6 Simple Ways to Answer Tough Questions

Joe’s a bright guy and his idea was solid. His data seemed right intuitively, but we had a few questions.

My peer started with a softball. Joe responded with a stutter, swing, and a miss. He made the cardinal sin of answering tough questions– he made stuff up.

He wasn’t exactly sure of the answer, and he took a chance that we were dumber than he was on the topic. Never underestimate your audience. Nothing fires up execs more than a big load of crap.

No more softballs, now the tough fast balls were flying. I sensed he knew the answers, but was flustered and taken off guard. He couldn’t make the right data synch with the first baloney. I ended the meeting early out of a mixed sentiment of disappointment, anger, and pity. It took a while to recover.  In fact for Joe, that story’s not over.

If you’re taking risks and proposing game-changing ideas, you’re going to get asked tough questions.

If you change the world enough to attract the media, you’re going to get asked tough questions.

If you’re leading through turbulent times, you’re going to get asked tough questions.

If you’re doing work that matters, you’re going to get asked tough questions.

How will you respond?

6 Simple Ways to Answer Tough Questions

    1. Tell The Truth.  Never, ever make stuff up. Forget the spin. If you don’t know, say so, and offer to get right back to them.  If you can’t disclose everything say so, or explain that part of the strategy is still evolving.
    2. Anticipate and Prepare. The very best way to answer tough questions is to make them less tough. Anticipate the questions you will be asked and put them into categories. Do your homework and get as smart as you can on the topics you will most likely be asked. Dry run your presentation with a few friendlies and ask for their toughest questions. Pre-empt a few of these tough questions by saying, “Now, if I were you I would be wondering…” Instant credibility win.
    3. Pause. The silence that feels awkward to you goes more quickly for them. Your audience will just sense that you’re listening well. Better to have a moment of pause with a good answer, than a quick moment of stupidity.
    4. Repeat the Question. Sometimes the questions are tough because they’re long, convoluted or unclear. Try to summarize the question back in the simplest terms. It will show you are listening, you’ve got them, and give you a moment to prepare.
    5. Don’t Repeat Yourself. Sometimes tough questioners are setting a trap. Just say, “I believe I answered that before” with a quick summary response.
    6. Keep Your Cool. Some tough questions are really needling questions to get you riled up. Take the high road and keep your cool. Your best answer will never be given from the Amygdala brain. Breathe.

Telling the truth and answering the tough questions will go a long way in building your reputation as a confident, humble and trusted leader.

Web Bonus Post

I had some fun this week answering one of my most frequently asked questions:  How do I convince my boss I’m ready for a promotion? as part of a guest post carnival sponsored by WebHosting Buzz

7 Steps to Convince Your Boss To Promote You

How To Lead With Guts (and Have Their Backs)

More than anything, your team wants to know you have their backs. They want to know they matter–to you–not just to the company. They want to believe you’d walk through fire for them and to take the proverbial bullet coming from above.  Of course you would, but do they know it?

A Short Story on Having Guts and Backs

We all cringed when this particular leader, let’s call him “Simon,” would walk into the store and start interacting with customers. After all, we had strict guidelines about what we could and could not do. Retail is always a balancing act of providing great customer service and not giving away the store.

He’d get to chatting with a customer and right in front the employees who were on performance plans for too much discounting, would do something over the top to delight a customer. On the surface, a noble gesture. It sends a true message that customers come first, a deeply seeded value for all.

But the truth is that guy’s story was the same as ten others who just walked through the door that day, and consistency is key. If we should do THAT each time, the training and metrics must change. Everyone wished they had the same latitude to help that customer. We coached the leader on the downstream impact, but didn’t notice a change. It became harder to talk about balanced scorecards.

5 Ways Your Team Knows You Have Their Backs

1. Live By the Same Standards

Your team wants to know you hold yourself to the same standards you expect of them. They want consistent parameters to guide their decisions, and to know that you will have their back when they follow them. Follow the same rules you ask of them. If you make exceptions, allow such exceptions to become the norm.

