5 Reasons I Quit My Day Job to Pursue My Dream

Yup, I really did quit my day job to purse my dream full time. No, this is not an April Fools joke. Although last year’s was fun in case you missed it. I will spend my days helping companies eliminate destructive, energy-sucking leadership practices and instead grow confident, competent and creative leaders at every level.

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

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.

A less than belligerent commitment is a curse.
~ Eric Maisal<?div>

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 some of the behind the scenes decisions that helped turned the dream into reality.

  1. Building A Financial Foundation – When I was in my late twenties with a small baby and a big mortgage, my husband lost his job. My salary could not cover the mortage payment, let alone the other expenses, and our entire savings had gone to the down payment. We ate a lot of noodles. That early experience taught me to never let my lifestyle outgrow my savings. I vowed to save enough that my bags could be “packed,” and not be overly dependent on any company. I shared this philosophy anonymously on Greg Marcus’, Idol Buster blog, in my 2012 post, Bags Packed & Ready To Lead.
  2. Building Genuine Relationships – The most exhilarating part of this journey has been the amazing kindred spirits I’ve met along the way. I have strong leadership values which sometimes leave me swimming upstream. It’s been awesome to connect with other schools of like-minded fish fighting the same battle.
  3. Building On The Basics – For the last 3 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with some amazing human beings in other companies as I’ve led our Strategic Partnership Channel. For the first time, more of my time was spent thinking about other companies and the leaders inside them, than at my own company, and it was FUN!  With an incubator of over 25 call centers and 10,000 human beings, I can now absolutely prove that the centers that are led with fear and pressure can’t sustain results, and some have collapsed.  But when leaders empowere their people, built great cultures, and lead with transparency, the results all trend upward, the scorecards become balanced, and employees care about their work. Great frontline leaders and the systems to support them is the foundation of real success. I’m humbled to have been a part of some amazing turnarounds. I feel called to share these gifts more broadly.
  4. Building Bridges – Read any book on graceful exits and they’ll tell you not to “burn bridges.” What this experience has taught me that the real secret is to build and care for strong bridges throughout your career. Help as many people as you can. Treat everyone you meet with deep respect. Care about the whole person and their scene. I’ve been amazed at how people are surfacing from every stage in my career with offers of help and support. “Let me introduce you to…”, “I can help you build your business plan…”, “My wife and I would be delighted to take vacation and come sell books in the back of your conference.”  Cheerleaders are everywhere with open arms.
  5. Building Confidence – It’s never going to feel like exactly the right time. If I wanted to have been talked out of this, there were plenty offering to do that. The “have you thought about” and “what if” questions could easily have scared me back to security. I finally realized that the real risk would be to not offer the world what I now feel I must give.
We must be willing to be shaken up, to submit ourselves to the dark blossomings of chaos, in order to reap the blessings of growth.
~ -Gregg Levoy, Callings<?div>

Amen. Thank you to my wonderful LGL community who have been a large part of this journey so far. Game on. Stay tuned for more updates on what’s next in the coming weeks. Namaste.

Overcoming An Imperfect Boss

My first book, Overcoming An Imperfect Boss is now on Amazon. I want to express deep gratitude to all in the LGL community who have grown with me in my Imperfections. Your insights are woven throughout this guide.

Why Talk About The Imperfect Boss?

I keep being asked why, of all the leadership topics I write and speak about, I would pick “imperfect bosses” as the topic of my first book. It’s quite simple. The supervisor relationship is the number one predictor of employee engagement and job satisfaction. Yet, most people screw up this powerful association.

The tragedy is that too many people leave the magic of what could be a game-changing relationship untapped. They follow traditional boss-subordinate protocol…they don’t get too close, don’t say too much, and don’t push the envelope. And so bosses come and go, and both parties muddle through. People do their best with the boss they’ve been given. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Some of the bosses who once made me crazy, grew to be lifelong mentors and friends. As I reflect on our journeys, each of these alliances had a transformation point. Something drove one or the other of us crazy, we talked about it, worked through it, and both emerged with a deeper level of respect.

Imperfect Bosses I’ve Known

There was the VP that blew a gasket because of a stupid (yet fixable) mistake one of my employees had made. He screamed and yelled at me just minutes before I had to grab a microphone and give a motivational speech to my entire organization.

