How To Fire Someone… With Compassion

You really like this guy. You’ve grown close over the years. You care about him. You might even know his family. Perhaps he’s even a strong performer who did something stupid. Now you have to fire him. How do you that?

Firing someone is the hardest thing to do as a leader. Layoffs are awful too, but at least there’s a softish landing and some conciliation that it’s not their fault.

This post is not about whether you “should” be firing this person. I’m assuming you’ve vetted that given appropriate second chances, and now are stuck with “how.”

HR will tell you to keep the “conversation” short and direct. To tell, pack, and escort to bring a witness. Don’t apologize. I’ve even done terminations where we had extra security planted around the corner in case “things got crazy.”

If you need some help with the basics, good advice includes: The 10 Worst Things To Say to An Employee When You Fire Them and The Best Ways to Fire Someone. All points, necessary, but not necessarily sufficient.

Fire Me, But Remember This

Follow the above advice. And if your heart calls for more, keep in mind.

1. It’s not about you.

Helpful words

Firing is so challenging for both the one doing the firing and the one being fired. It brings a great amount of emotional vulnerability into an environment which doesn’t usually make a lot of space for it. But the one who is firing must be careful to share only a small amount of their distress. If the one firing attempts to be compassionate by displaying feelings: sharing sorrow, expressing how uncomfortable the process is, or revealing too much of any kind of emotion, it robs the one being fired from his or her own experience. It makes the event about the them. It invites the one being fired to take care of the one firing, which is distorted and provocative.
So it is important to remember when firing with compassion, at bottom, it is not personal and it is not about you. You can be warm and considerate, but beware of being emotional or dramatic in an attempt to show that you are compassionate. You can care about the person while keeping the correct distance to allow them to have their experience, without asking them to worry about yours.

2. They did something wrong, they’re not something wrong.
Ensure them that this mistake does not define them. Give them a chance to talk if they need a minute.

3. They have a future and could use some hope.
I always plant a seed about an optimistic future, even if I’m furious with what they’ve done. Help them to fail forward.

4. You can say goodbye.
I’ve never regretted taking a moment to connect and say goodbye. If you were close, it’s okay to say something personal if it feels right.

Compassionate leaders stay compassionate. Stay firm, don’t back pedal, but it’s okay to connect and say “goodbye” and “you can survive this.”

Powerful Perspective: Opportunities and the Arch of Time

You hear devastating news. Job loss. A diagnosis. A new baby with life-changing special needs. Your brain and heart rush through thoughts, prayers, next steps. It’s hard to gain perspective. This was not in the plan.

What now?

Perspective and the Arch of Time

I met with Bill Treasurer to talk about his new book, Leaders Open Doors. I was intrigued as to why he would be giving all the proceeds of his book to help children with special needs. His perspective is powerful. A daughter born deaf with cerebral palsy on top of life’s other complications.

“At first it was hard to adjust my expectations for what life with my daughter would be like. Now I realize that there are flowers in every situation.”

Bill believes in the perspective of the “arch of time.” The arch of time allows the good to unfold.

Over time, he’s experienced…

  • What courage looks like
  • Patience
  • Gratitude
  • New relationships
  • The desire to help
  • Opportunities

When the news is bad. It’s hard to envision anything good. How do you gain the strength to allow the arch to emerge?

Bill suggests envisioning 10 reasons you are grateful for the situation. If that’s too hard, imagine 10 positive outcomes that could come from it. And then be patient. Enjoy the mystery as each day unfolds. Celebrate the unexpected flowers.

Perspective and the Leadership Journey

How does such perspective apply to leadership? Don’t focus on the difficulty– focus on the opportunity. Don’t judge a situation too soon. Look for possible.

Bill and I share a common disdain for the phrase, “what keeps you up at night.” First, it’s over used. Second, it elicits the wrong conversation.

“It’s as if some leaders believe that the only way they’ll get any rest is as if the entire workforce shares their fears. Unless people are as afraid as they are, they think that no one will be motivated enough to address whatever is causing the leader to lose sleep.”