2. Take Some Bullets

Joe screwed up. But Joe’s a good guy. And quite frankly, you should have been paying closer attention. It’s easy to blame Joe. Take the hit. Joe and everyone else will respect you.

3. Put Your Team Ahead of Your Boss Every Now and Then

Your bosses’ calls always appear urgent. Sometimes they are, sometimes it can wait. If you’re in the middle of a meeting with your team, or an important one-on-one, tell your boss what you’re up to and ask if it’s urgent or can wait a few minutes. Deep respect all around will likely follow.

4. Distinguish the Urgent

Face it, stuff rolling down-hill almost always feels like a fire drill. Be the buffer. Know what really matters and nail it. Be the best at what matters most, and you win some cushion to be a bit slower on the noise. In the meantime, your team gets that you get it, and will work even harder on what matters most.

5. Fight Misperceptions

Nothing makes me sadder than watching managers who believe in a cause or a guy completely reverse their point of view when someone above has a different opinion. The truth is, those perceptions are often based on one or two limited encounters. If you believe in something or someone and the jury’s still out, look for ways to reverse the findings. Don’t go along and destroy the vision or someone’s career to protect your own. Teams will follow a leader who has their backs. Every time. Be THAT guy and your career will follow.

How Not to Screw Up When You’ve Been Screwed Over

When I heard his story, I wanted to scream with him and for him. But screaming at water under the bridge just brings more rapids. I paused for what was an uncomfortably long time. Then, I whispered, “I know this hurts. But you have to stop. Kick and scream and get it all out, and then take a deep breath and take off on the high road.”

It’s true that John didn’t deserve this. Passionately devoted to the company mission, he’d invested years of hard work and extra hours. His team teased that he bled the company colors. There’s no other way to say this. He’d been screwed. The details don’t matter. You can fill them in with your own history or imagination.  What matters now is what he does next.

5 Ways to Respond When You’ve Been Screwed Over

The truth is everyone is watching your reaction. Chances are most folks know that what just happened wasn’t fair.  Handling this disappointment elegantly will foster deep respect.

1. Stop Talking

Not to everybody–but chose your words and your audiences carefully. Your angry words will travel faster and farther than you ever thought possible.

2. Don’t Be a Blamer

Accusations make terrible leadership apparel.

3. Don’t Give Up

If you fold your tent, the bad guys really win. Stay committed to the cause and to your career.

4.  Channel Your Energy to Create Something Extraordinary

You’re fired up. Use that powerful emotional energy to fuel your creativity and your next stand-out move.

5. Let Your Anger Inform Your Leadership

When the time is right, step back and assess what really happened here. Make a vow to yourself to never screw over anyone in the way you’ve been screwed.

This is more than lemons and lemonade. Your team is watching. Your brand is at stake. Respond as the leader you are.

How Not to Screw Up When You've Been Screwed Over

When I heard his story, I wanted to scream with him and for him. But screaming at water under the bridge just brings more rapids. I paused for what was an uncomfortably long time. Then, I whispered, “I know this hurts. But you have to stop. Kick and scream and get it all out, and then take a deep breath and take off on the high road.”

It’s true that John didn’t deserve this. Passionately devoted to the company mission, he’d invested years of hard work and extra hours. His team teased that he bled the company colors. There’s no other way to say this. He’d been screwed. The details don’t matter. You can fill them in with your own history or imagination.  What matters now is what he does next.

5 Ways to Respond When You’ve Been Screwed Over

The truth is everyone is watching your reaction. Chances are most folks know that what just happened wasn’t fair.  Handling this disappointment elegantly will foster deep respect.

1. Stop Talking

Not to everybody–but chose your words and your audiences carefully. Your angry words will travel faster and farther than you ever thought possible.

2. Don’t Be a Blamer

Accusations make terrible leadership apparel.