I had choices. I could have become rattled and let his poor leadership choice screw up my ability to lead. Instead, I looked him in the eye and calmly shared, “I can see you’re really upset, and I’m sorry. We need to talk through what happened here and address it. But right now, I have hundreds of people waiting for inspiration. So please excuse me.” I turned around and left my office, not sure if I would have a job when I returned.

I gave my speech, fixed the mistake, and his entire demeanor changed. We never did discuss that outburst or what had triggered it. We didn’t need to. This “screamer” never raised his voice to me again, and became one of the best bosses and mentors I’ve ever had.

There was also the time I was running a large sales organization. I knew we needed to change the org structure and invest in additional headcount. I had a tight business case, and had proved-out the trial concept, but my boss was worried about the political ramifications of doing something different than the other Regions.

I told him, “I’m so confident that this will work that if it doesn’t you can fire me.” Of course that was highly risky, and I had to be prepared to walk away. But the depth of my passion and commitment, led him to “yes”.

We blew away the results, and became the best sales team in the Nation in that arena. Others regions followed our model.

The Imperfect Boss I’ve Been

Of course, sometimes I’m the imperfect one in need of reigning in. Not long ago, I was going through a really tough couple of weeks. The cocktail of challenges was impacting our performance. We needed stronger results immediately. I didn’t realize how much my stress showed on the outside. A trusted leader on my team shared bluntly, “You’re changing.”

The words stung with fierce truth. He was right. Succumbing to the leadership squash sandwich, I was taking on familiar, but unwelcome behaviors common in such scenes. I was showing up like the boss I refused to become.

I was worried about our mission, our cause, and our careers. My passion to protect my team had taken on an ironic intensity. My supportive style had morphed into frantic control. I began inviting myself to calls and requiring more rehearsals and executive readouts. Instead of trusting my competent team, I scrutinized each page of every Powerpoint deck.

My efforts to protect them from my stress had backfired. I had stopped leading like me. The words still echoing from the first conversation, my phone rang again. I now knew my team was tag-teaming this intervention.

“I joined this organization because I believe in your leadership. Your rare style works. Stay the course. We believe in you, in us, and the mission. Every one of us has your back. Just tell us what you need.”

There I was, a leader following the intervention of my team. They were coaching me back toward authenticity and it was wonderful.

My team reminded me that:

  • Showing up tough is weak
  • Servant leaders must also receive
  • Great teams hold their leader accountable
  • I want to know the truth
  • Great leaders tell the truth
  • Courage means staying true to your style
  • My team needs me to lead like me

Over the years, I’ve had employees tell me how I’ve hurt their feelings, overlooked their efforts, embarrassed them, or over-reacted. Every one of those conversations has made us stronger, tighter, and more effective.

The most brave of these folks, the men and women that have given me the most stinging (and true) criticism, have grown into the richest relationships.

The Imperfect Boss You’ve Had: Your Turn…

So in the spirit of celebration and community, please share your stories of overcoming. Do what you will to make it comfortable. Disguise the name, make it a story from long, long ago, change the gender, but do share.

Let’s have a celebration of journeys, growth, and imperfection. If you find the book helpful, I’d appreciate your reviews on Amazon to help spread the word. Want to hear a bit more? Click here for some quick video insights.

Hillary Clinton And I Share This Concern

Hillary Clinton’s noticed a pattern in her decades of work developing men and women staffers. As she shared it from the stage at the conference I attended last week, I felt my eyes tear up. Her words articulated a concern I’ve had for years.

“Too many women in too many countries speak the same language — of silence.”
~ Hillary Clinton

When I ask intelligent, articulate, highly qualified women to step up and take on more responsibility or a substantially bigger role, I’m often met with questions.*

“Do you really think I’m ready?”

“Are you sure I’m qualified?”

“How am I going to balance it all”?

In all my years of working with young staffers, NOT ONCE did I hear something like that from a man. Sure men have fears too. They just are less likely to say them out loud. It’s not all women. There’s no one who hates gender stereotypes more than me (and Hillary). But we have enough stories to be concerned. I imagine you do to.

