Culture Matters: Build Your Own Oasis (BYOO)

It’s tempting to blame your leadership problems on the bigger culture. You may even be tempted to let the “if onlys” creep it.

My Team Would Be

  • More engaged: “if only we paid our part-timers like Starbucks
  • Able to delight customers: “if only we had more lenient satisfaction policies like Zappos”
  • More creative: “If only I could give them 20% of their time to work on anything they want like Google.”
  • Absent less: “if only we let them where shorts and sing silly songs like Southwest.”

Create A Cultural Oasis

Learn about great cultures, but then get to work right where you are. You can create a cultural oasis within the most challenging contexts.

After reading Leading The Starbucks way, I called Joseph Michelli to get his view. I asked, what if you’re not the CEO, or even head of HR. Is it possible to create an oasis of great culture within the larger context. His response, a resounding YES!

“Take your small spot in the organization and make it great. Do the right thing despite the organization’s weak points. Your great results will make a difference. People will notice what works and seek to replicate it.”

Many of the principles that made Starbucks a great cultural and financial success will work for teams and departments as well no matter if you’re working with external or internal customers. Here’s a few:

  • Observe and interact with your perspective employee to determine whether they are eager, teachable, and authentically interested in others. Look beyond the normal interview and watch how they interact as a human being.
  • When front-line staff members are passionate about your products, they build interest and excitement on the part of your customers. Get your products in the hands of your people and let them play.
  • Rituals are powerful ways to create a common bond, inspire commitment and innovation. Ccreate unique rituals that make team members feel they are part of something magical.
  • Complaints are opportunities to both re-engage customers/employees and demonstrate integrity; strong leaders look for ways to encourage customers/employees to share their concerns (be a role model for seeking out constructive feedback from customers and employees).
  • Good leaders provide uplifting moments for those who uplift customers. Make a big deal over the right behaviors.
  • Seek to be in relationships (not transactions) with customers and employees– take a long-term view
  • Make work an experience.

Don’t wait for your world to change, change your world. Learn about great cultures, and then build your cultural oasis. Achieve results and your culture will be contagious.

The True Story Of Thanksgiving

“That’s not my Thanksgiving story,” Sam confided as we watched the joyous reunions of families with kids returning from college.

“I came home from college to find my room now had a crib with a new baby. My bed had been moved to the unfinished basement. The message was clear. I never came back, and my mom was fine with that. She moved on.”

His heartbreaking story stands in stark contrast to his life today. He’s an amazing guy with a cool wife, interesting and well-adjusted kids, and a successful business.

“To give thanks in solitude is enough. Thanksgiving has wings and goes where it must go. Your prayer knows much more about it than you do.”
~ Victor Hugo

His sad Thanksgiving story reads differently when you ask him for the other side. That narrative is a story of self-reliance, triumph, and gutsy determination. From that lens, his anger and resentment fueled his passion to build a great family and meaningful friendships. I don’t know his mom’s story, but it’s complex too. Narratives find gratitude in the midst of pain.

The True Story of Thanksgiving

All versions are true. All real. All powerful. We all have Thanksgiving chapters we would rather have skipped. Stories of pain. Stories of building fortitude.

The Thanksgiving
  • after the diagnosis
  • mid-divorce
  • during the layoff
  • in Iraq
  • alone
  • of the accident
  • when you’re just not breaking through
  • our kids were in trouble

Those stories have multiple narrations. It’s hard to feel the growing, when the growing is tough. But it’s there. Every member of your team has stories too, and interpretations.

I wish for you a Thanksgiving filled with gratitude in the midst of your complicated story. May your leadership have the patience to build on great stories. As you turn the page, consider the best narration for all involved.

Namaste.

how do I build trust with my BPO strategic partners

12 Components Of Trusted Strategic Partnerships

“But how do you KNOW our BPO vendors will follow-through, if we don’t put it in the contract?” I looked at my COO assuredly, “because they told me they would.”

“But what if they DON’T?, my boss continued.

“If they don’t do what they say, we’ve got much bigger problems than this metric. That would be a breach of our trusted partnership we’ve worked so hard to build over the last 2 years.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for writing great contracts. Over the last few years, I’ve learned the intricacies of this fine art and always start with a great contract– focused on incenting what matters most.