Keeping perspective is a powerful leadership competency. Inspire and motivate by providing opportunity, even in the darkest situations. Opportunity is motivating. Scaffold your team as they climb the arch of possibilities. The results may surprise you.

How do you keep perspective?

Should You Reveal Your Secret at Work?

You want to show up authentic, but then again not every environment is safe. If you tell your secret, will they admire your courage? Will it bring you closer to your boss and others? Or. Will they judge you? Will doors open or close as a result of your authenticity? Bill Treasurer, author of Leaders Open Doors, shares a powerful story of how revealing a deep secret opened the doors to remarkable opportunity. I admire his courage. At the same time, I can’t help but consider how his story would play out in other contexts with other important leaders I know. I suspect the outcome would be different.

Risky Reveals

A risky reveal can be admitting something from your past, in Bill’s case, he was recovering from a drinking problem. Or perhaps it’s a hidden lifestyle choice. If you’re wrestling with a potentially risky reveal, you know. When Bill shared his secret with his boss at Accenture, it didn’t appear to go well.

Although I didn’t expect my boss to pat me on my shoulder and say, “Good for you; you’re a drunk!” I expected more of a reaction than I got. After I told him that I was in recovery, my boss looked at me quizzically and muttered, “I see.”

As the story plays out, his boss was chairman of the board of directors of a non-profit council on substance abuse. A few weeks after the initial conversation, he gave Bill an opportunity to lead a huge project with that agency, with his full support. That project led to more and grew his career.

To Reveal or Not Reveal?

I asked Bill, “How do you decide?”

  1. Check your motives: Consider why you want this person to know. If you’re looking for sympathy or shock factor, don’t do it. Perhaps you feel it will bring you closer and enhance the relationship, that may be valid reason.
  2. Time it right: Resist the spontaneous spill. Even if the exact moment you chose to disclose feels spontaneous, it’s best to have carefully weighed the pros and cons before hand.
  3. Consider their track record: How have they handled sensitive information in the past? What’s their track record. If you don’t know, be careful.
  4. Allow time to process: Don’t expect an immediate reaction. Your news may be shocking at first, your boss may need time to think before offering a useful response.
  5. Consider outcomes: Think about the potential opportunities and drawbacks of the risky reveal.

If you’re interested in the topic of Trust and Transparency, stop back on Friday for the Frontline Festival when thought leaders around the world sharing their best posts on the topic. In fact, why not just enter your email address below, and never miss a post. Join the LGL community and conversation.

Have you been on either end of a risky reveal?

Can You Ignore Office Politics?

Can you ignore office politics? I wish the answer was yes. I’d love to give you a Harry Potter style invisibility hoodie to pull up over your head when the cross-fire starts. You could go on with your work while the turkeys battle for survival.

It’s not that easy. I’m a bit like Cheryl Conner, author of Office Politics: Must You Play? A Handbook for Survival/Success. I disdain office politics because “I’m just not that good at it.” If you want to learn how to play the game, read another blog. If you wrestle with staying true to your values within the political turbulence, read on.

Naive Doesn’t Work

For years, I tried the invisible hoodie thing. That worked for a while. I got results and built strong teams. That seemed to be enough. When the politics would get sticky, I’d put my head down and work. I stayed away from gossip and made decisions that were right for the business. I had strong mentors and sponsors. You can go along way with that approach. Until you can’t.

Being naive is dangerous. It leaves you unprepared and reactionary. If there’s a Bengal Tiger lurking, it’s best to know it. Otherwise, the next tiger you may face comes from within.

Counter Attacks Don’t Work

The first time I faced a highly skilled political gamer, I reacted poorly. I was shocked that someone would act that way and was unprepared to respond. My reaction– the most ugly form of defensive. I went into the “two can play that game mode.” I started withholding information. I told others of her ugly nature (not realizing how tacky I looked in the process). I became a terrible role model for my team. I diminished my credibility as a leader. The next thing I knew, I had my own bengal stripes forming and I didn’t wear them well.