How To Help Strong Leaders Build Confidence

  1. Look past the obvious choice for special assignments – The most qualified candidate for that special project may not be the one banging down your door asking for more. Consider the strong less flashy performers quietly inspiring others to get it done.
  2. Share specifics of why you believe in her – People need help in connecting the dots of their experiences. Articulate why you know they can do what needs to be done.
  3. Debrief wins – Help the leader understand her role in successes as they are happening. It wasn’t just “luck” or the expertise of a “great team.” If her leadership made a difference, explain why.
  4. Encourage confident communication – Point out the words that weaken (“this is probably a bad idea…” “in my feeble mind…”) and encourage power words (“absolutely” “game on” “we’ve got this.”
  5. Teach the art of ignoring stupidity – Many female leaders tend to take scrutiny more personally than men. And sadly, appearances and other superficial characteristics tend to get more focus for women. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, women leaders need rhino skin. And as Hillary added, we still do, we now just have better skin care products to hide it. Help your leaders focus on what matters, and ignore criticism that doesn’t.

*Quote is paraphrased, apologies to Hillary Clinton if it’s not precise…sentiment is spot on.

7 Ways To Spring Your Team Into Spring

Spring is springing. The vortex is melting, and now you sense spring fever coming on…for you and your team. Embrace this season of new growth and possibilities. Making Spring a workplace celebration will help offset the “wish I was outside” blues.

Spring Into Spring

  1. Establish Spring Growth Goals – Challenge your team to a growth spurt before summer. Help each person identify concrete way they will grow in the next 90 days: a special project, a new skill, mentoring someone or finding a mentor. Model the way. Pick your own goal and talk about your challenges and progress.
  2. Hold A Spring Training – Pick an exciting team stretch goal for the team and rally the troops. Hold a “spring training” to get everyone “in shape” to win against this challenge.
  3. Make Work A Game – Challenge another team to a friendly competition that will help both teams stay more focused and have a little fun. Engage in a little trash talk.
  4. Plant Some Seeds – Hold a “seed planting” campaign. Have your team identify other areas of the business (or prospects/customers) where they could plant some “seeds” (e.g. ideas, new relationships, collaborative work) for future growth. Have each person share their seedling idea in a team meeting.
  5. Do Some Spring Cleaning – Have the team pick something specific they can do to improve their work environment: Clean-up their emails, throw away unnecessary files, bring in some flowers, create a motivational display. Even remote teams can engage in a Spring cleaning competition and share their pics.
  6. Give In (a little) – Plan a team picnic lunch outside. Create an after work walking group. Have everyone pick one day they will leave an hour or two early and plan something fun for themselves. Find ways to share what they’ll be doing with their Spring Fever early start. Plan an outside teambuilder, like bird watching over lunch.
  7. Volunteer – Pick a volunteer project you can do as a team. They’ll have a break, grow as a team, and do something for the greater good.

Saying It With Soul #meanit

As part of our Mean It Madness Month I invited Kathryn Cramer to share her approach to speaking with authenticity. Say it with soul.

A Guest Post from Dr. Kathy Cramer

Saying it with soul is about meaning what you say—and saying something meaningful. It’s about putting yourself and your message on the line. It is about showing your skin in the game.

This can be a tall order for leaders, even when the core of their message is something positive. But why?

It Exposes Your Vulnerability – Whenever you communicate what something means to you, you are revealing something important about yourself. You, not your words, are the message. Soul is something you already have—it is your values and beliefs, your character, your mighty cause, your unique, authentic leadership presence in the world. Communicating with soul is a matter of revealing and demonstrating what you already have.

A Sense Of False Modesty – We are socialized not to brag and to view ego as a turn-off. But authentic humility is also about having the confidence to own and express the best of who we are.

You Think That Nobody Cares – Often leaders think their teams are not concerned with what the leaders think is important; people only care about their own well-being. That statement is true. People do care most about their own well-being, but that is why they need to know that their leaders have personal skin in the game. If you are genuinely committed and personally invested in a cause, then it lowers the bar for your team to get on board. People have a built-in Geiger counter as to whether leaders are being true to what they value, and showing your skin in the game creates authenticity over time.

An Exercise

The more aware you are of when you are perceived by others as sincere and authentic, the more intentional you can be about demonstrating those qualities. The following feedback exercise from Lead Positive: What Highly Effective Leaders See, Say, and Do helps increase your awareness of these occasions by seeking feedback from trusted members of your circle.

