productive 300x258 5 Ways to Make Your Meetings More ProductiveI texted my colleague, “do you think we BOTH need to attend the 3pm meeting?”  He quickly shot back, “Karin, I don’t think ANYONE needs to go to that meeting…. don’t worry, I’ll represent both of us.”

And there we were 2 executives, not speaking up in the spirit of being “politically correct, and “covering” for one another to minimize the pain.

After all, we had real work to do.

Sometimes, apparently, I’m also the instigator of such meetings.

I attended a meeting the other day and every person in the room was on their iPad working accept the speaker and I.  I stopped the meeting and questioned what appeared to be very rude behavior.

As I soon uncovered,  the rest of the participants had held a dry run of the meeting the day before I arrived in town.  Since I was “the boss” they wanted to “practice.”   This entire meeting had turned into a readout for me.  Those meetings should have been consolidated, or the second meeting should have been cancelled, “Karin, we’ve got this.”  Or at least become a one-on-one.  They did “have this” and didn’t need me.   Pre-meetings are often a sign of wasted time.

Invest in knowing how much your team is preparing to meet with you. Even if you think you’re low maintenance.

Despite my best efforts to change-up the meetings under my influence, I sometimes succumb, keep my mouth shut, and attend my fair share of time-wasters.  That’s why when I received this note from a subscriber, I promised to write a blog response and schedule it up next.  I’ll offer my best thinking and hand it over to the LGL village for additional suggestions.

“I just read your recent post, 5 Ways You’re Sabotaging Teamwork, and was personally touched when you started talking about misuse of staff meetings.  It seems all I do is have “read-out” staff meetings and my staff hates them.  But, I like it because the team is together as a whole and they learn what each other is working on and it **does** stimulate great conversation.  However, they still hate them and, honestly, I hate them too.  I would love to hear your perspective on how to have high-energy staff meetings.  What are my alternatives?  What can I do to achieve my goal of getting my 12 member team together weekly but not be a boring mess? Continue Reading…

iStock 000017129607Small 200x300 How to Ensure Your Greatest Fears Come True“Every man, through fear, mugs his aspiration a dozen times a day.” -Brendan Francis

After a hectic, but fun, Saturday morning of speaking on a Lead Change panel, and schlepping my son to baseball practice and art lessons, Sebastian and I decided to try out the newish Ethiopian restaurant for lunch.

The place wasn’t crowded and the engaging owner did the cooking, waiting, and busing himself.  The food was amazing.   I asked how long he had been in business (a year), and admitted that I had never realized the place was there.

We were politely interrupted by a woman asking to see the dessert menu.

“Oh no, we don’t carry desserts.  I fear not enough people will want them.  Once we really get things going, I’ll feel confident to expand the menu.”

As he came back to our table, Sebastian (8), apparently now my Chief Marketing Officer, offered, “you know, I think my mommy might really be able to help you with your business (I’m now searching for a menu to duck behind).  She knows a lot about leadership and making money… You see she…”

The fantastic chef shared his story.

“I’m a really good cook.  My friends all told me I should open a restaurant.  I’m taking a cautious approach.  I know this location is not ideal (it’s really tucked away), but I didn’t want to invest much in location, until I knew for sure it would be a success.  I want to attract a crowd, but it’s hard.”

He must have seen me glance around (I’ve never been accused of having a poker face). Continue Reading…

iStock 000036070806Small 300x213 5 Ways Youre Sabotaging TeamworkIf your team has as much teamwork as a box of crayons without a child to guide them, don’t blame them.  Consider what you may be doing to inadvertently sabotage their teamwork.

5 Ways You’re Sabotaging Teamwork

1. Insisting on a Team that Doesn’t Make Sense

I’ve seen so much energy and money wasted to “improve the team dynamic” when the real issue is organizational structure.   A cluster of human beings is not a team.   No one is bonding if the only common denominator is who they report to.    If you can’t identify several common goals (beyond YOUR performance agreement), consider the structure rather than organizing a team karaoke night.  The best teams truly need one another to be successful.  If you can’t change the structure, think harder about a few collaborative goals or projects that can get the team moving forward together.

2. Ignoring the Obvious Dynamic

If everyone on your team is frustrated by one member, stop pretending it’s not an issue (yes, even if she’s an “A Player).