3. Don’t Give Up

If you fold your tent, the bad guys really win. Stay committed to the cause and to your career.

4.  Channel Your Energy to Create Something Extraordinary

You’re fired up. Use that powerful emotional energy to fuel your creativity and your next stand-out move.

5. Let Your Anger Inform Your Leadership

When the time is right, step back and assess what really happened here. Make a vow to yourself to never screw over anyone in the way you’ve been screwed.

This is more than lemons and lemonade. Your team is watching. Your brand is at stake. Respond as the leader you are.

14 Leadership Experts Reflect on Humor and Fun: A Frontline Festival

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. Our August Festival is all about Humor in the Workplace. Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vixwerx for the great pic.

“Everything is funny, as long as it’s happening to somebody else.” – Will Rogers

Humor and Leadership

“A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Bob Whipple of the Trust Ambassador tells us to Wag More, Bark Less.  It’s a pretty simple way to lead better.  Follow @rwhipple

Martin Webster of Leadership Thoughts shares his personal leadership mnemonic. What does L E A D E R S H I P mean? What’s Your Leadership Mnemonic? Follow @tristanwember

Jennifer V. Miller of The People Equation advises that all leaders encounter potentially embarrassing situations and offers three ways to deal with inevitable unfortunate leadership gaffes in 5 Reasons Leaders Fear Embarrassment.  Follow @JenniferVMiller

As we all know, trust is a pretty complex subject and there are different types of trust. Some are based on competence, others on honesty. Many are situational. Barbara Kimmel of Trust Across America shares a fun story Don’t Trust Your Dog with Your Shoes. Follow @BarbaraKimmel

Fun with Your Team

“One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity, there ain’t nothin’ can beat teamwork.” – Edward Abbey

Dan McCarthy of Great Leadership tells us Don’t Force Your Employees to Have “Fun” at Work. Follow @greatleadership

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership encourages us to Listen for Engagement because laughter is a characteristic of engaged teams. Follow @wallybock

John Hunter of the Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog shares that joy in work encompasses fun—that it is fun to take pride in what you do and  help others. Take a look at Positivity and Joy in Work . Follow @curiouscat_com

Michelle Pallas of Lead On says There’s No Substitute for Thinking. “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” Really? Follow @michellepallas

Enjoying Your Days

“A day without sunshine is like, you know, night.” – Steve Martin

Lisa Kohn of Thoughtful Leaders Blog shares Seven Stupid and Easy Things to Do to have a Better Day. We have a choice between whether we let our stressors get us down, or whether we do something stupid that makes us laugh and makes our mood—and our day—better.  Follow @thoughtfulLdrs

Bill Benoist of Leadership Heart Coaching shares about Having Fun at Work. So why did the frog cross the road? Ask a few people at work this question and watch how your day begins to change. Follow @leadershipheart

Matt McWilliams gives us the Top 10 Office Practical Jokes that can help colleagues grow closer, destroy barriers, and dramatically improve morale.  Follow @MattMcWilliams2

Willy Steiner of Executive Coaching Concepts points out that Americans neglect to take 175 million vacation days they are eligible for annually! His post, The Disappearing Vacation (and 8 Reasons You Should Take One) explores some of these troubling facts, explains why it may be happening, and gives you eight reasons why you, the leader, need to get out of the office. Follow @coachforexecs

Becoming a Humorous Person

“Comedy is acting out optimism.” – Robin Williams

Lisa Hamaker has been working on her humor and shares her progress at Worth It! My Long Journey to Being Mildly Funny. We’re all different and it really shows up in our humor—what we laugh at, and how funny we are. Does working on it help? I think so. Follow @lisahamaker.