But I also know the minute you have to refer to the contract explicitlyk, you’re in trouble.

To achieve results create deeply connected, transparent, mutually beneficial relationships.

What Makes A Partner Trustworthy?

The Trust Across America built a quantifiable business case for trust, aggregating data based on FACTS

  • Financial stability and strength
  • Accounting conservativeness
  • Corporate governance
  • Transparency
  • Sustainability

What was not included in the model was my favorite part of their crowdsourced book, Trust Inc: Strategies For Building Your Companies Assets, Be Thoughtful.

“If your company is serious about increasing trustworthiness, consider engaging all of your stakeholders in rich thoughtful conversations. Don’t approach them as constituencies to be maneuvered, managed or massaged. Instead, view them as vital contributors to a better organization by letting them into the conversation. To be a thoughtful company with a thoughtful strategy, trust for stakeholders must be thoughtful.”

When I spoke with Barbara she shared that leadership is “tough to measure.” But leadership and relationships will make or break a company’s success. Trust translates to contracts, winning the deal and new business.

As leader of a Strategic Partnership Channel (formerly known as the vendor management organization) I offer big, un-written, and un-articulated rules that work best in our strategic partnerships. These norms apply to both sides of the relationship. I start and end relationships based on trust.

12 Keys to Trusted Strategic Partnerships

  1. Really understand one another’s business
  2. Invest in connecting as human beings beyond the business role
  3. Know how you each make money
  4. Tell the truth (even when it’s awkward, embarrassing, or could cost you business)
  5. Don’t commit to more than you can do well (repeat this one 3 times)
  6. Don’t play games… EVER
  7. Don’t wine and dine… the best deals are done over chopsticks or a long walk
  8. Lose some battles, admit when you’re wrong
  9. Let logic prevail, even when contracts are on “your side”
  10. Don’t sweat the small stuff
  11. Think long-term
  12. Reward trusted partnerships with more business/effort

This list applies to business partnerships and just about any partnership you can think of. Please share your views.

Transferable Skills: Yes,You’re Qualified

You want to try something new, but it’s scary. Transferable skills sound great in theory, but when it’s a major career change, it’s hard to know.

A Story of Transferable Skills

Joseph Henley was a rock star customer service consultant on my team. As we met to talk career, his passion for International relations was palpable. As I listened to his story, I knew there was only one thing to say:

“Joseph, I’m hearing your heart calling you elsewhere. I will help you broaden your experience and build your skills. But as much as I would hate to lose you, what I’d hate more is for you to not follow your dreams.”

He followed his heart, sold his belongings, and moved overseas. Yesterday, he wrote me a follow-up note. He noticed what mattered to him and found a way to leverage his transferable skills. Here’s his story.

Transferable Skills & Transformation: A Guest Post From Joseph Henley

I was eating lunch at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). My friends from Pakistan, Ethiopia, Thailand and I were discussing the protests in the streets outside the compound. The anti-government anger is seething and there is talk of a coup. The conversation tilts toward a discussion of whether the dictators throughout the world are good or evil? Though oft decried as evil, they can also bring stability to economies, order, civil services, and education.

It seems impossible that just a few months earlier I was at my desk drafting proposals for team meetings and rushing to conference calls. The world of business seems so far away from the new realities of International relations.

But was it really?

While building my career in the domestic business arena I heard many people discuss the benefit of transferable skills. Find them, nurture them and respect them. Though I have left the world of business, I now see clearly the vital importance of such inconspicuous, transferable skills.

I am grateful to have had leaders who helped me discover and build on these strengths: Notice your gifts, they’ll play well in unlikely contexts.

Soft Power/Influence – As I spend more time immersing myself in this new arena of International Relations, Diplomacy and Foreign Policy, I am reminded ever more of what the power of influence really is. Often times in a bilateral or multilateral relationship one has to tread lightly to not offend or potentially eliminate valuable global relationships, and find just the right words when there is no dotted line of direct authority.

This related so clearly to my interoffice experiences. Many times I found myself in informal arenas of influence over water cooler conversations, asides in meetings, or elevator speeches with the powers that be. This skill is uniquely relevant to my new future pursuits.