Identify five people who have regular contact with you. Ask each person to answer the following questions:

  1. Can you remember a time when you felt like I was speaking sincerely and authentically?
  2. What was I talking about?
  3. How could you tell I was being sincere?

The patterns from this sincerity feedback process may surprise you. For instance, one sales executive who prided himself on his self-confidence found out, to his surprise, that it was when he opened up about his struggles that people saw him as most sincere and authentic. His respondents recommended that he reveal his critical thinking process when trying to sell to a potential customer.

For this sales leader, all he needed was the feedback about letting people into his thought process. There was no new skill he needed to develop; it was simply a matter of being more open and transparent. That is precisely what saying it with soul is all about.

7 Sales Skills For Leaders

Sales gets a bad rap. No one wants to be that smooth-talking guy pushing a vacation club or spamming us on LinkedIn. By the way, if you’re that guy, please stop, I will never buy a program from a LinkedIn spammer.

But the truth is, leadership and sales have a lot in common: Inspiring a vision; building genuine relationships; finding creative solutions. Selling well is about caring and helping others achieve what they imagine. Leaders can benefit from honing some of their “sales” skills.

How I Became a Sales Leader

I’d been in HR for years when the Sales VP encouraged me to interview for a Sales Director gig. I was shocked. “Oh, I’ve never done sales…how could I lead a large sales team?” She just laughed, “Karin, you’re selling all the time. You’re constantly convincing us to take time out of the field to invest in leadership and HR programs. Trust me. That’s selling.”

She was right. And as it turns out, leading a team of several thousand sales people was one of my favorite gigs.

Today I find the advice I gave to new sales people useful in developing leaders as well.

7 Leadership Sales Skills

First, recognize that you already know how to sell. You’ve been selling from the very first time you convinced your parents to let you stay up past your bedtime. Think about all you’ve sold in your life, and use that to bolster your confidence.

If the thought of “selling ” your vision, your concept, or your idea sill intimidates you, here are some selling 101 tips that can help.

  1. Be confident in your “product” – If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, your “customer” won’t either. If you find yourself spinning the truth or speaking with strategic ambiguity consider your motives and your leadership. If you don’t buy it, they won’t (and shouldn’t).
  2. Create genuine connection – Relating on a human level and demonstrating that you truly care is much more important than any sales (or leadership) “technique”.
  3. Be truly humbleConfidence without humility will turn off “prospects” every time. False “humility (e.g. stupid self-deprecating remarks will make them gag.)
  4. Ask great questions – Find out what they truly need. Help them clarify their vision based on their scene, not what you’ve got to give. Listen more than you talk.
  5. Focus on helping – Work to find creative solutions that solve people’s problems
  6. Don’t sell past the close – Once the “customer” says yes, say thank you, and wrap it up. Don’t over-stay your welcome

Top 10 Sales Tips for Non Sales Professionals

Start A More Meaningful Conversation #meanit

As the “Mean It” Madness continues, I’m delighted to share insights from sincere people around the world who have reached out to share their stories.

Today’s post is inspired by Cat Willliams a relationship counsellor and author of Stay Calm and Content. She shares how meaningful conversations start by telling yourself the truth.

If you have a story of where saying what you mean made all the difference, click here to share.

Start a More Meaningful Conversation

“He that undervalues himself will undervalue others, and he that undervalues others will oppress them.”
~Samuel Johnson

Many conversations break down because the issue being discussed is not the real issue at hand. Even when people are communicating “well” with “I statements” and the like, if the real issue isn’t surfaced, it can’t be addressed. Much energy is spent in such false dialogue. Truths remain unspoken and the undercurrent of resentment continues.

Cat shared that some of the hardest conversations are those in which we must apologize. It’s tough to admit to ourselves that we’ve done something wrong. It’s even more scary to face potential rejection if the apology is not accepted.

It’s far easier to convince ourselves someone else is to blame, and we start with a solid argument to ourselves. We soothe our egos, and our important apologies remain un-offered. As I heard Cat’s story, my heart tugged with a few folks in need of a call.

Leaders who are insecure are more likely to cover up their fears by limiting feedback and placing blame. What appears tough on the outside, may actually a false barricade to protect a fragile ego.

Cat shares a useful metaphor, if we think of ourselves as a car, our engine is our self-esteem. Many people don’t do the necessary maintenance and upkeep that needs to be done on that engine, and instead choose to focus on the engine’s exhaust, or the symptoms that surface in the form of emotions.

