stuck in the middle with you

Stuck in the Middle With You

The other day I got the kind of feedback that kicks you in the gut and makes your brain hurt for days. I’m sure you know the kind, it stings with truth, but you’ve got a gazillion counter points you would never say out loud, for fear of appearing to not be listening. It’s from an amazing leader who worked on my team for several years, and is a regular reader of LGL.

This is a long one, so for those of you who prefer a musical soundtrack with your pondering, click here.

She writes:

One area of frustration for me in business is much like my frustration in the collection and recording of history down through time, and that is the winners make the history, it’s from their perspective and rarely is it all-inclusive of the realities of the time. Many leaders go through their career (certainly once they get to a higher level) believing that their station or title in their company validates that their perspective is somehow best, or more insightful. These leaders don’t leverage the best from their people or their organizations, and the idea that they understand how their employees feel is somewhat silly. To me your book represents a leader saying why and how I should relate to them, excuse them, allow for and understand their human nature.

That’s where the disconnect was for me, at what point do leaders really need to understand, and act on how their behaviors, their decisions affect the masses below them? In short I want leaders to improve, have better sight, understand and truly grow about those in their care. I want leaders to see more than market share, and stack ranks. I want leaders to see and appreciate intention, effort and of course results. But more over I want leaders to be real with me, and I want them to strive as hard to understand me as I strive to understand them. In doing this leaders improve the lives and careers of their employees.

Karin I think you are a great leader and I will admit I expect a lot from you, to that end the brilliance I’ve seen in your past writing and have referenced and yes even bragged about to others simply was not here for me. Frankly this seemed safe, when what all leaders really need (throughout their careers) is to be grabbed by the shoulders and shaken from time to time and forced to remember from whence they came, to understand the politics of our world are their making, and thusly they have the power to unmake it. Knowing that leaders in business buy and read this type of book, I feel you have the knowledge and credibility to improve them in their view down their chain of command as opposed to another attempt to give line employees better understanding of how and why their bosses do what they do so they can advance.

The gist of the issue: Hey, whose side are you on here? The imperfect bosses or the people?
The short answer is: Yes.

You see, I’ve been running around talking to every podcast, radio station, or media outlet sharing my opinion that your boss is just an imperfect human being doing the best she can, just like you. I’ve been firing people up and empowering them with practical tools and advice for advancing their career, even if their boss is a jerk. I believe strongly that helping people defend themselves against an imperfect system and regaining their power is vital.

And I’ve also seen the other side. I do agree there are leaders who need to be “grabbed by the shoulders and shaken from time to time.” I can’t stand the arrogance and abused power. I hate it when leaders forget about the human beings they’ve been entrusted to support. I worry about a system that over-grooms their leaders and the cycle of intimidation continues. I cringe when leaders are too busy to understand their impact.

The question on the table: Am I cutting the leaders too much slack?
The longer answer is: Yes and no.

We’re All Stuck In The Middle of Something

Sure the system is imperfect. People are imperfect. There are good guys and bad guys at every level. I’ve learned a heck of a lot about getting unstuck on both sides of the equation. I must help, and will do everything in my power to help you, them, and the guys in the middle.

We must work together to create the conversation that will build better organizations through meaningful visions, great cultures, and brilliant execution. Such results come from imperfect, inspired people who care for the big picture – at every level.

I’m not ready to pick a side. The best good I can do is right here, stuck in the middle – with you.

Informational Interviews: Not Just For Rookies

A common misconception is that informational interviews are only for folks starting out in their career. Sure informational interviews are a great idea for the new college grad, but they can be game-changing later in your career as well. Two of the best executive roles I’ve had came from such informational interviews, and eventually the real interviews once a job was available.

I used this technique to move to a completely new side of the business, from Verizon to Verizon Wireless and establish an entirely new network (pun intended).