Embracing Change – Every day in business I heard about “embracing change.” We were constantly changing our approach to ensure great customer satisfaction coupled with other business results.  In my studies, I’m on the move, traveling to a new location every two months. This provides a constant refresh on my professors available for assistance and advice and new libraries or school policies to learn. For example in Vienna, Austria I had full writing center staff, library assistants, computer lab assistants plus admins for each professor giving me pretty liberal access to the help when I needed it, but here in Bangkok Thailand, my campus consists of three rooms. The ‘library’ is a bookshelf, and the ‘computer lab’ is two desktops.

This pattern of change would be difficult to adjust to but I feel my time in the world of business ’embracing change’ on a daily helps me face this with vigor.

Goals & Results – While I thought I might be leaving the roles of numbers and results behind me I soon found that more than anything this key critical element of business is needed constantly. The goals I have set upon completion of this program, but will be tangibly affected by the amount of effort I put into positive networking, experience gathering and knowledge building.

My ROI is the impact on my future.

The tour is over, and though the dictator debate is quieted for now, I know there will be many more to come. I move with my group, turning in our visitor badges, relinquishing our rights to be on International property. The world of business does not seem so far behind me in my new world of international relations and preparation for diplomacy. In fact, I smile as I note that there will be many more transferable skills to discover in the days to come.

Transferable Skills: Yes,You're Qualified

You want to try something new, but it’s scary. Transferable skills sound great in theory, but when it’s a major career change, it’s hard to know.

A Story of Transferable Skills

Joseph Henley was a rock star customer service consultant on my team. As we met to talk career, his passion for International relations was palpable. As I listened to his story, I knew there was only one thing to say:

“Joseph, I’m hearing your heart calling you elsewhere. I will help you broaden your experience and build your skills. But as much as I would hate to lose you, what I’d hate more is for you to not follow your dreams.”

He followed his heart, sold his belongings, and moved overseas. Yesterday, he wrote me a follow-up note. He noticed what mattered to him and found a way to leverage his transferable skills. Here’s his story.

Transferable Skills & Transformation: A Guest Post From Joseph Henley

I was eating lunch at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). My friends from Pakistan, Ethiopia, Thailand and I were discussing the protests in the streets outside the compound. The anti-government anger is seething and there is talk of a coup. The conversation tilts toward a discussion of whether the dictators throughout the world are good or evil? Though oft decried as evil, they can also bring stability to economies, order, civil services, and education.

It seems impossible that just a few months earlier I was at my desk drafting proposals for team meetings and rushing to conference calls. The world of business seems so far away from the new realities of International relations.

But was it really?

While building my career in the domestic business arena I heard many people discuss the benefit of transferable skills. Find them, nurture them and respect them. Though I have left the world of business, I now see clearly the vital importance of such inconspicuous, transferable skills.

I am grateful to have had leaders who helped me discover and build on these strengths: Notice your gifts, they’ll play well in unlikely contexts.

Soft Power/Influence – As I spend more time immersing myself in this new arena of International Relations, Diplomacy and Foreign Policy, I am reminded ever more of what the power of influence really is. Often times in a bilateral or multilateral relationship one has to tread lightly to not offend or potentially eliminate valuable global relationships, and find just the right words when there is no dotted line of direct authority.

This related so clearly to my interoffice experiences. Many times I found myself in informal arenas of influence over water cooler conversations, asides in meetings, or elevator speeches with the powers that be. This skill is uniquely relevant to my new future pursuits.

Embracing Change – Every day in business I heard about “embracing change.” We were constantly changing our approach to ensure great customer satisfaction coupled with other business results.  In my studies, I’m on the move, traveling to a new location every two months. This provides a constant refresh on my professors available for assistance and advice and new libraries or school policies to learn. For example in Vienna, Austria I had full writing center staff, library assistants, computer lab assistants plus admins for each professor giving me pretty liberal access to the help when I needed it, but here in Bangkok Thailand, my campus consists of three rooms. The ‘library’ is a bookshelf, and the ‘computer lab’ is two desktops.

This pattern of change would be difficult to adjust to but I feel my time in the world of business ’embracing change’ on a daily helps me face this with vigor.