David Dye of Trailblaze – Engage! asks “Do you ever feel like a fraud? A fake? Like you have no business leading anyone? If so you are in good company with almost every leader. Dave shares several antidotes to the imposter syndrome, including humor in “What to Do When You Feel Like a Fraud.” After all, “It’s hard to be critical if you’re adorable.” Follow @davidmdye

BONUS TRACK

hug-your-bosslarry coppenrathTomorrow is National Hug Your Boss Day. In celebration Larry Coppenrath has mind mapped Overcoming an Imperfect Boss. You can download his work by clicking here: OAIB Mind Maps

Call For Submissions

Sepetember’s Frontline Festival is about Bold and Innovative Leadership.  New participants welcome.

Great 360 Degree Feedback Tools

A 360 Feedback Tool You Can Do Yourself

Chances are, unless you ask, most people won’t tell. People are holding back their best thinking on how you can improve.

In fact, research consistently shows that people rate themselves higher than others do. When it comes to self-assessment, our confidence seems to out-weigh our humility.

This is partly because we know our own context, and therefore give ourselves the benefit of the doubt.

“Sure, I slacked off a bit on that project, but, I’m only human for Pete’s sake. It’s back to school time, my husband’s out-of-town, it’s just a lot.”

We know we are human and that we’re doing the best we can, so we give ourselves some extra credit. We don’t expect others to know or care, but we know in our hearts we deserve a break.

I’ve witnessed this first hand with my MBA students. When I asked them to self-assess where they feel they ranked in terms of class participation, 100% rated themselves in the top 30%. That’s some crazy math– particularly for accountants.

When I asked the students to rate themselves and their teammates on their contribution to their team project, a similar pattern emerged. The students whom the teams identified as someone “they would not want to work with again,” didn’t view themselves that way at all. Instead they rated everyone on the team as having contributed equally. The most fascinating part was that although the team’s evaluations of their peers were often quite harsh, they were quite deliberate in ensuring their team didn’t hear the feedback from them. The harshest criticism came in sealed envelopes.

Of course in these circumstances, I asked the obvious question. “Did you tell her how you feel about her contribution?”  Number one answer. “No. She didn’t ask.” And so the cycle continues into the next semester, and will likely follow them into the workplace.

These students are not unique. Don’t ask, don’t tell is alive and well when it comes to peer feedback.

If you want to know how you’re really doing, you need to ask.

Don’t Wait

Sure formal 360 tools are a GREAT way to get structured, anonymous feedback. I’ve learned a great deal from them over the years, and helped leaders at all levels do the same. But the truth is, what makes these tools valuable is always the conversation that follows. If a formal 360 is not available or not practical in your organization, you can achieve similar results through your own listening tour.

Rachel’s Story

“Rachel” came to me frustrated by the feedback she’d been getting from her boss. She felt completely misunderstood. When I asked her what others in the organization thought, she admitted she hadn’t asked.

We identified 3 simple questions she would ask her boss, her peers, and her direct reports.  She went off an a 2 week listening tour. When we met again to discuss the themes, she had learned a great deal. Most importantly she had made the strategic shift from, “my boss is a jerk,” to maybe there are some things I could be doing differently. She made the changes, and life got better– for everyone.

The Listening Tour Approach

1. Get Your Head Right

Don’t do this unless you’re ready to listen with an open-mind

Absolutely don’t do this to prove someone wrong– people will smell that coming from a mile away

2. Identify Areas of Interest

  • Focus on a few key areas
  • Keep it short, simple, and exploratory

3. Craft a Few Open-Ended Questions

  • What could I do to be more effective in our meetings?
  • How could I have a more strategic impact on our results?
  • What about my communication style gets in the way?
  • What do you think are my biggest strengths?
  • If you could identify one area for me to work on this year, what would that be?