Of course I didn’t call them that. If you’re more established in your career, I’d avoid the term informational interview, but a rose by any other name…

In my case I just reached out via email with a short summary and my resume attached. I shared a bit of my background (with enough of an elevator speech to get them to open attached resume.). I indicated I would be in “the neighborhood (e.g. the same state)” and asked if I could swing by to introduce myself. It was important to say that I was perfectly happy in my current role (which was close enough to the truth to still go to church on Sunday), but just looking for career guidance and future possibilities.

Each of these introductions inevitably led me to ask the question: who else should I talk with?  That question led to more such informational interviews, a ride along, and an invitation to attend a local charity even dinner with the VP (which felt like a 4 hour interview). It takes time, so you can’t be in a rush. One job surfaced 9 months later, another took two years to bake, but involved a promotion. Both were worth the effort.

Tips For Conducting a Great Informational Interview

  1. Remember this is your dime, be prepared to lead the conversation
  2. Have intelligent questions prepared
  3. Listen more than you talk
  4. Be actively interested and take notes
  5. Have a strong elevator speech ready
  6. Don’t over-sell or ask for a job
  7. Share enough of yourself to leave them intrigued and remembering you

A Few Good Questions

  • What’s the best part of working in this areaof the business?
  • Who is the best at this role? What makes them exceptional? (those names are great people to follow-up with)
  • Who else would you recommend I talk with to gain additional perspective?
  • When you look at my current background, what’s missing to best prepare me for a job here? What additional experience would be helpful?
  • If a job were open in your department, what reservations would you have about considering me
  • Is there someone I could shadow to get to know more about this role?

How Well Do You Manage Up? A Challenge and Other Tools

The conversation about Imperfect Bosses continues. Today, I’m exited to bring you several additional resources, including a free knowledge assessment. I hope you will share this with anyone having a challenging relationship with their boss.

Overcoming An Imperfect Boss Credspark Challenge:

How well do you manage up? How are you handling a difficult boss? Why does it all matter? Take this challenge to find out. The most useful part is clicking on the learn more links at the end to take you to additional free resources. Let me know what you think and please pass along. I want to help as many people as possible. Click here to take the challenge.

Overcoming An Imperfect Boss podcast on Work That Matters:

In this live interview we delve deeper into some of the concepts and stories discussed in the book. Click here to hear the podcast.

How to deal with an accidental diminisher boss:

And for those who just like to read, check out my 4 Needed Shifts in the Traditional Boss Subordinate Relationship:

From Mystery To Transparency: Your team will follow your lead. If you won’t share what’s on your heart and mind neither will they. You’re wasting valuable time with all that guessing. Take some risks and let your team in. Share more of the bigger picture than feels “safe.” There’s no better way to get people to trust you, than to trust them. Click here to read more.

And Wally Bock – learning about writing a book from Overcoming An Imperfect Boss:

Karin Hurt is a newly minted entrepreneur. She wrote Overcoming an Imperfect Boss because “I wanted to be able to have something tangible to weave into the PR of the launch of my new company.” If you’re thinking about writing a book, you can learn a lot from what Karin did right. You may read more here.

Happy Memorial Day. That should give you enough to keep you busy. Still got time? Download a free sample chapter or just order a copy from Amazon.

Namaste.

The Insiders Guide to Micromanagement

I’ve yet to meet a manager who admits to being a micro-manager, but according to micro-management expert Harry Chambers and other corroborating research, the majority of workers indicate that micro-management has interfered with job performance.

I imagine the disconnect is that it’s rarely an either/or situation. Micro-managing is a dysfunctional behavior that most leaders fall into from time to time. So how do you know if you’re slipping into the micro-management trap?

Symptoms of a Micro-manager

It’s easy to spot micro-management when we’re the ones being micro-managed, if we’re the culprit. The best list of symptoms of micro-management I’ve found is this article in the Public Personnel Management Journal.