I once worked on a team where one of our peers won a numbers-only based National recognition.  Every one of her immediate peers understood the nasty back-stabbing dynamics beneath the surface.  Our boss seemed to get it, but she got results, and results helped him.  Instead of addressing it, he chose to call each of us individually and remind us of the “right thing to do…to call her and congratulate her.”  The truth is, those calls had already begun.   But his call assuming we couldn’t get there with her, reinforced the fact that we all had work to do in these relationships.  Pushing us to be cooth was scratching the surface on a bigger issue that needed to be addressed. Continue Reading…

iStock 000006218863Small 300x179 9 Ways to Be a Positive Force in a Negative WorkplaceMy German Father-in-law would call trying to fix this negative workplace, Furzen gegen den Donner,  “farting against thunder.”  I’ve got to admit, the description I got on the other end of the phone was pretty bad:  little to no recognition, development, or teamwork…combined with long hours, limited resources, lots of finger-pointing, and the uncertainty of a new acquisition and consolidation.

When my caller tried to get a hold of a list of the company values, no one seemed to know where to find them.  The veterans knew they existed, somewhere….  they were as opaque as the vacation policy no one took seriously.

Leaders were fleeing this negative workplace every day.  And yet this LGL member was staying, and pulling people together to improve the scene (which had nothing to do with his “day job.)”  Why?

“I used to feel like I needed to get out of here, but now I’m so excited to be part of the solution.  it’s fulfilling to see progress.  I know I may lose my job in a year or so, but for now this feels like important work.”

Important work indeed.

The world needs people who dive deeper to change a negative workforce. It’s far easier to run away.   Here’s some tips that can help.  Please add yours to the list.

How to Be a Positive Force in a Negative Workplace

1.  Ask WHY they work.

In this negative environment, this may seem obvious, “for the pay check, stupid.”  But take it a step further.  Do they work to support their sick mom?  To pay back student loans?  To save for their children’s education?  Because they enjoy helping customers?  Because…?  Reconnecting to the purpose of work can help make the smaller annoyances less frustrating.

2.  Call it what it is 

When you see negative thinking or actions, talk to the person privately to call it out– particularly if other leaders are involved.  When negative attitudes and talk are all around, it’s tempting to ignore it.  Raise the bar and change the conversation. Continue Reading…

iStock 000003916536Small 300x199 Transitions:  My First Week as an EntrepreneurAs my regulars know, I’ve recently left my job as a Verizon Wireless executive to pursue my entrepreneurial dream.   I promise that my blog will continue to be about ways to support you.  With that said, I’ve received so many wonderful notes and lots of questions about what’s next as an entrepreneur, that I figured there were others who were curious, but not asking.  I imagine my own angst can be helpful to others in the midst of such transitions (would love to hear your stories).

Q & A on Early Transitions

Q- What’s your biggest surprise one week in?

A- My new boss is a handful.

Her heart’s in the right place, but she’s hard to keep up with.   Her passion is contagious, but sometimes it just wears me out.  I think sometimes she forgets we’re just a small team.  I’ve tried to explain, but she’s got this new entrepreneurial spirit thing going.  Not sure she’s listening.

You see, the tricky part is, my new boss is me.   I’ve become the boss I wish I had, and I’m swimming in imperfection. 

I suddenly have a new realization of what it must have been like to work on my teams all these years.   I’m having flashbacks to what one of my leaders said after working with me in a new gig for a few weeks.  ”Yikes, we’ve been running so hard, my watch is spinning around on my wrist from all the weight I’ve lost.    Back then, I took it as a joke and a compliment.  We were having fun and had great momentum.  But maybe, this sweet Southern gentleman was also kindly trying to tell me to slow down, that I was creating a cloud dust of deliverables that were hard to keep up with.

A week in to being my own boss, I’m experiencing what my own teams have felt from me… passion, impatience, extreme focus on results, and lots of work.

It’s a humbling exercise to be the visionary and the one who must execute… I’ve got more to-dos than I can possibly do.

Q- Did you leave Verizon because you hit a glass ceiling? Continue Reading…

Imagine all the people… -John Lennon

iStock 000000056891Small 300x225 Imagine There Are No Talent ReviewsSara called me excitedly.  ”Karin you know how you’ve been encouraging me to take a lateral move to broaden my experience… the PERFECT job just came open.  I can really imagine myself in the role.  Can you put in a good word for me?”

