When you’re running full speed ahead with a great idea, be sure to look back over your shoulder to see who’s with you.

running 225x300 5 Reasons Your Great Idea Isnt Working

A Great Idea

My staff team had a great idea.  They were buzzing with excitement.  We needed some fun recognition to inspire call center reps to provide great customer service.

 “Let’s give the reps a lanyard like in Disney world.. you know the kind where you collect pins.  The employees can use the lanyard to carry their ID and access badge, and then they can earn pins each time they do something extraordinary.  We can have a contest to design the pins.”

The presenter (a big Disney fan) could hardly contain her excitement about their great idea.  After all reps love contests, and this one had bling.  What a great way to reinforce our new priorities.

We needed to act fast, so lanyards were ordered and pins designed.

There were about 9000 folks to buy for.  Anything x 9000 is not cheap.  But….”it would be worth it.”

The staff team held a conference call to roll out the plan.  Boxes of lanyards and pins shipped to call centers across the country.  Game on.

Fast forward 3 months later, I’m on a tour of the call centers, not a lanyard in site.  “Oh, I think we have them somewhere.”  That “somewhere” was most often in a storage closet underneath the Halloween decorations.

What went wrong? Continue Reading…

Boston Marathon 11 1 e1398045751396 Comebacks:  Lessons from the Boston MarathonA conflicted happy-sad feeling welled up in me as I drove to church this Easter Sunday.   I was listening to NPR recount comeback stories from the 2013 Boston Marathon.  Thousands of human beings racing back toward the scene of one of the most horrific days in their lives.

I was particularly touched by the 2013 first responders running their first marathon tomorrow.  The Boston Athletic Association had expanded their definition of what it means to “qualify to run Boston,” along with more bibs to accommodate those with a strong need for closure and sense making.

As I turned the corner, I saw the colorful explosion of glorious “He is risen” balloons  tied to every tree, parking meter, and sign in our town (a sunrise offering by the youth of a neighboring church).   That scene always makes me feel like God just can’t hold back.

On this particular morning a smiling runner had grabbed up a handful of those “he is risen” balloons and was running down the street.

I shot him an energetic YES!  The kind you can’t hear, but you both feel deeply. Continue Reading…

engagement magnet copy 27 Experts on Employee Engagement:  April Frontline FestivalApril’s frontline festival is on one of my favorite topics, Employee Engagement.  We have a wonderful line-up of posts.

We begin with Joy and Tom Guthrie’s, Vizwerx, LLC, pic.  See above.

Practical Engagement Practices

Jesse Lyn Stoner, Seapoint Center, offers her Guest Post on Switch and Shift, First Engage Yourself  It’s difficult to engage your employees if you yourself are not engaged. Here are 7 questions to assess your own engagement and suggestions for what you can do.  Follow Jesse @JesseLynStoner

Wally Bock, Wally Bock’s Three Star Leadership, shares 10 Engagement Building Behaviors for the Boss.  Study after study has shown us that if you’re the boss, you are the person with the biggest impact on the productivity, morale and engagement of your team. Here are ten things you can do to improve all three.  Follow Wally  @WallyBock

Tune it to Tanveer Naseer Leadership to find out what 3 critical steps leaders should be employing to boost employee engagement levels in their organization in Tanveer Naseer’s post, Learning To Connect To Boost Employee Engagement,   Follow Tanveer @TanveerNaseer

Alli Polin, Break the Frame, brings us practical advice in her post,  Are You a Negativity Carrier or the Antidote?  There will always be negative people at work who like to create a crisis. Discover how you can transform their negativity and invite engagement.  Follow Alli @AlliPolin

“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.” -Simon Sinek

Mary Jo Asmus, Aspire-cs, offers Where do you spend your time?  A recipe for failure in a new position: keeping your head down, not reaching out to others. This post offers tips to lead and actually LEAD your team to get them engaged!  Follow Mary Jo @mjasmus

Jim Ryan, Soft Skills for Hard Jobs, shares Morning Check-In Meetings – Maybe the most powerful management tool there is   Making a simple addition of a quick 10 minute meeting before the day starts can have quite an impact on the engagement level of your team.  Follow Jim @jryan4  I’m with Jim, I had certain roles where a Morning check made all the difference.

In her post, Please, thank you, and I’m sorry – words for kindergarten and leadership, Robyn McLeod from The Thoughtful Leaders Blog shares how these three phrases that we learned in kindergarten can pave the way for better relationships and communication at work as well as engender trust, respect, and a higher level of engagement from your staff.  Follow Robyn @ThoughtfulLdrs

 “Dispirited, unmotivated, unappreciated workers cannot compete in a highly competitive world.” -Francis Hesselbein

Matt McWilliams, Life. Leadership. Love. Learned the Hard Way offers Two Scientifically Proven Techniques to be a Better Leader, Spouse, & More  In this post, he shares two incredible techniques that will increase employee engagement and so much more.  Follow Matt @MattMcWilliams2

Chantal Bechervaise, Take it Personel-ly shares specific ways to offer support in her post, Help Employees to Believe in Themselves, Employees need to know that you have faith in their ability to do their jobs well. It also requires commitment to help support employees when times are tough.  Follow Chantal @CBechervaise

Employee Engagement Starts With Leadership

Julie Winkle Giulioni, juliewinklegiulioni.com shares a sentiment I often feel.  It’s not always about doing more to drive engagement, but by what we need to stop.  In her post, Stop Driving Employees Nuts Julie reminds us that employee engagement, motivation, and results are less about introducing new leadership behaviors and more about just stopping the stuff that makes employees crazy.  Follow Julie @juliewg Continue Reading…

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…