out. So ask yourself: Do I know my purpose, and am I directing my energy toward it? Can I see the “big picture” of my life through all the chaos, distractions and challenges that arise? Do I feel present and peaceful? 

If you mainly answered “no” or “maybe,” it’s time to cultivate a meditation practice. In your morning routine, find a quiet space to sit and clear your mind. I like to start with box breathing, then say a mantra such as, “Day by day, I’m getting better and better,” and finally just drop into silence. Always have a journal handy to jot down arising insights or questions to clear your mind of them. Once you’re deeply centered, you can visualize completing a critical challenge, or conduct self-inquiry by asking compelling questions such as: Why am I here? Who am I really? What’s the one thing I need to do today to move me towards fulfilling my purpose better? 

In summary: Leading and succeeding at an elite level in today’s VUCA environment requires you to take total responsibility for your physical, mental, emotional, intuitive and “heart-mind” strength. The good news is that you can train all these aspects of yourself. But you have to do the work daily, or you won’t move the dial at all. If you feel can’t because you don’t have the time, then I say “embrace the suck.” Just go to bed earlier, take shorter showers, quit watching TV, remove unnecessary obligations or delegate anything not aligned with your unique offer and purpose. Soon these five domains will all improve, and you’ll become an admired leader with the focus to achieve your biggest dreams.

Mark Divine is a retired U.S. Navy SEAL Commander, founder of Unbeatable Mind andSEALFIT, and NYT bestselling author of The Way of The SEAL, updated and expanded for a new look at leadership and personal excellence in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. Divine has taken his 20 years of experience as a Navy SEAL officer, flavored it with 25 years of martial arts and 15 years of yoga training, and pulled the lessons learned from founding six successful multimillion-dollar companies for unique, highly effective training that anyone can use to become an elite operator in business and life.
Categories: Blogs

Closing the Gap: How to Get Coaching

Tue, 07/17/2018 - 06:00

Guest post from Michael Bungay Stanier:

Over the last few years, the leadership world has begun to understand the importance of coaching in the workplace. But what has that really translated to?
Some companies went about implementing coaching by bringing in an executive coach to help develop their employees.
And while that can be a good introduction and yield great results, it can also be quite
expensive, the individual training can be a little inconsistent, and it doesn’t effectively implement coaching into the workplace long term.

So, although leaders have acknowledged the need for coaching within their organizations, they still aren’t 100% sure how to close the gap.
The key lies in turning existing managers into future coaches. And here’s how to get started.
Define What Coaching Will Mean to You
If you don’t know what coaching really means to your organization, what’s the point of trying to get into it?
“Coaching’ has been a bit of a buzzword over the last few years, and there are hundreds of definitions of it. One of my personal favorites, though, is this: “Coaching is unlocking a person’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them to learn rather than teaching them.”
That definition comes from Sir John Whitmore, and I think it’s a perfect way to introduce coaching. But that doesn’t mean you can’t alter it to best suit your organization’s goals.
Don’t Turn Coaching into a Big Deal
“Don’t turn coaching into a big deal.” By that I mean don’t try to create a coaching culture or make it a formal event.
Just because the HR industry has touted coaching as one of the best concepts ever in the leadership world, that doesn’t mean it’s a fix-all for your organization. True, successful coaching can improve the workplace in many ways, but that doesn’t mean it will immediately drive change and fix all the obstacles you’re tackling.
And that’s where trying too hard to make it part of your organization’s culture can get you into trouble.
Coaching is a tool that works best when it’s targeted toward one specific objective.
So instead of focusing on implementing a coaching culture, focus on that specific objective. Are you looking to increase customer retention? To better track website metrics? To improve operations budgets and procedures?
If you don’t outline exactly why you’re looking to implement coaching in the workplace, the whole concept of it may come across a little too vague and distanced from the busyness of the everyday workflow.
Make It Mean Something
Managers are busy enough as it is without having to feel like they’re going to be forced to learn a new skill. They need to understand a connection — that is, what’s in it for them? In order to bridge the gap and successfully implement coaching into their lives, they need to understand that, when done right, coaching can reduce their workload, make their teams less dependent and make their employees more accountable.
Once managers understand this, why wouldn’t they be more open to learning how to become more coach-like?
Show That It Doesn’t Have to Be So Hard
My experience these days, working with busy managers around the world, tells me that managers are stretched more thinly than ever. We thought we were busy in the year 2000, but that was nothing compared with today’s hyper-connected digital world.
So why would a manager want to take on the added task of coaching employees? Well, we’ve already settled that it will help alleviate some of their stress by encouraging their employees to be more autonomous. And I think it’s safe to say that a reduction in workload is a good reason to get started.
But what’s important to explain to your managers is that coaching doesn’t have to take more time, it doesn’t have to be an added task to a seemingly never-ending to-do list. Instead, it can be something done in passing, nothing more than a daily interaction that’s as easy as catching up by the water cooler.
Be Lazy, Be Curious, Be Often
Managers don’t need to become coaches; they simply need to become more coach-like. And the way to do that is for them to offer advice a little less often, and ask questions a little more often.
So, as a manager, the next time someone comes to you …
Be lazy. Don’t jump in right away to offer advice. Ask something like “How can I help?” This will work in two ways. First, it will force the other person to get clear on what it is they want or need from you. Second, it acts as a self-management tool that will keep you lazy — preventing you from running off to do things you think people want you to do.
Be curious. Instead of saying yes all the time or taking over, ask questions. “And what else?” leaves no rock unturned. The first answer someone gives to this question is never the only answer, and rarely is it the best one. There are always more answers to be found and ideas to be generated — and this question will keep you lazy and encourage others to come up with them. So, without coming up with the ideas yourself, and without taking on more work, you’ll get the answers out anyway — by helping your employee learn along the way.
Be often. Don’t set time aside to coach; rather, turn everyday conversations into insightful moments of coaching. Asking questions like the two noted above won’t take any more time out of your day, but the results will be noticeable.
So, instead of thinking of coaching as something else to add to your plate, think of it as an adaptable skill. It’s all about asking the right questions, asking them often and watching your employees learn through your daily conversations.
We’re all hardwired to give advice. But promoting a little more curiosity rather than expertise will create perfectly coach-like managers — and that, surely, will help bridge the gap.