“Excellent,” I thought.  Sara was so convinced she was ready for a promotion, but I knew she had a little more growing to do before she was ready.  She was right.  This job was perfect for her, and I was glad she was willing to consider a lateral move.  I called HR immediately to ensure she would be considered.

“I’m sorry Karin, you don’t have Sara listed as high-potential on the performance-potential grid.”  We’ve been told to reserve lateral moves for succession planning candidates.”

“Huh?”  Just how did that make any sense?  I understand using the grid to define pools for promotions, but were we really going to stop developing everyone else?  Besides if a solid performer can’t be promoted, and can’t move laterally, are we really going to just let them stagnate in the same job?  Surely this HR person was confused, so I took it a level higher.

The next conversation went something like this”…. Well, I’m not saying we’d never consider Sara for such a move…. but maybe you have her in the wrong box… I can move her to high-potential now, if you’d like and put her on the slate.”  Okay, now it was getting even more stupid.  Systems that need to be “played” are never effective. Continue Reading…

iStock 000026140162Small 300x199 13 Stupid Sentences That Will Derail Your Career

I wish HR would teach a course on the really stupid sentences people say at work.  Oh, I’m not talking about he obvious stupidity:  ”you look hot in that dress”  or “hey baby…” there’s training and rules for that.  But there’s no code of conduct to protect against the stupid, disempowering words I often hear up, down and sideways.

Before writing this post, I decided to do an informal “stupid sentence poll’ through social media.  The responses fell into two big categories:  Stupid sentences that deny accountability; and stupid sentences that prove you are clueless.  I’ll start, you add to the lists.

Stupid Sentences That Deny Accountability

1.  That’s not my job (number one by a LANDSLIDE).

Although we all know this, someone is still out there saying it.  Stop it, it’s stupid.  Instead, help all you can.

2.  That decision’s above my pay grade

The really wacky part of this one, is that I hear it most often at the higher levels of the business.   Please, please don’t say this.  And whatever you do, don’t say it to someone at a “lower pay grade” than you.  They count on you to advocate for what’s right, not shrug your shoulders and roll over.

3.  I wasn’t aware

This one is commonly used to throw someone else under the bus.  Trust me, you look like an idiot.  ”Let me find out more.”  ”I’m digging in.”  ”I’m here to help…”  are all acceptable replacement statements. Continue Reading…

iStock 000021158955Small 285x300 5 Reasons I Quit My Day Job to Pursue My DreamYup, I really did quit my day job to purse my dream full-time.   No, this is not an April Fools joke (although last years was fun in case you missed it).

I will spend my days helping companies grow confident, competent and creative frontline leaders.

I’ve been engrossed in a 45 day transition to ensure my team doesn’t miss a beat.  The true sign of leadership is what happens when the leader walks away.  Although the “walking away” part is heartbreaking, the running toward is exhilarating.  I will miss my magical team.

As news has spread through my teams at work and with the external strategic companies with whom I partner, nearly everyone has had a similar reaction curve.

  1. Shock (Are you kidding, no one walks away from a great gig like that!  What about those long-term incentives you’re leaving on the table?)
  2. Sadness (I’m blessed to have built deep connections with so many people whom I care about deeply.  We will really miss one another and the outcomes of our collaboration.
  3. Stirring (“Wow, look at your eyes when you talk about this.  You really are following your calling.  I know this your true passion. Good for you!”
  4. Support (“How can I best help you?”)

Thank you to all who have been on this curve with me through the last few weeks.

Building Momentum: From Dreaming to Doing

“A less than belligerent commitment is a curse.”  -Eric Maisal

I’d like to say that the last few years of writing and speaking were all a deliberate strategic building towards this moment.  But the truth is, I felt the pull and stayed open to possibilities.  The exhilaration of the momentum became too hard to resist.  I began waking up early and rushing to the computer to see what my email would bring.  I felt alive and full of meaning with the growing connections of kindred spirits and leaders needing support.  The long hours and travel to do my leadership role well and the time needed to serve the LGL pursuits became too much to sustain.  I had to choose.  It was time to do what I felt most called to do.

And so I offer a bit of the behind-the-scenes story that made the dream doable. Continue Reading…