To ensure we’re dealing with the true issues, Cat encourages us to take time, and not rush to communicate. Here are several questions that can help you slow down and start a more meaningful conversation.

  1. What am I really upset about here. Is the issue I’m reacting to the real problem, or is something deeper?
  2. How is my confidence involved in this? Is there something I’m unsure or afraid of that’s making me feel insecure. In other words, am I dealing with the “engine” or the exhaust?
  3. How have my interpretations played into the meaning here?,/li>
  4. Are there other possible interpretations or explanations for what’s happening?
  5. What do I really want from this conversation? What is the best possible outcome?
  6. What is the most effective way to communicate my feelings?
  7. How can I listen so I can really hear what the other person is looking to convey? How can I encourage them to say what they really mean?

To hear my interview with Cat Williams:

 

She also shares additional insights in this video or visit her blog.

Sincerity Experts Share Advice: March Frontline Festival #meanit

This month’s Frontline Festival is an extension of Mean It Madness on Let’s Grow Leaders. You don’t need to be a blogger to share your story. Click here to share how saying what you mean has made all the difference. Thank you Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx for the great feature pic (above). Follow Joy @joy_guthrie.

Speaking with Sincerity & Kindness

Jon Mertz – This Difference, opens the Festival with, Uncomplicated Meaning. At times, we can over-complicated how to mean it. If it is wrapped in meaning, then to “mean it” should be simply natural and real. Follow Jon at @ThinDifference

Matt McWilliams – Life. Leadership. Love. Learned the Hard Way, brings us Why I Hate the Feedback Sandwich and What to do About It. Feedback is intended for one reason: to cause the desired future behavior, by either reinforcing a good one or correcting a bad one. It’s best to keep it simple and sincere. Follow Matt @MattMcWilliams2

Kate Nasser – Smart SenseAbilitiesTM, shares Leadership Sincerity: Are You Leading w/ Honesty & Civility? How can leaders say what they mean and mean what they say without insulting people or crushing morale? Here are 6 key steps from The People Skills Coach™ to engage others w/ honesty, authenticity AND civility. Leaders, be real not rude. Follow Kate @KateNasser

Jennifer Miller – The People Equation, offers THINK: 15 Ideas to Help You Talk Less and Listen More. Before you say what you mean, be sure your words aren’t mean. Jennifer offers up four questions to ask yourself before you open your mouth so that the conversation will be productive and encouraging. Follow Jennifer @JenniferVMiller

Bill Benoist Leadership Heart Coaching, brings us Active Listening One of the greatest gifts we can give another person is our undivided attention. When we focus on what the other person is saying rather than forming a response as the person is speaking, we are letting the individual know we value what he or she has to say. Follow Bill @leadershipheart

Julie Pierce – Empowered by Pierce, shares Say What You Mean to Say: A lesson in sincere leadership Excellent leaders are overflowing with integrity and sincerity. Leadership Coach Julie Pierce shares a lesson on sincere leadership. Follow Julie @julie_pierce.

Bernie NagleZunZhong,  shares Speak With The V.O.I.C.E. Of Sincerity Credibility is the currency of Leadership. Draw the account down too far and you risk losing your team…and your job. A simple tool to help your remember how to use your VOICE.Follow Bernie @altrupreneur

Jon HunterCurious Cat Management Improvement Blog, brings us Respect for People Doesn’t Mean Avoiding Any Hint of Criticism Personal attacks are not useful. Attacking bad practices and bad thinking is showing respect for people. An environment that is so emotionally immature that criticism of bad practices and ideas is seen as disrespectful is an environment that is in need of improvement. Follow Jon @curiouscat_com

Wally Bock Three Star Leadership, shares Gentle Honesty Brutal honesty is supposed to be a good thing. Gentle honesty is better. Follow Wally @WallyBock

The Dangers of Insincerity

Chery Gegelman – of Simply Understanding Blog shares her post, The greatest opportunity for improvement and competitive advantage John was offered a position with another company. He accepted the position and relocated to take the job. In his first week in the new job John receives multiple warnings from co-workers and community members questioning the authenticity and sincerity of the people and the organization he is now employed with. What would you do? Follow Chery @GianaConsulting