Michael Bungay StanierMichael is the Senior Partner at Box of Crayons, a company that teaches 10-minute coaching so that busy managers can build stronger teams and get better results. His most recent book, The Coaching Habit, has sold a quarter of a million copies. Along with David Creelman and Anna Tavis, Michael recently conducted and released a new piece of research, The Truth & Lies of Performance Management. Michael is a Rhodes Scholar and was recently recognized as the #3 Global Guru in coaching. Visit and for more information.
Categories: Blogs

Leadership Comes in Many Forms. Helping Business Save the Earth.

Tue, 07/10/2018 - 06:00
Guest post from Michael Lenox:
Humanity faces a number of critical sustainability challenges, global climate change chief among them.  In my new book with Ronnie Chatterji, Can Business Save the Earth? Innovating Our Way to Sustainability, we assert that to address these challenges requires substantial, disruptive innovation across a wide number of sectors.  Electrical vehicles in transportation.  Renewable energy in electricity generation.  Electrification in heavy industrials.  And the list goes on. Such innovation cannot and will not happen without the active involvement of the business community.  Innovation is more than invention.  It is the creation of commercial viable products and service.  Markets are where the value of innovations are articulated.  Innovation requires creating value that exceeds the cost of production.  Business, and markets more broadly, are often the catalyst for innovation and are thus a critical players in our innovation challenge. However, the burden of our sustainability challenges does not solely rest on business leaders.  Rather than berate business for inaction or implore them on the business case for sustainability, we assert that we need to think of the broader institutional envelope – the system – that shapes and influences how markets function.  This systems perspective highlights, in the famous worlds of Pogo, that “we have met the enemy and he is us”.  Or put more positively, we all have a responsibility to bear and a role to play. This suggests a new type of leadership – one that Jeff Walker and his coauthors have referred to as “shapers”. Shapers understand that one must look for levers to influence the system – to shape it to desired ends.  Command and control does not work.  The innovation system has a momentum and logic of its own.  To increase the innovative output of business, especially the output of sustainable technologies, requires pushes and nudges along the edges.  Individual action may seem ineffectual, but collectively such action can have a profound impact on how the system behaves. Business leaders clearly have a role to play in driving innovative new sustainable technologies that disrupt current markets.  So do customers that demand green goods and services and investors who seek out investment opportunities in sustainable technologies.  Government can both help create demand “pull” through pricing interventions and regulation and technology “push” by subsidizing R&D and funding university research.  Social ventures and NGO’s, of all shapes and sizes, can help catalyze the innovation ecosystem, for example, by creating market transparency through labeling initiatives or motivating corporate action through boycotts and protests.  Universities and national laboratories can provide the basic research that drives new technologies.  Entrepreneurial communities can incubate nascent technologies and ventures through accelerator programs and crowdfunding.  Banks can create green bonds and other novel forms of investing in sustainable technologies. And so on. Ultimately, each one of us has an opportunity to lead, to shape the institutional environment so as to catalyze the innovation ecosystem to generate more of the disruptive sustainable technologies that we need to meet our sustainability challenges.  Time is of the essence.  Only through collective leadership can we meet the challenges before us.  Michael Lenox is co-author of Can Business Save the Earth? and Tayloe Murphy Professor of Business Administration and Senior Associate Dean and Chief Strategy Officer at the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business. His work has been cited by the New York Times, the Financial Times, and the Economist. In 2009, he was recognized as a Faculty Pioneer by the Aspen Institute and as the top strategy professor under 40 by the Strategic Management Society. In 2011, he was named one of the top 40 business professors under 40 by Poets & Quants.
Categories: Blogs