Goals & Results – While I thought I might be leaving the roles of numbers and results behind me I soon found that more than anything this key critical element of business is needed constantly. The goals I have set upon completion of this program, but will be tangibly affected by the amount of effort I put into positive networking, experience gathering and knowledge building.

My ROI is the impact on my future.

The tour is over, and though the dictator debate is quieted for now, I know there will be many more to come. I move with my group, turning in our visitor badges, relinquishing our rights to be on International property. The world of business does not seem so far behind me in my new world of international relations and preparation for diplomacy. In fact, I smile as I note that there will be many more transferable skills to discover in the days to come.

The Secret To Communicating With Executives

Without executive support your project will fail. You need funding, headcount, and time. Your team’s counting on you to manage up well. You’re looking for the secret sauce to convince your boss. Start by avoiding these 5 mistakes.

5 Big Mistakes When Communicating with Executives

  1. Over Confidence – Executives are suspicious of rose-colored glasses. Water down you exuberant optimism. If it’s going great, speak to “early positive indicators.” or about being “cautiously optimistic.” Throw in a few things you’re worried about for good measure. Execs like to worry. Throw them a bone.
  2. Lack Of Confidence – Don’t send him to bed at night worrying if you’re the right guy for the job. Show up strong and knowledgeable. Listen to his questions carefully and share your expertise. Balance accomplishments with plans to resolve your biggest concerns.
  3. Over Disclosure – Tell the truth elegantly, and then shut up. You know a lot, avoid the temptation to prove it. You don’t want that exec getting involved in minutia. Unless you’re a big fan of more readouts and escalations, share what’s relevant and move on.
  4. Forgetting To Breathe – The tendency to spew will undermine your credibility. I’ve been in more than one exec review where the speaker was instructed to “take a breath.” Pause for questions. Make it a conversation.
  5. Ignoring The Ask – Even if they don’t ask, have an ask. Execs want to contribute, but aren’t sure where to jump in. They’ll feel better, and you’ll get what you need.

The Secret

The secret to executive communication is credibility. Work on building trust and connection in every interaction. Trusted advisors build a track record of solid decisions and successful projects. Layer on appropriate confidence and carefully crafted words, and your project and relationship will prosper.

Stack Ranking Performance Management Systems

My boss’ voice was visibly shaken on the other end of the phone. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered. “We have too many ‘leadings’ this year. You won’t be able to rate your top performer leading, or give her the extra pay.”

“What?” I was shocked. This woman had a hell of year. Plus, I had only submitted one name at that level. “How can that be?, I questioned, still stunned.

“Well you see, I’ve rated you as leading and that counts in the same bucket. It’s either you or her.

“Then let it be her, I responded.” This was unfair but if it was going to be unfair, let it be for me, not her. I’ll have another shot next year.

“No way. It’s done. The forms are submitted. You need to stop arguing. We’ll find another way to ensure she’s recognized.

Scenarios such as this play out in companies every day. Stack ranking performance management systems force leaders to choose between top performers, leaving a wake of frustration and disappointment.

Why More Companies Should Follow Microsoft

Last week the world echoed with virtual high-fives as Microsoft announced the abolishment of their stack ranking performance management system. Marissa Mayer received equally intense grief as Yahoo put one in place. It’s estimated that 30% of Fortune 500 companies still use stack ranking.

I’ve written before about making the best of such systems, inspiring a vision that motivates sacrifice, defining “extraordinary” as behaviors as well as results, involving the team in the evaluation. If you’re stuck in such a system, you must work it well to keep your team highly motivated. I’ve been there, done these things. But this is duck tape on a broken system.

Stack ranking is most destructive when you’ve:

  • attracted a team of rock stars
  • built extraordinary teamwork
  • managed out your lowest performers throughout the year (such systems can actually encourage holding on to poor performers until review time)
  • been given a stack rank curve to achieve at a micro-level
  • accomplished groundbreaking results

The strongest leaders with the strongest results are the victims of such systems.

And so I encourage our LGL community to share their perspectives and stories. Let’s make a timely ruckus. If this resonates, please share your story or opinion. Make up a name if you wish; just enrich the conversation, either way. 

PS: If you know others who would be enriched from, or enrich this community, please encourage them to subscribe. Every day we grow more interesting thanks to each of you.

A greata lternative to the stack rank: The Crowd Sourced Performance Review (download a free chapter).