Rising Above Office Politics

Understand the politics, but rise above the drama. Some tips for maintaining your integrity and credibility when the jungle gets rough:

Do:

  • Stay focused on the business outcomes
  • Look for common ground (most political battles come from how, not what)
  • Be aware of competing agendas (work to understand them)
  • Focus on building deeper relationships
  • Check underlying assumptions
  • Address conflict one-on-one
  • Role model taking the high-road

Don’t

  • Gossip or triangulate (talk about people)
  • Reward negative behavior by responding in kind
  • Take the bait (get sucked into unnecessary political conversations)
  • Play your own games
  • Draw your team into the drama

Moms Growing Leaders: A Mother’s Day Tribute

If you ask my mom if she’s a leader, she’ll say “no.” And then, everyone who knows her will just shake their heads and laugh. People follow leaders toward a vision. Leaders serve. Leaders grow leaders. My mom’s a leader. She’s grown a nice crop.

Moms Growing Leaders

Some moms hold formal leadership roles. Others do not. Either way, don’t underestimate the impact. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been asking successful leaders what their moms taught them about leadership. Some great insights shared below.

In the spirit of Mother’s Day, take a minute to reflect. What did your mom teach you about leadership? Share in the comments more importantly, if you still can, tell your mom. Don’t assume she understands the impact.

What Moms Taught Us

“My mother taught me about creativity and passion for what you do. My grandmother taught me perseverance and hard work while always finding the joy (and a smile) in the moment. My great aunt taught me to respect the wisdom and the work of those who came before who put you in the position you are. My great great grandmother taught me that anything is possible when you put your mind to it, no matter what the circumstances. A long way to say – I have had great teachers.”
~Kahina Van Dyke, Global Women’s Executive Leadership Council

Your Moms Themes

Lead with Love

  • “Mom my always gave us kids a lot of hugs and kisses and told us all the time how much she loved us”
  • “Care”

Integrity

  • “Integrity and ownership!!! Good, Bad, or Indifferent, you speak the truth and own your situation.”
  • “Always do what is right even if it seems to be the hardest thing at the time.”

Perceive

  • “She mentored her children to reach and achieve.”
  • “Never lose hope.”
  • “There’s always a way.”
  • “Sometimes great things happen, sometimes bad things happen in either case, you must persevere & not spend too much time congratulating yourself or fretting.”

Facing Your Fears

  • “My mom taught me, most of all, unbeknownst to her, that being vulnerable is part of who you are. You can be a hard worker, dedicated and passionate, confidant and experienced, but you can still be vulnerable in so many ways. I am learning to be able to embrace that.”
  • “I have optic nerve damage. My mother, Audrey, taught me never to be ashamed of a disability. She taught me self-advocacy. She taught me to never use my vision (or lack thereof) as an excuse. She never treated me as “disabled”. When she died at 44 of pancreatic cancer, she taught me how to fight like hell against the odds and how to accept defeat gracefully.”
  • “Suck it up and be a young lady instead of a whinny baby. That stuck with me all my life and made me strong and determined to make things better”

Practical Advice

  • “Never fight about money. If that’s what it’s about and it’s going to be messy, walk away.”
  • “Delegate responsibility”
  • Practice makes perfect
  • “Give the respect and get the respect from other”
  • “Relax, a good night sleep solves all standing problems”
  • “Focus on the highest priority first.”

Lead Through Action

  • “Actions can be the most powerful leadership tools and that it’s not just about saying the right things – it’s about walking the talk and implementing.”
  • “Mom,Thank you for using all your domestic appliances like broom,sandals, roti makers etc to harp on your points to win over against mine.Thank you Mom! That’s why I am what I am today!”
  • “Be present and engaged.”

Need a Mother’s Day gift? How about a free subscription to Let’s Grow Leaders 😉
Your turn: what did your mom teach you about leadership?

Moms Growing Leaders: A Mother's Day Tribute

If you ask my mom if she’s a leader, she’ll say “no.” And then, everyone who knows her will just shake their heads and laugh. People follow leaders toward a vision. Leaders serve. Leaders grow leaders. My mom’s a leader. She’s grown a nice crop.

Moms Growing Leaders

Some moms hold formal leadership roles. Others do not. Either way, don’t underestimate the impact. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been asking successful leaders what their moms taught them about leadership. Some great insights shared below.