4. Identify People to Ask for Feedback 

  • Include people up down and sideways.
  • Don’t stack the deck with all friendlies or known detractors– work to get a balanced perspective.
  • Approach them one on one, and explain why you’re doing this
  • Explain that you’re really looking for candid feedback and that you’ll be happy to circle back with themes and key actions.
  • Thank them

5. Identify themes and key actions

  • Look for cross-cutting feedback
  • A coach or mentor can be very helpful in this regard
  • Circle back with stakeholders

Or Start with a “Survey”

I’m a big proponent to the listening tour approach. Nothing beats eye-ball to eye-ball conversation. But if you think you won’t get the truth, or you truly feel uncomfortable, you can start by using a free survey tool like Survey Monkey to quickly distribute the survey and ask for themes. I would go with a few open-ended questions rather than ratings. Ratings without comments will just leave you scratching your head at best, or ticking you off at worst.

Process matters less than substance. Ask and you shall receive. If you want feedback, start with a simple question. How can I add more value?

3 Subtle Nonverbal Communication Mistakes Sabotoging Your Credibility

Your body might sabatoging your career. Not on purpose, your heart’s in the right place. In fact, you’ve mastered the basics. You’re way past avoiding eye contact, wussy handshakes, and the proverbial fig leaf arms. Beware of  3 more subtle nonverbal cues that I see seriously damage credibility.

3 Subtle Nonverbal Mistakes Leaders Make

“I speak two languages, Body and English”-Mae West

Making Yourself Small

When in comes to confidence, I’m with Amy Cuddy, “don’t fake it to you make it. Fake it until you BECOME it.” Her TED talk provides important evidence that our body language shapes our own confidence, not just our credibility with others. Her research shows that closed arms, slouched postures, rubbing our neck and other self-protecting poses, actually impact our hormones, making us feel less confident. Those feelings then further shape our non verbal behavior and the cycle continues. If you want to become more confident, open up your arms and stance and take up more space in the room. Being more conscious and deliberate about your body language will not only help you show up stronger, but to actually become more confident.

When you’re in a meeting, do a posture check every 15 minutes or so. Notice what your body does when you’re not paying attention. Do you have a tendency to make yourself larger or smaller? A good way to become more aware of how you’re holding your body is to take a yoga class. Notice how the strength and heart opening poses like the Warrior poses or back bends make you feel.

Choosing the Wrong Seat

I’m not talking about the power dynamics of working your way to the head of the table. I’m actually amazed at how many people will choose to sit on the periphery of a meeting rather than to pull a chair to the table. This is a consistent dynamic I’ve seen across companies. Even when I’ve invited people to pull up a chair to join, I’ve faced reluctance, “Oh no, I’m just fine here.” If you don’t belong at the table, you shouldn’t be in the room. If you’re running the meeting and don’t have seats at the grown-up table, get a bigger room or find a different approach. You won’t build confidence or create engagement by casting people to the side lines.  See also: 5 Ways to Define Your Seat at the Table

Letting Your Cortisol Show

This takes many forms, from coming in late and disheveled, to fidgety impatient behavior, to chronic mult-tasking in meetings. “You look stressed” is not a compliment or a badge of honor for how hard you’re working, or how much you’re taking on. Calm and collected breeds confidence in those above you and in those you serve. See Also:  Why Stress is Hurting Your Career

As Martha Graham says, “the body never lies.” Paying close attention to what your body is telling you, and others, will go a long way in bolstering your credibility.

(P.S.) FREE WEBINAR

I’m honored to be giving a webinar on “Growing Your Tribe” for the National Speakers Association on August 27th. It’s FREE. Would love to have you join us. For more information, click here.

Confident Humility: The Conversation Continues

Today I bring you a guest post from LGL Tribe member, David Tumbarello. I often find his comments could be a post in themselves. His views on confident humility are so rich, I invited him to share more deeply. Thanks to LGL Tribe member, Joy Guthrie for the art.

Confident Humility: The Conversation Continues

My hope in writing this guest blog today is to respond to Karin Hurt’s post about Humility and Leadership.