Here Are A Few:
  • Overseeing workers too closely and telling people what to do and how to do it. Constantly monitoring even your best employees.
  • Going alone to the bosses office so sub-or­dinates don’t get credit. Becoming irritated when they aren’t consulted in decisions. Exploding when their boss by-passes them and goes directly to the team.
  • Obsessing about details. Confusing accuracy with precision (e.g. keeping track of the number of copies made on the Xerox machine).
  • Frequently calling the office while on vacation.
  • Creating deadlines for deadlines sake. Demanding overly frequent and unnecessary written status reports.
  • Creating bottlenecks because they are too busing trying to do all the jobs of the organization.

Why Do Managers Micro-manage?

The biggest cause of micro-management is insecurity, followed closely by a #2 of working for a micro-manager. Lacking the ability to set clear expectation or just feeling uncomfortable in a leadership role also enter into the mix.

What’s the Best Way to Kick the Micro-managing Habit?

  1. Consider Your Motives– What is causing you to micro-manage? Get a mentor or coach to help you get underneath the root cause. Ask for feedback from your team.
  2. Get the right team- If you just can’t trust this team, but you have trusted teams in the past, it may be time to take a look at your players.
  3. Set clear expectations – Establishing clear direction up front is the first step to empowerment. Tell your team where you need them to go, but not how to get there.
  4. Develop a robust communication system – Consider what information you really need at what frequency. Develop a cadence that make updates easy.
  5. Give Clear Feedback– The worst kind of micro-management is recycling feedback. If something isn’t right, be very clear about what you need to avoid endless rework and wasted time.

Note: Micro-management surfaced as an important theme in response to my post: The Biggest Mistakes Team Leaders Make. If you missed that post, take a quick look so you can join the fun. We’re working on a crowd-sourced e-book that will be free to all LGL subscribers. I’m taking your thoughts on the biggest mistakes and teeing them up in posts for additional discussion and story collection. Then I’ll gather your insights and weave them in to our book. Hope you will join the fun. P.S. We’ll sprinkle our e-book making posts in amongst our general LGL fare.

Help Write The Story

Ways to share you input for the e-book. Please add notes to the comment section.

  1. Stories of micro-managers– Come on this will be the most fun to read (change the names to protect these folks – bless their hearts).
  2. Strengthen my lists
    • What are the symptoms of micro-management?
    • Why do managers micro-manage?
    • What’s the best way to break your own micro-managing habit?
  3. Start your own list: What’s the best way to deal with a micro-managing manager?

How to Be a Talent Magnet

Magnets have a powerful, yet invisible force of attraction. Talent magnets have a similiar impact as they attract and retain A players, who then attract more talent. Notice I didn’t entitle this article, How to Build a Talent Empire, which is much less subtle and far less effective.

I’ve built a career based on attracting people way smarter than me to do the things I couldn’t possibly do. Liz Wiseman calls this approach, being a talent magnet in her book Multipliers. I call it common sense, or perhaps heredity. My dad carries the same jump-into-things-you-know-nothing-about gene.

The 4 Practices of the Talent Magnet

“Empire builders seek to surround themselves with “A” players. But unlike talent magnets, they accumulate talent to appear smarter and more powerful. The leader glosses over the real genius of the people while placing them into boxes on the org chart. The players have limited impact and start to look more like A- or B+”
~ Lis Wiseman, Author of Multipliers

Liz Wiseman’s research found four common practices among talent magnets:
  1. Look For Talent Everywhere – My favorite part of this context is ignore the boundaries.. They’re less inclined to look for traditional qualifications than looking for the right cocktail of talents just right for that role.
  2. Find People’s Native Genius – Liz explains: “A native genius is something that people do, not only exceptionally well, but absolutely naturally. They do it easily, without extra effort and freely, without condition”. Tap into that.
  3. Utilize People To Their Fullest – This is all about connecting people to the right opportunities and shining the spotlight on them when it’s time.
  4. Remove The Blockers – A players have a low tolerance for BS. Talent magnets get that, and do their best to move the stupid stuff out-of-the-way, so the native genius can get to work.