Mike Henry Sr. – Founder of the Lead Change Group, shares Sincerity and Office Politics.  Trust lubricates relationships and makes organizations and teams effective. This post outlines 6 ways to shore up trust and sincerity in a team or organization. Follow Mike @mikehenrysr

Eric DinglerEricdingler.com, shares The Most Important Leadership Lesson You Can Learn A quick look at the leadership axiom; More Is Caught Than is Taught and how it plays out in personal, family and workplace leadership. Follow Eric @familylifeuni

Scott MambryElumn8, shares Stop Playing Leadership Hide and Seek The unfortunate thing about hide and seek in organizations is that leaders are often the main perpetrators. Follow Scott @scott_elumn8

New to the Festival, Herwig W Dierckx, Great Business Life Stories,  shares Medieval consultant jargon. A funny story on the over-use of business buzzwords and corporate jargon; in the hope to convince the reader to move to more authentic and clear leadership communication. Follow Herwig @HWDierckx.

Being Sincere With Yourself

 Alli Polin Break the Frame, offers Find the Courage to Be Yourself Too many people seem to have a game face and think that if everyone is playing the game, they have no other choice. Why not say what you mean and show the world who you are? Follow Alli @AlliPolin

Tom EakinBoomLife- Values Driven Success, shares Hey Leaders! What Do You Want? Want to lead an organization where people do great things? First, you need to understand what great things you’re willing to do and, more importantly, why. Follow Tom @goboomlife

Living an Integrated and Ethical Life

Jesse Lyn Stoner – of Jesse Lyn Stoner Blog, shares Your Greatest Source of Influence, Your character is your greatest source of influence, no matter what your role or position. Follow Jesse @JesseLynStoner

Barbara KimmelTrust Across America, shares, Ten Trust Busters Are your actions ethical? What impact are they having on others? Is unethical behavior just “business as usual?” Follow Barbara @BarbaraKimmel

Skip Prichard Leadership Insights, shares Do What You Say You’re Going to Do  What’s one trait that all successful people have in common? They do what they say they will do. Whether a small thing or a big one, consistently doing what you say you will do is the foundation of success. Follow Skip @SkipPrichard

New to the festival, Bob Whipple, The Trust Ambassador brings us , 7 Ways to Improve Your Integrity Before we can learn to trust others, we must learn to trust ourselves. Sounds simple, but many people exhibit low integrity in their own life. Follow Bob, @Rwhipple

Linda Fisher Thornton – Leading in Context, shares Developing Globally Responsible Leaders Developing leaders who are sincerely committed to and capable of fulfilling their responsibilities as global citizens. Follow Linda @LeadinginContxt


Call For Submissions: April Frontline Festival.  April’s Theme is Employee Engagement. New participants welcome. Click here for more information.

Leave Your Burdens At The Door

No one “forgets” their cancer diagnosis, their sick mother, their midterm exams, their custody battle, their abusive relationship. And yet, one of the most frequently uttered phrases in call centers is to instruct reps to “leave their home burdens at home, they won’t help you serve our customers.”

I get it, but I refuse to say it. The truth is, I don’t believe life works that way. Asking employees to “forget” that they’re a human being with burdens and fears does not help them to be more productive.

Sure, no one calls into a call center to hear someone else’s troubles, and we certainly don’t want suffering translating to bad moods and nasty service. But real connection between leaders and employees (burdens and all) creates richer relationships and yes, better productivity.
I don’t know anyone who’s successfully shoved their burdens down indefinitely and showed up brilliant, energized, and ready to connect full-on.

What If You Could See Their Burdens?

“Be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”
~Plato

(maybe… see other options)

My sister, a Speech Pathologist and Director of Rehab in a hospital, uses this short video to reinforce empathy with staff, Empathy, The Human Connection to Patient Care. Anyone who’s ever walked down a hospital hallway with their burdens can relate.

The truth is, this story exists across every organization, in every hallway and in every meeting. If your team members wore their burdens on their sleeves what would they say?

  • What’s the cost of not knowing your team members burdens?
  • How can you understand your employees, without understanding what weighs most heavy in their hearts?
  • What opportunities do you have for a bit more connection and kindness?

Team members may push their concerns down for a minute, but human beings need connection. Sure there’s HR and great Employee Assistance Programs (EAP),” those are necessary, but not sufficient. I’m not suggesting creating co-dependency or assuming parenting roles, just a bit deeper level of listening, empathy, and connected-solutions.