Grateful For Gratitude: November Frontline Festival

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, November’s Frontline Festival is about forms of Gratitude. I am grateful for my amazing colleagues and subscribers for your contributions and comments. Please comment at the bottom of this post, as we celebrate our gratitude together: What are you most grateful for this Thanksgiving?

How to Give Thanks and Praise

Frank SonnenbergFrank Sonnenberg Online, offers Ways to Say You Care There are many ways to say that you care. This free, downloadable poster provide some clever examples. Follow Frank @FSonnenberg.

Matt McWilliams, Life. Leadership. Love. Learned the Hard Way, brings us How to Write a Thank You Note  The title says it all. Some people are intimidated by writing great thank you notes…but Matt will show you how. In fact, Matt is offering a free ebook on Gratitude. Follow Matt @MattMcWilliams2.

Dan McCarthy, Great Leadership, shares 10 Questions and Answers for Managers about Praise  “Praise is one of the most misunderstood, powerful, and underutilized management skills. This post is a reenactment of an actual coaching conversation I had with a manager who sincerely wanted to learn how to praise but didn’t have a clue how to do it.” I love this practical and useful list. Follow Dan @greatleadership.

Tanveer NaseerTanveer Naseer Leadership brings us, How Two Simple Words Can Energize Your Team and Grow Your Business “Research has shown that expressing gratitude is not only a nice thing to do, but that it can fuel employee motivation and drive organizational growth.” Follow Tanveer @TanveerNaseer.

New to the festivalJulie Pierce, Empowered by Pierce, offers  5 Simple Ways to Thank Your Team People are blown away by simple expressions of praise, affirmation and gratitude. This post offers five simple ways to thank your hard-working team. Follow Julie @julie_pierce

David Dye, Trailblaze, brings us, Do They Know? If you lead to bring out the best (not wring out the worst), David suggests that everyone is a volunteer and everything your team does is a gift to be received with gratitude. Follow David @davidmdye.

The State of Gratitude

Mary Jo Asmus,Mary Jo Asmus, shares Being in a state of gratitude Some thoughts on the difference between “thanks” and “gratitude”. My favorite line, “Gratitude requires presence and vigilance to notice.” Follow Mary Jo @mjasmus.

Wally Bock, Three Star Leadership, brings us Say “Thank-you” Gratitude is the secret of a happy life. Follow Wally @Wally BockGratitude copy

Joy and Tom GuthrieVizwerx Group, LLC share their wonderful strategic art (right).

Greg Marcus, The Idol Buster shares Be Grateful for the Good and the Bad  Gratitude in times of trouble brings strength, and puts energy towards the solution. I enjoyed the powerful and poignant stories he shares. Follow Greg @gregmarcus2.

Mike Henry Sr, of Lead Change Group offers Gratitude for Weakness Four ideas about how weaknesses make me humble and a better team member. Mike shares a beautiful exercise worth trying this Thanksgiving. Follow Mike @mikehenrysr

Lisa Kohn, of Thoughtful Leaders Blog, brings us I don’t have to be grateful after today…do I? “Drivenness can work against us, where nothing is quite good enough and we’re never satisfied. Lisa offers thoughts and ideas for keeping the Thanks-giving spirit alive even after the holiday is over. Follow Lisa @ThoughtfulLdrs.

Carrie Koens, Carrie’s Busy Nothings, shares Three Years of Thankfulness  “Looking back over 3 years of daily thankfulness, and how it has changed my outlook and my life.” I invited Carrie to join this festival because I’m always inspired by how she shares her gratitude, daily, through social media. Follow Carrie @CGKoens.