I had an opportunity to talk with Rob Delange, Director of Training of the Multiplier Group about my approach to building talent magnets…

Rob also asked what I was most proud of in my career at Verizon. No contest: watching people grow…

The Biggest Mistakes Team Leaders Make

Go into almost any company and ask employees what annoys them most about the leaders in charge, and the list is unlikely to vary all that much. I love this Harvard Business Review video,The Biggest Mistake a Leader Can Make. Watch it, and I guarantee you’ll be singing along. 

In fact, you may even think:

See that! I’m a great leadership thinker too. I would fit right in on that video.

Why yes you are. Which is why I’m inviting you to play along with our next crowd-sourced adventure: A look at the biggest mistakes team leaders make.

“If I had my life to live over again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.”
~ Tallulah Bankhead (YouTube)

The team leader’s job is arguably the toughest job in most companies and organizations. Team leaders operate under constant pressure- up-down-and sideways- coupled with limited control. Just as the HBR crowd found remarkable consistency in the biggest mistakes leaders make at the top, I’ve found similar consistency with the mistakes team leaders make at the front line. It’s not the same struggles that happen in the leadership stratosphere, the pressures vary and so do the mistakes. Here’s a few that come to mind. What would you add?

The Biggest Mistakes Team Leaders Make

  1. Under-communicating the big picture – People don’t understand WHY they are being asked to do what they do. The team yearns for meaning to inspire their work.
  2. Failure to identify a galvanizing goal – Teams need to know that THEY can make a difference based on their actions. It’s a mistake to think that the company mission will be enough to rally the team at a local level.
  3. Over-telling – If leaders keep giving away the answers, they’ll keep asking, and you’ll have one brain at work instead of ten. Ask more questions. Leverage each team members’ strengths to cull-out their leadership. Encourage them to work together and support one another.
  4. Avoiding the tough Conversations – It’s easy to look the other way, or to let poor performance slide. Not telling people the truth will hurt your results, drag down the team, and stagnate growth.
  5. Lack of Connection – Too many team leaders get scared off by the HR warnings about not getting too close to their team. They manage them like employees instead of connecting as humans. Always err on getting to know your team and how they roll. Sure you should be careful of hanging out with them as traditional friends, but ensure your conversations are real and heartfelt. Your team will connect with customers and the work that they do, if they are first connecting with you and with one another.
  6. Succumbing to gravity – Team leaders can’t change everything but they can change some things. Your job is to remove road blocks. If something feels stupid, it probably is. Do what you can to manage up and sideways to make your team’s job easier.
  7.  Short-Term Focus – It’s always urgent, and there’s never time for the long-term investment in people and processes that will impact the business. This can work for a week or so, but beyond that you’re doing substantial long-term damage to your team. Ensure every day includes real work toward longer-term goals.
  8. Accepting What Is – Leaders see what’s possible. It’s easy to get caught up in the way we’ve always done things, particularly if you have a formula that works. If you’re creating break-through results and turning heads, slow down, look around and talk with your team about what you could be doing differently.
  9. Your Turn
  10. Your Friend’s Turn (please pass along and ask others to help)

Let’s Write A Crowd-Sourced EBook

We can leverage our collective experience, scar tissue, stories and wisdom to accelearate the learning for front-line leaders. Here’s my thought. We use this post to identify and rank the biggest mistakes team leaders make. Take my list, add, delete, or prioritize in your comments.

Then I’ll take the most popular topics and write posts on them in the coming weeks, again you weigh in with your insights and stories. Then, I turn the lessons into a free ebook available to all subscribers. We all have something we can use for ourselves and with our teams. Who’s in?