I sat in the library yesterday, coaching a small herd of children in the art of writing well.  After a shared warm-up activity and a rush of excitement, they returned to their seats with clipboards, paper, pencils, and electric conversation in the air.  During the warm-up, we created a brainstorming tree that was taped to the ground, a play on the “choose your own story adventure” stories that are popular with kids.  I sat on the table and took out my camera phone and snapped a picture of one of the girls on the ground.  She was hard at work and I wanted to capture the moment, with the student, the notes, and the brain-work going on.

I thought about this picture earlier today.  If I share the photo, I thought, would I be boasting about what I can accomplish as a writing coach?  Or is it impossible for me to share the event and not say “Look at me”?

I work on projects during the day.  My digital signature says “Project Manager”.  I think about the work I do and what is required to get ahead.  While I aspire to achieve more in my career, I also aspire to be humble.  Is there a humble way I can take a picture of a project and showcase my work?

The answer is that as a humble leader, I need to point more at the project and less at myself.  Being humble as a leader is similar to the fundamental tenant of project management – put emphasis on the process and the team.  Most of the time, if a product fails to meet specifications, it is not the fault of an individual but of the process.  Similarly, if I want to show off accomplishments to my supervisor, during a review for example, I can say, “Look at the project before & look at the project after.  Here’s how I contributed.”  Hold up the process and the team.

A humble leader can also be assertive in the job interview.  The interview advice books say we should support our stories with statistics. In Thomas Taylor’s recent post on 3 Things You Must Say At Every Job Interview, he reminds his readers to use numbers – but not too many! – to emphasize accomplishments. In the interview, you might say, “I helped increase revenue by 14% and quality by 24%”.  While the numbers may be true, how can you assert yourself with humility?

This is the humility dilemma: if we don’t showcase our accomplishments, someone else will showcase theirs.  They will get the job.  They will get ahead.

To respond to this dilemma, I offer a few keys to humility.

4 Keys to Humility

1.  You are enough. I think that humility is one of the fundamental leadership qualities.  It is a presence.  It is knowing that you are enough.  You are wise enough, smart enough, loved enough, strong enough, quick enough, energetic enough.  You are all these things without outside validation

2.  Be honest. Do not simply practice being honest, be honest in all you do, with everyone you meet, and with yourself. I’ll say it again – be honest. Are you ready for a challenge?  Be honest and be consistent with who you are.  Yes, it might be a challenge to run a 3:10 marathon.  Maybe you can’t do it.  So be honest.  But if you can come within a few minutes and you want to break that barrier, use constructive words, “It will be a challenge, but I can.”  That’s an honest affirmation.

3. Emphasize the process and the team. Instead of “I accomplished” say “We accomplished.”  If you are looking for new work, I expect you to write a convincing resume and to interview with confidence.  I expect you to show you are better than the competition.  Assert yourself by saying, “I led.  I delegated.  I mentored.  I helped reduce waste.  My program increased customer satisfaction.”  Showcase your accomplishments, but continually hold up the process and the team.

4.  Finally, give.  This is the fundamental message of most major religions.  Give.  I don’t like the cliché “Giving is its own reward.”  Remove the cliche & you’re left with “Give.”  Why should you give?  It is about character.  Your career and your life, they are not about you – they are about what you contribute.  Do you see the difference?  Life is not about lifting myself up.  Life is about lifting up others.  Smile.  Open doors.  Share eye contact.  Leave loose change.  When you give, you extend a web of humility.

When we do these things, we are practicing humility.  As I finish writing this, I wonder, “Am I the right person to be writing a guest post on humility?”  If you ask yourself similar questions while excelling in your career, you are practicing humility and probably doing something very, very right.

7 Ways to Build Confidence in Your Employees

You see her talent and potential. She’s not convinced. She has great ideas, but seldom shares. She could be contributing so much more, you know it. But for reasons you don’t understand, she’s not ready. It’s crushing you to see her shying away from possibilities. But building confidence is complicated. You’re not a psychologist and this stuff can get messy.