Alli Polin, Break the Frame, shares  Ditch the Stress; Choose Gratitude  She shares how 5 minutes can change your frame around gratitude. Follow Alli @AlliPolin

Also a new to the Festival, Regina Verow, Creatively Conscious, shares How To Change The World One Tiny Step At A Time She shares fantastic suggestions on how each us can make a real difference in the world, including “radical gratitude.” Follow Regina @reginaverow

Grateful For Work

Jennifer Miller, The People Equation, shares My At-Work Gratitude List This post puts a spin on the tried-and-true Gratitude List – by bringing it into the workplace. What are you grateful for at work? Follow Jennifer @JenniferVMiller

Julie Winkle Giulioni, Julie Winkle Giulioni, brings us Context Changes Everything This post starts with gratitude and moves on to discuss how when employees understand the bigger context of the workplace, it can change everything – from how they work to how they feel about their work. Follow Julie @julie_wg

Cheri Essner, Cheri’s Blog, shares, My Project Management Sermon “Why PM resonates to me as a global way of renewing empowerment around the world through the use of our practice.” Follow Cheri @cheriessner

Jon Mertz, Thin Difference, offers Democracy: 5 Ways You Can Make It More Meaningful  “Our democracy gives us so much to be grateful for and, in our gratitude, comes a responsibility to do more and participate in meaningful ways.” Follow Jon @ThinDifference

Family Inspired Stories of Gratitude

John Hunter, Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog, shares Respect for Everyone, inspired by his Father. “He made a big difference to people by improving the management system within which they worked, but what they remembered was the face to face respect he showed to everyone.” Follow John @curiouscat_com

Kimunya Mugo, Lead By Choice shares Gratitude – a Leader’s Hallmark At three o’clock in the morning, our 4 years old daughter called out, “Daddy, I want to go to the toilet!” I did my daddy duty… When I was done, she cheerily said to me, “Thank you daddy.” A wonderful reminder of the power of the simple acts of gratitude.  Follow Kimunya @KimunyaMugo

Bill Benoist, Leadership Heart Coaching, shares his poignant post Holidays and Family. “I like to keep these weekly posts about career and leadership, but sometimes we need to remember family too, especially around the holiday season. Not only remember our family, but the families of those we work with.” Follow Bill @leadershipheart

gratitudeThe December Frontline Festival is about Gifts and Giving (open to interpretation). Submissions due December 13th. Click here to submit your post.

Inspiring Servant Leadership In Kids

Simon says, following the leader, being line leader at school, many of the messages we share about leadership are simple: “I’ll tell you what to do, and you do it.” And if we’re feeling particularly cranky, “because mommy (or daddy) says so, that’s why” may even slip through our lips.

Hardly examples of servant leadership.

We must teach our children early and often about REAL leadership. They must see that servant leadership requires serving, transparency, building up, and helping others to grow.

In Search of Kid’s Servant Leadership Stories

I’m looking to talk to children and youth serving as servant leaders across countries and contexts. I’m equally interested in hearing from grown-ups dedicated to inspiring servant leadership in children and youth.

The tricky part is servant leaders are humble, and may not want to toot their own horn. This is about spreading the word of possibilities and techniques. Bring on the confident humility that will change the world.

Please contact me at letsgrowleaders@gmail.com to share your stories. Thanks for helping us grow the next generation of servant leaders.

You Know You’re A High-Maintenance Leader When…

She doesn’t think she’s high-maintenance. After all, she’s just trying to do her job. In the meantime, eyes roll, stories are shared, the team loses productive time catering to her needs.

“You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.”
~ Harry (When Harry Met Sally)

It’s not all her fault, “that’s the way she likes it” has morphed into “that’s how she must have it.” It works, so she continues to let them cater. 

The team doesn’t seem to mind: “oh it’s no big deal”, “Of course I understand”, “You have so much on your plate”. And more requirements get added to the list. We’ve all got a bit of high-maintenance within us.

High Maintenance Leaders

  • don’t mean to be
  • “pose” just in case someone wants to take a picture
  • work to be “liked” above all else
  • have a different focus goal for every day of the year
  • distribute every leadership book they read as “personal development” assignments
  • relentlessly pester the team about how they can help you succeed.
  • have a motivational saying for every situation
  • won’t take “no” for an answer, even when “no” IS the answer.
  • demand the team provide alternatives with justification, but have no intent to accept any solution different from their own
  • never hear the truth
  • have food brought to them on a regular basis.
  • demand fancy updates and complicated Powerpoints, even when their team is slammed with work
  • triple book their calendar, as a line forms outside their office
  • want the Powerpoints to match their eyes (true story)
  • ________?

Lower Your Maintenance Threshold

Check for signs of high-maintenance in your leadership. Determine what your teams think you “need” and why. If it feels high-maintenance, it is.