The best opportunity for real connection starts at the team leader level. Begin with connection and understanding, then bring in reinforcements as needed.

5 Ways To Give Without Getting Taken

You want to be a team player, but the more you give, the more folks take– without offering much in return. It’s not that you’re keeping score, but you’ve noticed a pattern, and you know something’s wrong.

You look around and realize that others seem to have more balanced relationships. But there you are, once again, left feeling like a sucker. If this sounds like you or someone you love, read on. Some of the best givers I know get taken. It doesn’t have to be that way.

How to Give Without Getting Taken

  1. Continue With Generosity – Although this sounds counter-intuitive since that’s what got you into this mess to start with, don’t lose that giving feeling. I’ve seen over-givers swing their defenses too far in the other direction. They put up their guard, and miss the beautiful relationships and productivity that comes from balanced giving and receiving. Don’t keep giving to takers, but stay open to the possibilities the rest of the world has to offer.
  2. Exude Confident, Humility – Don’t be cocky, but do be confident. Other leaders admire and respect peers who show up strong and open. Showing up weak makes you an easy target for takers. Radiate the same respect for yourself as you give to others.
  3. Articulate Your Feelings – Over-givers have a tendency to give until it hurts, but not talk about the pain. Resentment secretly builds and sucks out necessary energy. Letting someone take advantage of you weakens leadership– yours and theirs. Teach people how you want to be treated. Usually these conversations have to do with boundaries. It’s not a matter of if you want to help, but when and how much. I’ve seen many cases where people are shocked when an over-giver suddenly erupts with pushed down emotion, after appearing to be “happy to help.”
  4. Question Your Motives – Without getting to deep into psychology here, if you’re repeating an over-giving pattern, consider what you’re “gaining” from all the giving. Are you a people-pleaser looking for affirmation? Are you feeling insecure about your place on the team? Getting clear on the underlying issues will go a long way toward building more balanced relationships.
  5. Ask For What You Need – It’s easy to assume that others know what we need and how they can help. Tell your teammates how they can be most helpful to you. Ask for what you need, and don’t be afraid to receive the support. You may be surprised at how relieved your teammates feel when they finally have a concrete way to return the favor.
“Sometimes, teams are moving so fast and are so focused on results, they don’t take time to talk as a team about what’s happening,” says leadership expert Karin Hurt, author of the blog Let’s Grow Leaders. If no one is articulating their feelings and everything seems to be going great, says Hurt, negative patterns get embedded and can be hard to reverse.”
~ Karin Hurt, Founder of Lets Grow Leaders

When Passive Aggressive Meets The Truth #meanit

He was the poster-child for passive aggressive (at least that’s my side of the story). In an effort to keep the peace, I’d tried to shake it off. I’d kept my mouth shut, and encouraged my team to take the “high road.”.But the high road was getting bumpier with time.

I realized I needed to take a bit of my own advice; but frankly, I was worried about the political ramifications.

And then the best kind of truth-telling realization. What kind of role model am I if I advocate for ditching the diaper genie, only when it feels safe? I had to address the scene.

I had to address the scene.

I confronted Mr. Passive Aggressive. I shared my concern about the tenor of his emails, the endless digging for problems, the data sent over my head without a chance to review… Calmly, carefully, but truthfully. And held my breath. My truth.

We connected and he responded. Of course, he didn’t MEAN to come across that way, after all, he’s just trying to help. We’re all in this together. His truth.

There was my window: “I would LOVE your help…THIS is what would be most helpful”. We spent over an hour discussing our common concerns and joint goals. We got specific on what matters most and how we could help one another. Our truth.

Then he shared with surprising candor, “But I have to say. I can’t change the way I communicate. My emails are not intended to be aggressive, I just get really fired up. This is how I communicate with everyone.” His truth.

Somehow that statement also felt like progress.

I responded, “Thank you for letting me know so I’ll be prepared. Here’s what I can assure you, I will never send you an email with that tone.” My truth.

You guessed it. The tone has improved. All the other support we discussed is playing out. The business is better off. We’re both in a better place.

When we respond by being passive, we quietly encourage continued aggression.