In the spirit of Mother’s Day, take a minute to reflect. What did your mom teach you about leadership? Share in the comments more importantly, if you still can, tell your mom. Don’t assume she understands the impact.

What Moms Taught Us

“My mother taught me about creativity and passion for what you do. My grandmother taught me perseverance and hard work while always finding the joy (and a smile) in the moment. My great aunt taught me to respect the wisdom and the work of those who came before who put you in the position you are. My great great grandmother taught me that anything is possible when you put your mind to it, no matter what the circumstances. A long way to say – I have had great teachers.”
~Kahina Van Dyke, Global Women’s Executive Leadership Council

Your Moms Themes

Lead with Love

  • “Mom my always gave us kids a lot of hugs and kisses and told us all the time how much she loved us”
  • “Care”

Integrity

  • “Integrity and ownership!!! Good, Bad, or Indifferent, you speak the truth and own your situation.”
  • “Always do what is right even if it seems to be the hardest thing at the time.”

Perceive

  • “She mentored her children to reach and achieve.”
  • “Never lose hope.”
  • “There’s always a way.”
  • “Sometimes great things happen, sometimes bad things happen in either case, you must persevere & not spend too much time congratulating yourself or fretting.”

Facing Your Fears

  • “My mom taught me, most of all, unbeknownst to her, that being vulnerable is part of who you are. You can be a hard worker, dedicated and passionate, confidant and experienced, but you can still be vulnerable in so many ways. I am learning to be able to embrace that.”
  • “I have optic nerve damage. My mother, Audrey, taught me never to be ashamed of a disability. She taught me self-advocacy. She taught me to never use my vision (or lack thereof) as an excuse. She never treated me as “disabled”. When she died at 44 of pancreatic cancer, she taught me how to fight like hell against the odds and how to accept defeat gracefully.”
  • “Suck it up and be a young lady instead of a whinny baby. That stuck with me all my life and made me strong and determined to make things better”

Practical Advice

  • “Never fight about money. If that’s what it’s about and it’s going to be messy, walk away.”
  • “Delegate responsibility”
  • Practice makes perfect
  • “Give the respect and get the respect from other”
  • “Relax, a good night sleep solves all standing problems”
  • “Focus on the highest priority first.”

Lead Through Action

  • “Actions can be the most powerful leadership tools and that it’s not just about saying the right things – it’s about walking the talk and implementing.”
  • “Mom,Thank you for using all your domestic appliances like broom,sandals, roti makers etc to harp on your points to win over against mine.Thank you Mom! That’s why I am what I am today!”
  • “Be present and engaged.”

Need a Mother’s Day gift? How about a free subscription to Let’s Grow Leaders 😉
Your turn: what did your mom teach you about leadership?

Leadership Spine Poems as Reflective Practice: If Your Books Could Talk…

What does your bookshelf say about you? What if your leadership books could collaborate to support your growth? Spine Poems provide new perspective on your reading choices. The idea, take a quick look at your shelf, and use the spines to create a poem.

The exercise provides perspective your topics of choice and how they hang together. Give it a try. What are your books yearning to say?

I asked my online friends to play along. Here’s what their books are saying.

Leadership Spine Poems (Examples)

Be the Best At What Matters Most-David Dye

Create Distinction
Think Sideways
On Leadership
Make a Scene
The Mission Myth
Own the StageContinue reading

Interviewing? 4 Ways to Set Yourself Apart

It takes more than qualifications to get the job. Don’t count on your track record. In a close race, best prepared wins.

Two candidates were interviewing for a District Sales Manager position. Both had great backgrounds and qualifications. Both nailed the Behavior Based Interview, and we moved on to talk about their planned approach.

Joe (not his real name) came with his generic 90 day strategy. It was as if he had read Michael Watkin’s Book, The First 90 Days,* and copied the generic advice into his plan. His key actions looked like that of so many other candidates. Part of Joe’s plan was to visit every store in his territory in the first 30 days. Yawn.

*p.s I love Watkin’s book. It’s a great read when applied well.