  • Start with helpful. Make your team’s job easier.
  • Talk about what you really need and why.
  • Ask what else they think you need. Scratch a bunch off their list.
  • Resist the urge to cater to ridiculous needs for those above. Your team is watching, and think you want such treatment too.
  • Find ways to meet your “maintenance needs” outside of work (hire folks to help.)

A special thanks to the Lead Change, with a special shout-out to John E. Smith, and Harvard Business Review communities for jump-starting this conversation.

You Know You're A High-Maintenance Leader When…

She doesn’t think she’s high-maintenance. After all, she’s just trying to do her job. In the meantime, eyes roll, stories are shared, the team loses productive time catering to her needs.

“You’re the worst kind; you’re high maintenance but you think you’re low maintenance.”
~ Harry (When Harry Met Sally)

It’s not all her fault, “that’s the way she likes it” has morphed into “that’s how she must have it.” It works, so she continues to let them cater. 

The team doesn’t seem to mind: “oh it’s no big deal”, “Of course I understand”, “You have so much on your plate”. And more requirements get added to the list. We’ve all got a bit of high-maintenance within us.

High Maintenance Leaders

  • don’t mean to be
  • “pose” just in case someone wants to take a picture
  • work to be “liked” above all else
  • have a different focus goal for every day of the year
  • distribute every leadership book they read as “personal development” assignments
  • relentlessly pester the team about how they can help you succeed.
  • have a motivational saying for every situation
  • won’t take “no” for an answer, even when “no” IS the answer.
  • demand the team provide alternatives with justification, but have no intent to accept any solution different from their own
  • never hear the truth
  • have food brought to them on a regular basis.
  • demand fancy updates and complicated Powerpoints, even when their team is slammed with work
  • triple book their calendar, as a line forms outside their office
  • want the Powerpoints to match their eyes (true story)
  • ________?

Lower Your Maintenance Threshold

Check for signs of high-maintenance in your leadership. Determine what your teams think you “need” and why. If it feels high-maintenance, it is.

  • Start with helpful. Make your team’s job easier.
  • Talk about what you really need and why.
  • Ask what else they think you need. Scratch a bunch off their list.
  • Resist the urge to cater to ridiculous needs for those above. Your team is watching, and think you want such treatment too.
  • Find ways to meet your “maintenance needs” outside of work (hire folks to help.)

A special thanks to the Lead Change, with a special shout-out to John E. Smith, and Harvard Business Review communities for jump-starting this conversation.

Ready To Be Promoted?

He thinks he’s ready to be promoted. You don’t. You don’t want to crush his spirits, but he’s not listening. He blames you, the system, politics, and that crazy project you gave him last year. He’s a strong performer and a vital member of your team. You know he’ll get there, but only if he listens.

Tell the truth without crushing his soul.

7 Ways to Get Him to Listen

  1. Understand His Perspective – Uncover the source of his inflated perceptions. It’s likely that his strong performance is a factor. Perhaps he’s been told all along that he was on the fast track, and he’s been paying his “dues” through special assignments and maybe even relocation. Get him to share his perspective and offer yours.
  2. Compassionate Straight Talk – Share your point of view and offer support. “You’re not ready now, and here’s why. If you really want this, and are willing to listen and work hard, I’m all in to help.”
  3. Shadowing – Have him hang out with you for a day or two. Don’t hold back. Expose him to the political pressures, the late-night fire drills, the tough decisions. Every time I’ve done that I’ve heard, “I had no idea.” and sometimes, “I don’t want your job.”
  4. Skip Level Meeting – Encourage him to meet with your boss. Have her share what she looks for when hiring at your level. Ask her to share her perceptions on his strengths, and his developmental opportunities.
  5. Stories – Share your own career story. Be open about your disappointments. Help him take the long view.
  6. Expand His Scope – Most promotions involve a substantial increase in scope and scale. Find ways to increase challenge and expose him to broader pressures in his current role.
  7. Tangible Actions – It’s likely he’s heard the feedback before, but it didn’t feel actionable. No one knows what to do with “you lack political savvy.” Much better to say, “let’s work on building 5 new trusted connections in the next 6 months.” Nurturing self-awareness is a gift. Help others to see themselves as others see them. Help them grow into their powerful potential.