Yes, building confidence takes time and energy. Trust me, it’s worth it. Turning around confidence will rank high on your personal lifetime leadership achievement awards. No one will call it out, but you’ll know, and so will they. You may find out years later. Building confidence creates long-term impact for the employee, for the team, and for your company.

Game on.

7 Ways to Build Confidence in Your Employee

1. Treat her with deep respect.

She can’t feel like a project. No Henry Higgins stuff here.  Have her at “hello” by treating her as the rock star you know she is capable of becoming.

2. Be specific about what’s right

“You’ve got potential” will fall on deaf ears to someone who doesn’t buy it. Be as clear as possible with examples when giving praise. “When you said X, did you see the conversation change? You are making a difference.”

3. Have her teach what she knows best

Find her gifts and have her share. Start one-on-one, then evolve to bigger gigs. Nothing instills confidence more than teaching.

4. Help her prepare

Nothing builds confidence more than being the “smartest” guy in the room. 9 times out of 10, the “smartest” guy in the room, is really the most prepared. Help her do her homework and role play the scenarios she’s most likely to face. The next time, it will be easier.

5. Celebrate incremental improvements

I’m a HUGE believer in Confidence Bursts. Try this and let me know how it goes.

6. Scaffold her achievements

Give her more than she thinks she can do, but don’t leave her hanging. Scaffold her well with mentors and advice, which will help her win, without interference.

7. Encourage through mistakes

If she lacks confidence, even the smallest mistake will affirm her feelings of inadequacy. Help her learn from mistakes, but also reassure her that mistakes are all part of learning. Try your best to not freak out.

Confidence leads to creativity, productivity, excellence, and engagement. Invest deeply. It matters.

The Biggest Reason Teams Get Stuck

Unsticking your team is one of the biggest challenges of a leader. When inertia sets in, there’s almost always a breakdown in belief at some level. When teams stop believing they stop doing. If your team has lost that magic feeling, look for signs of lost believing.

6 Ways Teams Stop Believing

1. They Stop Believing in You

This can take a variety of forms, but it almost always comes down to a matter of trust. They’ve stopped believing you have their backs. Or, they’ve stopped believing you have the guts to speak the truth up, down or sideways. Or perhaps, they’ve stopped believing your guidance is sound.

This is the hardest one to fix, but you won’t be successful until you address the issue. Look for ways to open the conversation one-on-one to get to root cause. Know that your words will only go so far. They’ll be scrutinizing every behavior for signs of what to really believe.

2. They Stop Believing in the Organization

The trust in you may run deep, but if the team has started to question the ethics or the future of the organization, they may be distracted and lose steam. They’re watching you for clues. They’re unlikely to believe if you’ve stopped believing. If you suspect the team has concerns in this arena, it’s best to give them an opportunity to express and discuss their concerns. It’s likely that the story they’re telling themselves is much worse than the truth.

3. They Stop Believing in the Cause

Teams and people are motivated by WHY far more than how. Ensure your team understands the greater good and how they fit in.  It’s a good time to ensure you have a strong team vision and that each team member knows where they fit in.

4. They Stop Believing in One Another

No employee engagement strategy is going to work if your team’s stop believing in one another. Take a close look at what you’re doing to encourage teamwork.  

5. They Stop Believing in Themselves

You can a clear role and vision, and a team that gets along like peanut butter and jelly, but if the individuals on the team lack confidence in their ability to execute, they won’t succeed. It’s good to gauge confidence levels at an individual and a team level from time to time. If they think your goal is impossible, they’ll talk themselves out of trying.

6. They Stop Believing They Can Make a Difference

Perhaps they’ve worked on a  big project, only to see a change in direction make their work obsolete. Or perhaps the downstream processes are so screwed up, any work they do is inadvertently sabotaged by later incompetence. If people don’t think their work really matters, they stop doing work that really matters.

Great leaders inspire belief in the vision, the cause, themselves and one another.