What Experts are Saying About Career Advice: May Frontline Festival

For May’s Frontline Festival, I asked experts around the world to share their best career advice. It’s amazing how consistent the ideas are across cultures and contexts. Thanks to all the contributors. This great graphic below is from Joy and Tom Gurthrie, Vizwerx Group. Follow Joy @VizwerxGroup

careers rarely just about the job copy

Holding Career Conversations

Jennifer V. Miller of The People Equation brings us Career Conversations: Leaders, Are You Getting It Right. Jennifer encourages leaders to give some thought to career conversations they have with their team. Too little thought and planning can lead to not only an unproductive meeting, but potential loss of a star performer. Follow Jennifer @JenniferVMiller.

James Ryan of Soft Skills For Hard Jobs brings us The Simplest Way To Advance Your Career – Talk Conversations about career advancement between employers and the employees don’t happen as often as they should. It’s not that difficult, just talk. Follow Ryan @jryan48.

Critical Career Skills

early career successDan McCarthy of Great Leadership brings us a timeless list of great advice in his post 15 Timeless Work Habits For Career Success. Let’s say one of your kids just graduated college and they are about to start their first real job. If they ask you how to be successful at work – what would you tell them? Or, you’re asked to be a mentor to a high potential up and comer. They ask you for your best advice on how to get ahead. Follow Dan @greatleadership.

Steve Broe of My Career Impact brings us Five Ways To Get Your Boss To Call You A Leader. Act like a leader in these five ways and your boss will come to value your largest potential contribution to the enterprise. Follow Steve @DrSteveBroe.

Kate Nasser, The People Skills Coach™ at Smart SenseAbilities offers Career Success: Are You Rocking With These 13 People Skills. People skills make your occupational expertise understandable and valuable to others. Think yours are good enough to lead, collaborate, and bring you career success? Try these 13 tips from The People Skills Coach™ to take you even further. Follow Kate @KateNasser.

Frank Sonnenberg of Frank Sonnenberg Online, offers What Do Tough Times Say About You?. It’s one thing to have a bad day, yet another to fall on tough times. These are the times that show what you’re made of. What do tough times say about you? Follow Frank @FSonnenberg

Willy Steiner of the Coach’s Corner shares Managing Change For Your Number One Client – You. Take an in depth look at how change impacts us, and how to use these perspectives to assist us in working through the inevitable changes that will impact our jobs and lives. Follow Willy @coachforexecs.

Ali Anani, one of the most frequent commenters in our LGL community, shares his Slideshare model, Phenomena: Race Strategy. This is a four blocks-based strategy, the acronym of which is RACE. Great concepts to build improve the performance of your team or your career. Follow Ali @Alinanani15.

Jeff Essenhaus of The Faithful Pacesetters offers Finding The Diamonds. This blog post looks back to Samuel (Prophet and Judge) to learn how current day leaders can find and develop future leaders. Samuel’s key warning as he appointed King’s was to find leaders that are able to hold themselves accountable to the people. Follow Jeff @JeffJayMiller.

Bill Benoist of Leadership Heart Coaching brings us Interviewing Tip: Like My Music. Great practical advice on how to nail your next interview. Follow Bill @leadershipheart.

Career Advancement

David Dye of Trailblaze offers 7 Warning Signs You Should Not Lead. Are you up for a promotion? David shares seven reasons you should consider NOT taking the job…or else do some serious reflection before you do. And if you’re already there, see if any of these warning signs apply to you – #5 gets all of us. Follow David @davidmdye.

Lisa Kohn of the Thoughtful Leaders Blog writes on a similar theme in her post Should You Be A Manager. She shares necessary traits and talents that great managers possess. The good news – these talents and traits can be developed if companies invest in their would-be managers with coaching and developmental plans. Follow Lisa @ThoughtfulLdrs.

Mark Miller of Great Leaders Serve shares Is Your Leadership Career Stalled. This blog takes a look at why careers stall and a few questions you can ask yourself to get your career back in gear and moving forward again. Follow Mark @LeadersServe.

Working on Yourself

warmatnight.jpgJulie Winkle Giulioni of juliewinklegiulioni.com offers Growth: It’s No Longer Optional. In today’s hyper-competitive environment, growth is no longer optional; it’s non-negotiable.Follow Julie @juliewg.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership shares The Examined Life. Socrates said that “the un-examined life is not worth living.” Here are some resources to help with your examination. Follow Wally @wallybock.