Before her interview, Jane (not her real name), took 2 days off and visited all the stores in the new territory (across a 200 mile radius) in plain clothes. She came prepared with a list of observations, priorities, a platform for improvement, and a robust plan to begin tackling the issues in the first 30 days. She nailed the interview.

Jane’s now knocking that job out of the park.

A Deeper Approach to Interviewing

When interviewing, don’t bring generic plans. Do your homework. Go learn something deeper to discuss.

1. An Understanding of the Business

Talk to people. Arrange advanced visits if you can. Determine who is best-in-class. Understand the current priorities. Use real data to share specifics for your strategy. Come with informed questions. How far you can go with this will depend on whether you are interviewing internally or externally. However, you may be surprised how much data you can find in either circumstance. You can gain much from a solid google search.

2. A Platform

Just like a political candidate, be prepared to share your vision for this role. What is the one big thing you will accomplish? Share why you are passionate about your vision. Articulate the unique aspects of your leadership.

3. Your Angle

Describe your key skills and abilities and how they will benefit this organization. Make connections between unrelated roles. Describe how your diverse experience has built transferable skills perfect for this position.

4. Your Track Record

Come prepared with specific results and deliberate stories that highlight your leadership. Don’t just share your stack rankings(a common approach), share how you achieved them.

Why Smart People Do Stupid Work

Despite my best efforts to encourage employees to think, question, and recommend change, on any given day, I know there are people on my team doing tasks they know are stupid.

Stupid work includes…

  • reinforcing policies without thinking
  • making decisions that lose customers
  • generating reports no one uses
  • focusing on trivial matters when the sky is falling around them
  • _______ I’ll stop here to let you fill in the blank.
  •  If you find that cathartic here’s a few more blanks___________, ___________.

Bottom line, If it feels stupid it probably is.

Forest Gump said “stupid is as stupid does.” But I know the truth. Stupid is as stupid leads.

Why Do People Do Stupid Work?

  • fear
  • politics
  • uncertainty
  • overload
  • indecision
  • it’s not their job
  • they don’t want to step on anyone’s toes
  • it’s always been done that way
  • they think I want it done that way
  • their boss thinks I want it done that way
  • their boss’s boss’s boss, thinks my boss wants it done that way.

And so the stupidity continues.

Lead for S.M.A.R.T.

Encourage your team to think beyond their silos, understand the big picture, and question the status quo. Help them to make S.M.A.R.T. choices.

Speak up

If something feels stupid, it probably is. Say something.

get More information

Ask questions. Understand the context. Reach across silos.

accept Accountability

Own the problem. Work to find a solution.

Reprioritize

Determine what’s important. Do that first.

and Try another approach.

Consider alternatives, ask for ideas, try something new.

May 2013 Leadership Development Carnival

What an amazing line-up contributions for the May Leadership Development Carnival. A heartfelt thanks to all the thought leaders who contributed to this diverse collection. I would like to also personally thank the LD Carnival founder, Dan McCarthy, for an opportunity to host this edition. This is particularly exciting for me since Dan was the first blogger I had a “real” conversation with when I started as a novice blogger in June. He offered great insights and began connecting me with others. As I put together the carnival, it was wonderful to see the submissions pouring in from so many fantastic people I have met and grown with since then.

Being a Better Boss

Dan McCarthy of Great Leadership shares his post, 6 Types of Bosses. Dan answers the question we all wonder from time to time, ” “If all of this leadership development stuff is supposed to be so great, then why are there so many bad bosses?”

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership shares The Disease of Me. The Disease of Me can destroy relationships and careers. It’s easy to catch.

Collaboration

Jon Mertz shares his post, In Collaboration We Trust from his blog Thin Difference. Collaboration succeeds when trust is active and trust is embedded in interactions, mission, connections, and progress forward.

Empowerment

Dana Theus brings us, 3 Ways Men Can Help Women In The Workplace on her InPower Consulting blog. If you’re a man leading people in your company, chances are that you feel somewhat stymied in how to address one of the biggest talent management problems all companies face: how to keep bright, talented women from leaving the company before they make it into the leadership ranks.