5 Secrets to a Successful Panel Interview (and other career tips)

As if you weren’t already stressed enough about the interview, now you realize it’s 3 against one. There’s strength in numbers, and the numbers are on their side. Don’t freak out, with a few careful moves you can leverage a panel interview to your competitive advantage.

First, relax. They’re not doing this to intimidate you. Most likely, the many-to-one approach offers the employer efficiency and an ability to immediately calibrate their impressions.

5 Secrets to a Successful Panel Interview

1. Get the Lay of the Land

It’s perfectly kosher to ask what format to expect from the interview. Be upbeat and friendly while asking, “Will it just be you, or will others be participating?” I’ve seen too many candidates lose their composure when they walked in to an unanticipated panel. It’s better to know what you’re up against so you can prepare well.

2. Do Your Homework

If possible find out names and titles of the interviewers on the panel, and check them out on LinkedIn before you go. Be careful not to get too creepy (e.g. don’t look up their children’s little league stats), but a little preparation can go a long way in helping grease the skids to powerful connection. Develop targeted questions that you could ask each panel member based on their area of expertise.

3. Facilitate Conversation

One of the reasons for a panel interview is to see how you operate in a group setting. Answer the questions, but also look for opportunities to link together conversation and comments. This shows you are an active listener and can help steer a conversation.

4. Engage Each Panel Member

Start by making good eye contact with the interviewer asking the question.  Resist the urge to dart your eyes quickly from person to person, but do engage others throughout the interview. I’ve seen candidates focus all their attention on the person they think “matters.” Everyone matters or they would not be in the room.

Ask relevant questions of  each person. Make each person feel valued and actively listen to their responses.

5. Thank Each Person

As you leave, shake each interviewer’s hand and sincerely thank them for their time.  Then as soon as possible, send a follow-up thank you email or hand written note thanking each person again.

Other Career Tips (Free Downloadable Guide)

Every week I have people emailing me for career advice on resumes, interviewing, networking etc. To make it easier for those searching for a new job or making a career move, I’ve put the links to my practical career posts into a word document you can download for free, just click here career advice.  Feel free to share with others as well.

Here are some other links to useful articles as well.

 5 Ways You’re Sabatoging Your Career

How to Know Your Job Interview Didn’t Go Well and What To Do About It

5 Common Salary Negotiation Mistakes

10 Questions Your Team Is Afraid to Ask

Your team has questions they’re afraid to ask. They’ve got limited information, but they figure if you wanted to tell them you would. They worry that raising the issue will look like insubordination, or somehow make them look less in your eyes. Maybe you can share, maybe you can’t. But that doesn’t make the questions go away. There is value in anticipating the questions that may be on people’s minds and to start the conversation. I’ve been asking around for input into one simple question “What question would you most like to ask your leadership (but are afraid to).”I’ve also been asking a similar question of the leaderhip consultants and coaches I hang around, “What questions do you think employees are most afraid to ask their leaders?” Here are the top 10. Please add yours.

10 Questions Your Teams Afraid to Ask

  1. Why are we doing it this way?
  2. How’s our company really doing?
  3. Why didn’t you ask us?
  4. Why is _____________ not dealt with?
  5. If I speak up, will it hurt my brand?
  6. Do you think I’m ready for a promotion?
  7. Why is there so much turnover ?
  8. How can we get past this feeling of constant crises?
  9. Is this really as urgent as you’re making it out to be?
  10.  ________________________ (what’s your #10?)

Conversation Starters

If you want your team to ask more of their scary questions, here are a few ways you can start the conversation.

  • If I were you, I might be wondering…
  • The last time something like this happened I had a lot of questions such as __________
  • I just read this blog post about questions your team’s afraid to ask, and it made me wonder, what questions do you have that I might be able to answer 😉

Ignoring the tough questions, doesn’t make them go away. In fact, your team is likely asking the questions, to themselves and to one another. Tackling the tough conversations head on will go a long way in building trust and respect on your team.