Chantal Bechervaise of Take It Personel-ly shares Seek Criticism In Order To Improve Yourself. If you are not seeking criticism then you are not stretching yourself and are not looking for ways to improve. Criticism can help you develop skills that are lacking or improve upon your strong points. Follow Chantal @CBechervaise.

Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire-CS   shares Feeling The Pain & Doing It Anyway. It takes courage to work on you. But the best leaders will feel the pain and move forward to become great leaders. Follow Mary Jo @mjasmus.

Chery Gegelman of Simply Understanding offers Growth Doesn’t Just Happen and 5 Tips For Changing That On A Budget. Yes it is possible to be heavily invested in growing yourself and those you serve – even if the training budget has dried up and blown away. Botom Line: Growing or not is a choice. Follow Chery @GianaConsulting.

Julie Pierce of Empowered By Pierce asks us How Will You Invest in Your Leadership This Year? Follow Julie @julie_pierce.

New to the festival, Steve Borek of End Game Business, shares How Did You Get Into Coaching. Steve shares his personal journey and advice for people who feel like they’ve hit a dead-end and are ready for a new challenge. Follow Steve @SteveBorek.

Michelle Pallas of Blog & Fireside Chat reminds us to Seek Advice, Listen & Reflect – But Do What’s Right For You. Allow time and energy to explore. Play helps us craft a vision and realize dreams. Visualize your future, otherwise you may get caught up in someone else’s vision. That may be ok, but choose deliberately. Follow Michelle @MichellePallas.

Matt McWilliams of MattMcWilliams.com brings us the challenging post I Can’t Afford To Lose This Job. Have you ever worked in an environment so toxic, you just knew you had to get out, but couldn’t because you have no network? This post shows You what to do. Follow Matt @MattMcWilliams2.

 June’s Frontline Festival is all about change and transformation. If you want to be a part, submit your post by clicking here.

5 Subtle Ways Leaders Lose Credibility

Credibility is hard to establish and easy to lose. The sad truth is I’ve seen really good leaders lose the confidence and credibility of their teams by making well-intentioned and innocent mistakes. I’m not talking about the big stuff like lack of follow-through or breaking commitments, but the subtle shifts that undermine all the trust you’re working to build. Don’t fall into these traps.

  1. Word Choice – Leaders use dramatic words to create a vision and gain attention. That’s good. I’m all for colorful language and exciting words. But leaders lose credibility when the words in play are too big or small for the situation at hand. I once worked with a leader whose rally cry of the year was, “we’re in the fight of our lives.” Now, it’s true the competition was fierce, and we needed every brain, heart and hand actively engaged in the struggle. The trouble was many in her audience were literally in the fight of their lives in one way or another: the second bone marrow transplant, a dying sister, a son still in Iraq. I could see these dedicated leaders squirm when she said these words. Sure they knew what she was trying to say, but the words did not inspire the cause. It works the other way too. Words can be too small. If it’s time to be impressed, be impressed. Don’t say, a project was okay when you should have said Wow! 
  2. Too Close, Yet So Far Away – Leaders don’t necessarily need to be able to do the job of the people on their team, but they do need to understand it. I was talking to a sales VP the other day who was in the long-term relationship sales game. He said his boss was asking him to call his prospects every day to follow-up. Having had this VP sell to me in the past, I can’t imagine a worse approach. Our relationship worked because of deep trust and long-term commitment, nagging would have been an immediate turn-off.
  3. Out of Touch -A close cousin to #2, leaders lose credibility when they can’t relate to the personal circumstances of their teams. The other day, I heard a customer service VP on stage talking to a team of call center reps trying to inspire great customer service. She shared, “if you’ve ever been on a Disney Cruise, that’s the kind of service I need you to provide.” These reps were worried about putting food on the table and gas in the car. The sentiment was spot on, but she needed another example.
  4. All About Me– Leaders often take on a celebrity status. People will ask lots of questions about their background, career path, advice. It’s great to share. But leaders lose credibility when they talk about themselves without turning the tables and taking a genuine interest in others. Listen more than you talk. Ask provocative questions. Get to know their background, hopes and dreams. Provide opportunities for others to share.
  5. Strategic Ambiguity – Some strategy and information is secret. If you can’t share, say that. But masking the truth with spin, far-fetched positioning, and other bologna will diminish your credibility fast. People will see through it and wonder what else, you’re not saying.