Change expert Bill Matthies discusses the connection between employee personal problems and the failure of their companies to achieve their goals on his Coyote Insight Blog. His reminds us, “To achieve company goals, help your employees achieve theirs,

Jim Taggart of Changing Winds shares his post, No Soup for You! Tales of Amazing Customer Service. This post is about customer service and how some organizations create a self-empowering workplace for their employees to provide extra-ordinary service.

Tanveer Naseer of Tanveer Naseer Leadership  asks Do You Give Your Power Away At Work? and then offers practical solutions to help ensure your voice is heard.

The Power of Letting Go

Lolly Daskal of Lead From Within shares: When we are faced with problems the first thing we want to do is identify it, define it, examine it, analyze it and seek solutions. What if we could try something new?” Read on Don’t Solve Your Problems.

Julie Winkle Giulioni also talks about letting go in her Lead Change Group post, Letting Go with Grace. Excessive attachments in today’s warp-speed world shape not only who we become – but what our organizations become. Could ‘holding on’ be holding us back?

Tim Milburn of timmilburn.com shares his post. How To Wait When The Waiting Is Hard. We all have to wait for things. Here are some ideas to make the most of those times when the waiting is difficult.

Execution

Jesse Lyn Stoner of Seapoint Center shares her insights on The Space Between Supervising Closely and Delegating Most of us know what it looks like when you are Supervising Closely or Delegating. But the space between is large and undefined and very important. It’s the space where growth occurs and relationships are forged. This post explains what leadership looks like in that space.

Susan Mazza shares her post, It Sounds Great In Theory from her blog Random Acts of Leadership. Just because something “sounds great in theory” doesn’t mean we can immediately implement it. This post explains how to lessen the gap between theory and action.
Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire talks about change in her blog in her post Seeing resistance? Look inside yourself. Resistance to change is normal. When leaders notice it, the tendency might be to push harder. Mary Jo suggests an alternative.

Randy Conley shares two key factors of high performance that are completely under your control. If you’re a leader, you’ll want to see how these two factors relate to the people you manage. Two Things Your Boss Should Never Have to Talk to You About from his blog, Leading With Trust

Performance Management

HR Bartender, Sharlyn Lauby, provides a step-by-step guide to coaching an employee in her post, HOW TO: Have a Performance Conversation with an Employee

Joel Garfinkle shares Have to Let Someone Go? Follow These Tips to Make it as Painless as Possible in his Career Advancement Blog.

Career

Mary Ila Ward of The Point, Sound Advice for Career and Leadership Development shares her post, Know your Value. Part of a series of posts on personal leadership, this post discusses the importance of leaders in knowing and establishing their value in the workplace.

Learning

Julie Winkle Giulioni of juliewinklegiulioni.com writes about Unpacking Learning. Leaders dedicate considerable effort to engineer training and development opportunities their employees. The problem is that completing the experience leaves the work half done. The real benefit comes when we help others unpack the learning from the experiences they have.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog writes about The Art of Discovery. It’s a video with George Box explaining the importance of directed experimentation with informed observers to improve performance.

David Burkus of LDRLB shares Why Learning from failure Works Better When Others Fail. There are definitely positive lessons to be learned from failure, but new research suggests that the failure of others might be a better source of learning than our own short-comings or mis-steps.

Neal Burgis, Ph.D. talks about Leaders Over Using Their Strengths in his Practical Solutions Blog. Anyone who has ever driven a car knows blind spots are potentially lethal. This holds true in leading business organizations as well as on the road. Are you aware of your strengths and how to use them to your advantage without overusing them? Do you recognize your strengths & how you use them?

Change

Steve Roesler of All Things Workplace  shares his post Earn Your “Change Chips” Early. When it comes time to ask your people to make a significant change, have you earned enough “chips” to be heard and trusted?

Miki Saxon of MAPping Company Success http://mappingcompanysuccess.com shares her post Ducks in a Row: 7 Steps to Change. When you want to create change, whether of culture, process or something else, there are seven steps you need to follow whether you are CEO or a first line supervisor.