6 Ways to Deal with Passive Aggressive Behavior at Work

Ditch the Diaper Genie– I’ll never know if he was really “just trying to help” or if there was an ulterior motive. I’ve decided that just doesn’t matter. When your gut tells you somethings wrong, something’s wrong, even if it’s just a miscommunication. Truth speaking encourages a truthful response, even if it’s not something we want to hear.  Better to get it all out in the open.

Listen to Understand- Somethings going on underneath that wacky behavior. Do your best to understand the person and their scene. Get to know them as a fellow human being. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they’re doing the best they can.

Take the High Road – Taking the high road has nothing to do with rolling over or shutting down. It’s about not emulating the passive aggressive behavior. Resist the urge the fight fire with fire, or take the offensive. Stay true to your leadership values and role model what must be done.

Stay Calm – Responding in an emotional way will only bring on the passive response, leaving you looking like (and feeling like) the fool. Nothing’s more intimidating to someone trying to manipulate you then a calm, clear-headed, overview of the situation.

Be Specific – Avoid speaking in general terms. Track specific behaviors that feel wrong to have as examples as needed. It’s hard to argue with the facts

 Ask For What You Need – It’s hard for someone to work against you after they’ve agreed to help you.  Resist the urge for lofty platitudes like “I really need your help.” Or, “I need your commitment to work as a team.” Instead said, I could really use your help with addressing X issue at the meeting on Tuesday.

Strong leaders stand up to passive aggressive behavior, model healthy communication–for you and for your team.

My Saturday Afternoon With Seth Godin

About 2 years ago, I had the audacity (some should argue stupidity), to email Seth Godin my very first blog post. Let me be blunt, the post was terrible. But that’s not what he said when he wrote me back within a few hours of hitting send. Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t say it was good, but he was full of encouragement. I had “shipped my art” as his books encourage us all to do. And as it turns out, that’s what mattered at that stage of the game. And so I kept writing.

I’ve got some big plans brewing for our LGL community (more to come April 1st), so when I received his invitation to attend his interactive “Impresario Workshop” in NYC, I signed up in minutes. I wanted to share my vision and get his perspective. More importantly, I wanted him to know how much his early note had meant to me. I’m a strong believer in ensuring people know the impact they’ve had on our development. The crazy part was that before I could thank him, he blew me away with more confidence-building observations. When I finally got to my “thank you part” I was busting with energy and even deeper gratitude. Real leaders light people up through genuine connection and intrapersonal inspiration.

Why Seth Godin Stopped Doing All the Talking

The real brilliance of the workshop was not what Seth Godin said from the stage. It came from who was in the room and how they connected. Unlike most workshops, the ratio of stage-to-audience content and audience-to-stage interaction (Through Q&A) was about 1:4. Seth Godin set the table for conversation, and then created a dialogue. His detailed responses made us all think more deeply.

It started by who he invited to the table. As part of the “application” process for early entry, we had to share what we were up to, including our websites and other social media presence. He knew his workshop would work because of who was in the room and what they were up to. He knew his job was to attract, connect and inspire. Of course, that’s entirely the point of being an “Impresario.” To change the culture by getting the right people in synch.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

The magic of the workshop came after it was over. We were invited to sign-up for optional dinners around the city, paired by areas of “common interests” as articulated in our applications. We didn’t know who we’d be meeting with until we showed up. My kindred spirits turned out to be a millennial gamer/game developer; an engineer turning into a consultant; an app developer preparing to launch a company overseas, and a PR consultant. Not a leadership thinker in sight…our conversation was on fire, and could have continued all night. Within 3 minutes we knew exactly why we were selected to be connected. We offered new angles and insights, and took away “action items” to continue the support.

Beyond the Usual Suspects

We tend to focus our networking efforts on folks with obvious common ground. Execs connect with execs. Leadership thinkers connect with other leadership thinkers. Bloggers with bloggers. Sales guys with sales guys. Call center experts with others in the same scene.

There’s risk in assuming you know who you’re looking for as you build your network.

What my dinner companions (and everyone I met throughout the day) had in common was not our day jobs.

Instead of chasing the usual suspects seek out humans who…

  • Are up to something amazing
  • Have a curious spirit
  • Are truly interested in other people
  • Have open minds
  • Are hungry for success
  • Have a propensity to connect
  • Ooze generosity
  • Engage in transparent and real conversations #meanit