You’re working too hard to build credibility with your team and organization to throw it away with a sloppy mistake. Pay attention to these potential derailers. Get others involved, sometimes they’re too subtle to see from where you sit.

why team leaders tolerate poor performance

5 Sad Reasons Team Leaders Tolerate Poor Performance

Letting slackers slide reduces your credibility, causes your best performers to bolt, and leaves the rest of the team wondering why they bother. No one wants to mire in their own mediocrity. And high-performers hate nothing more than watching their poor-performing teammates drag down results. Tolerating poor performance creates a morale death spiral that takes Herculean force to reverse.

Of course there’s also the over-the-cube talk about the two slackers– the poor performing guy and you. The more you allow the poor performance to go on, the more the rest of the team will shrug their shoulders and join the poor performance bandwagon. Now the death spiral is accelerating with centripetal force, squandering time and draining vital energy from your team.

The sad truth is that every day, team leaders around the world turn their heads and let the poor performance continue.

Don’t fall into these traps.

Why Team Leaders Tolerate Poor Performance

I’m going to start with the benefit of the doubt: that you (or the team leader you’re trying to help) cares, and is not a performance problem. If that’s not the case, same rules apply, one level up.

Beyond that, here’s a gut check for why you’re allowing poor performance to continue.

    1. Guilt- You worry you haven’t done enough to develop to support, develop, encourage, and build confidence, empower, or recognize. If that’s truly the case, you’re right. You’ve got more work to do. Get going. BUT, if you have invested and invested again and it’s still not working it’s time to face that this job may not be the right fit. Stop feeling guilty. You need to do what’s right for the greater good of the company and the team
    2. Morale – I’ve seen so many team leaders so worried about building great morale, that they actually destroy it. If everything everyone does is just great then the folks who are really giving their all wonder why they do. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had the rest of the team thank me for addressing poor performance. Of course such things are private, but trust me, your team is more astute than you may think.
    3. Saving Face – You hired the guy. Perhaps you even convinced you boss that he was the one. If you’ve done everything you can to make it work, and it still isn’t, it’s far better to admit you were wrong, learn from your experience and move on. Don’t magnify one poor decision with another.
    4. Confidence – You’re scared. You’re not sure how to approach the situation. Get some help. There’s nothing harder for a leader to do than to address poor performance, or remove someone from the team. It never is easy, but it does get easier. Practice your conversation with a peer or mentor. Plan the conversation and anticipate responses. You can do this.
    5. Lack of Alternatives – I can’t tell you how many times someone has called me for an internal reference for a poor performer they are about to hire, and after I share the issues and concerns, they hire them any way. I actually had one guy say recently, ‘well, Karin you have a very high standards, I’m not sure that’s realistic. The funny part is that I had back-filled this guy with someone who was running circles around his predecessor. Hire slow. The great ones are out there and deserve a chance.

If you’ve got a struggling performer on your team, do all you can to help. And if It’s time to let them move on, help them to do that gracefully.

Why Good Moms Make Amazing Leaders

7 Reasons Good Moms Make Amazing Leaders

No one puts mom as a job title on their resume. In fact many moms hide their mommy status when interviewing for a new job. They may even strip their resume of relevant volunteer experience that would reveal their motherhood status.