Culture

Chris Young of the Human Capital Strategy Blog asks Are You Creating an Avoidance Culture? Perhaps you have worked for a boss who was difficult to approach – a person you actually came to avoid. Chris offers ways to avoid a culture of avoidance.

Linda Fisher Thornton shares 15 Ways to Encourage Moral Growth in Leadership in her blog, Leading in Context. She has compiled a list of 15 things that we can do in our organizations to encourage ethical awareness and moral growth. These elements can be applied as part of ongoing leadership development in any organization.

Organizational culture guru S. Chris Edmonds outlines three “what” questions that can help you get traction on desired culture changes on his Blog Driving Results Through Culture. See Get Traction on Your Desired Culture

Lisa Kohn of The Thoughtful Leaders Blog presents Conflict is Good-5 Ways to Make It Even Better! She presents a few simple, but not so easy, steps to take that can help make conflict more effective and productive.

Erin Schreyer of ErinSchreyer.com shares Three Crucial Ingredients for Leadership Success. Regardless of your position, title or experience, you need these ingredients to excel.

That concludes the Leadership Development Carnival For May. The June Leadership Development Carnival will be hosted by Dan McCarthy on June 3rd.

Teaching Your Team Executive Presence: The Green Jacket Effect

Executive presence is not just for executives. Your team must learn to tell their story. You can help.

A Familiar Story

You want your team to perform well in front of senior leadership. They’ve practiced their elevator speeches. But, when the exec shows up, they get nervous and eat their shoe. Nerves block circulation. Frightened tongues babble. Your phone rings and you spend the next 20 minutes explaining that Joe really is smarter than he looks—damaging your credibility while trying to salvage his.

Even frontline teams need to learn executive presence.

Executive Presence Simplified

In my world, executives spend lots of time in the field observing and talking to teams— mostly unannounced. It’s a great way to stay close to the business.

They look for knowledge, service, culture and execution.

One of my teams was notorious for “bad visits.” Until, almost overnight the visits got better. Results improved. Reputations were saved.

I took the leader to lunch. “Every visit’s been great! What changed?” He smiled, ‘it’s the green jacket effect.”

“I’ve been practicing with the team. We have all the store managers take turns visiting one another’s stores wearing a really ugly green jacket. The jacket triggers a simulation of an executive visit. Whoever is wearing the green jacket is to be treated like the executive visitor. We practice controlling the story. Practice helps. They are less nervous. They can now explain their results, articulate their action plans, and recognize their best performers. It’s an elevator speech on steroids.”

Tips for a Great Green Jacket Experience

  • Greet them proactively with a firm handshake (demonstrate that you’re glad they came)
  • Proactively explain your numbers and the reasons behind them
  • Start with your opportunities and articulate key actions
  • Share your creative approaches to implementing key initiatives
  • Introduce them to other employees, and share something unique each person is doing
  • Recognize a few people for their “wow” contributions
  • Talk about your challenges and how they can help
  • Share ideas for improved processes and how you are pursuing them
  • Take active notes on all suggestions
  • Send a thank you email summarizing all follow-up items

10,000 Human Beings

Fred’s Story

Fred (not his real name) has a beautiful habit. Every time we discuss a strategy, policy, or project, he stops and asks about the “human beings.” His words are transformative. Fred doesn’t speak of “resources,” “headcount” “people” “employees” or even “team members.” He talks about humans.

Fred Asks…

  • “How will this change impact the human beings in that center?”
  • “Will this system be hard for 400 human beings to learn in 3 days?”
  • “What information do these human beings need to be successful?”
  • “How much time can we give these 800 human beings to look for a new job?”
  • “How will those 12 human beings react to our decision.”
  • “Is this the right thing to do as a human being?

Lessons From Fred

It’s not semantics. It’s people. Words change conversations– every time.

I’m entrusted with 10,000 human beings, not human resources.

I must…

  • slow down
  • ask better questions
  • learn who they are
  • tell them more
  • inspire
  • lead better

We must…

Pause. Think deeper. Put ourselves in their shoes. Think about our friends in similar situations. Personalize our leadership. Be a human being leading human beings.