I’m in the other camp entirely. Most moms bring a maturity and level of endurance to their leadership that’s hard to gain as quickly from other leadership roles. I’ve never had a problem with a leader on my team related to her mommyness. And I’d rather work for a boss (and with peers) who have children. Turns out I’m not alone.

A study done by WorldWit found that 69% of workers would rather work for a mom than a non-mom, while only 2% preferred a non-mom.

So in the spirit of Mothers Day, I bring you 7 reasons moms make amazing leaders. Does this apply to Dads too? Of course, but it’s Mothers Day, so lean in and read on.

7 Reasons Good Moms Make Amazing Leaders

  1. It takes a lot to shock them – My mom’s favorite story is when I ate the diaper pail deodorizer. I’ve got some doozies from my own kids. Moms deal with such stupidity around the clock. So it take more than a little workplace nonsense to get them rattled.
  2. They take the long view – Moms invest deeply for the long run. They know that every move won’t be perfect, but they’re going for the long-term impact. Good moms and amazing leaders see mistakes as an opportunity to grow.
  3. Juggling is a way of life – For most moms, juggling has become an important survival skill. This translates well to prioritizing and getting a heck of a lot done.
  4. They’re resourceful – No funding? Ask a mom to figure out a way to make it happen. Moms have to get creative and make the most of what they’ve got lying around.
  5. They have to act like grown-ups – My friend says that she considers a finished book report a win if the kid is the only one crying. Moms get enough drama at home, they don’t have energy to get sucked into more of it at work.
  6. They learn to speak simply and check for understanding – Moms know that just because you ask a kid to do something, doesn’t mean they heard you. They learn to double-check to ensure the message is clear.
  7. It’s all about influenceBecause mommy said so doesn’t work. Moms learn to influence and inspire the behaviors they most want to see in their children.

Thank you moms for all you do to grow the future–and for translating those skills to your day job.

P.S. A free subscription to Let’s Grow Leaders makes a wonderful Mother’s Day gift for you or your mom. Enter your email address to join the LGL community.

improved communication

You Lost Me at Hello: Practical Tips for Better Communication

You’ve done important work, and you’re trying to get the team to understand your point. But before you get to page 3, John’s flipping to the back of the deck, Carol’s obviously distracted by her text messages, and you’d swear you saw a glimpse of Words With Friends on Tracy’s iPad. It’s true, that’s rude. What’s equally true is that this scene is calling for better communication.

I spoke with Joseph McCormack, author of Brief: Make a bigger Impact by Saying Less. His book offers great advice and tools for everything from presentations to sales pitches to small talk. I asked him for some advice for some of the more difficult communication situations.

Better Communication:  Q &A with Joseph McCormack

Q- What do you do when you’re presenting and you notice visible distractions like jumping ahead or multi-tasking?
A- First don’t let it happen. Plan better.  But to bring them back, speak in headlines. People fidget because they’re confused. Use stories to draw them back in. When speakers tell stories, they automatically relax. That comfort, along with the story, makes a connection that draws-in attention.

Q-What if you work in a Powerpoint and bullet-point addicted culture?  How can you incorporate some of these ideas and still fit in with the culture?
A- Be prepared to give the entire presentation in 3 minutes if something happened to your slides. Then start with that executive summary. Now they have a map to follow as you give the rest of your presentation. Also, there’s a free online tool called Haikudeck which helps you great visual presentations (I checked it out.  Love it!)

Q- You advocate the use of stories, but don’t stories take longer than sticking to the facts?
A- You’ve really got to practice, so you can get down to the essential elements of the story. Don’t tell the 5 minute version.Get the details that drill down to the core and enhance the meaning.

Q-What suggestions do you have for leaders giving tough feedback or messages to their teams?
A- Think about what you’re really trying to say, and say THAT as early as possible  Don’t extend the pain. Give bad news upfront and then the explanation.

Bonus Tip:

When you’re done with a phone call, look at the elapsed time before you hit end. Then ask yourself if what you accomplished was worth the investment.

For more information about Brief and to watch videos click here.