How to make real change happen when you're not ceo

How to Make Real Change Happen When You’re Not CEO

Let’s Grow Leaders Q&A

In a recent post we invited you to send us your biggest leadership challenge. We received a great question from a healthcare leader in the United Kingdom. It’s a question we hear all the time from audience members and workshop participants around the world about how to make real change happen when you’re not in charge.

(Please, continue to send in your questions and leadership challenges – yours may be the next one featured here).

Dear Karin & David:

I’m an innovation team leader in healthcare and we’re tasked with delivering a new model of care. It has met with some resistance – change is quite challenging in some parts of our industry and I don’t have the power to enforce these changes. How do you challenge and convert mindsets to change? How do you change cultural norms? How do you make real change happen when you’re not the CEO?

Dear Healthcare Leader:

Creating change from within an organization is often challenging.

It can be frustrating when the benefit of a new way seems so obvious to you, but is not obvious to others. Most human beings are “wired” to keep doing what they did yesterday because it costs less energy and is safe (after all, what they did yesterday got them safely to today, so why change?).

You ask two questions. I will take them in reverse order:

How do you change culture norms?

The short answer here is often: slowly.

Particularly if you’re not leading the entire organization.

Both Karin and I have made significant changes in internal cultures, but the work starts with the culture you build within your own team.

When people who interact with your innovation team come out of those interactions saying “Wow – that is an awesome group of people doing amazing work. I want to be treated like that, treat others like that, achieve results like that, and be a part of something fantastic!” – then your culture will start to spread.

We call this a “cultural oasis.” You create a culture within the team for which you are responsible. You may have to coach them to remain positive and to stay focused on results and relationships when others in the organization don’t understand them or minimize their work.

Summary: Changing a culture from the inside takes time and starts with the culture you create within your team.

How do you challenge and covert mindsets to change?

From your description, it sounds like you’re hoping others will accept the changes your innovation team is proposing. If that is your goal, I invite you to think differently about “challenging and converting” mindsets. People almost never change their mind because they were challenged.

The good news is that there are several ways you can make it more likely for change to be adopted:

  1. Answer the Question

When we’re asked to change, every human being has one overriding question: “Why should I?”

So answer their question. Before proposing a specific change, take the time to connect-the-dots: What about the current situation isn’t working? How will this change improve their life? Their patients’ lives?

When people buy-in to the “why” moving on to the “what” is much easier.

Know your audience here: one person might care more about that data and research while another is more concerned about the institution’s reputation and a third might be more focused on how changes will affect people.

  1. Make Them Partners

People don’t argue with their own input.

After you’ve shared the problem you hope to solve or the results you want to achieve, ask your peers for their ideas about how to make it work. Acknowledge the limitations and competing priorities they face. Ask “How do you think we can do this AND meet your objectives? What might that look like?”

As they share, find ways to incorporate their ideas. Now you’re all implementing a shared solution, not just something you’ve put on them.

  1. Demonstrate Success

Related to connecting what-to-why: Can you pilot the change in one area to demonstrate how desirable it would be for others? Can you find people in that test-case who can be ambassadors for the change with their colleagues and talk about what it’s doing for them and their patients?

  1. Leverage Leaders

Lateral change is easier to accomplish if your supervisor is supportive and reinforces the message. You may have to ask for exactly what you need. e.g.: “I’m hearing regularly from colleagues that these other initiatives are higher priority. Can you clarify for all of us the order of implementation?”

If your supervisor isn’t supportive, take the time to connect your initiative to their goals. What keeps them up at night? What goals do they need to achieve to be successful? Demonstrate how your changes will help them achieve their goals. Then enlist their aid with colleagues.

Here is an article that discusses these conversations with your supervisor or colleagues in more depth: PERSUADE Model

  1. Make Real Change Happen More Easily

People often resist change because they don’t know how to do it. We are more likely to adopt small behaviors than large ones. To make real change happen, ask yourself: Is there a way to focus on one or two fundamental behaviors and then build from there?

  1. Make It the Norm

The brain takes two shortcuts to figure out what to do: the environment and what other people are doing. What in your physical environment can make the change the default action? Consistently keep the new way of doing things in front of people. Tell the stories about how different people are implementing. They should see it every day so that it becomes the assumed “this is how we do things.”

  1. Share the Score

Find a meaningful way to publicly track progress. It may be a scorecard, a weekly video, or stories from patients. When people look at a score that tells them they’re 70% successful, but their colleagues are 92% successful, they often work to close the gap.

  1. Celebrate Success

Acknowledge people who are doing it well, tell the stories of how it’s working for colleagues and patients. Be specific about what people are doing and why it is important. Celebrate in ways that are meaningful to the people you’re acknowledging. This can help win over some of the reluctant people.

Those are a few thoughts to get you started. If I were in your shoes I would start with a conversation with my supervisor about goals and how these changes are supported.

Remember: it takes time to to make real change happen from within an organization. It is also a fantastic way to build your leadership, influence, and credibility.

We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment and share: How do you create meaningful change with your peers and colleagues?

(And don’t forget – we’d love to hear your biggest leadership challenge!)


Creative Commons Photo by Mattanalogue

Most Popular Leadership Advice: Let's Grow Leaders Top 10 Posts of 2017

Most Popular Leadership Advice of 2017: Top 10 Posts

We’re excited to bring your our most popular leadership advice of 2017. It’s always so much fun and interesting to see which of the year’s posts and topics resonate most with our Let’s Grow Leaders community. Here’s what you liked and shared the most as measured by page views.

We want to write on topics that will be most helpful for you! If you have a topic you’d like us to address in the New Year, please drop us a note at info@letsgrowleaders.com or leave a comment and will see what we can do to work it into our editorial calendar.

Bonus: Most Popular Leadership Advice from Let’s Grow Leaders

Of the 927 posts published to date on Let’s Grow Leaders, there are two that continue to draw in substantial traffic every day as top leadership advice and ranked in the top three for this year.

5 Secrets to Great Skip Level Meetings (April 2014)
Done well, skip level meetings can inspire, engage, motivate and inform the skipper, skipee, and even the skipped. On the other hand, poorly run skip level meetings inadvertently bring on diaper genie feedback and diminish trust. Read more

leadership in kidsChildren’s Books on Leadership: Questions to Inspire Young Thinking (November 2012)

Which children’s books are the most helpful in teaching leadership to kids? I posed this question in my online leadership communities, as well as to parents, and a children’s librarian. The suggestions came pouring in. So many of us have fond memories of reading as a child and of reading with our own children. Thank you to all who shared your stories of the stories you love and the meanings they hold. Read more 

Most Popular Leadership Advice of 2017 on Let’s Grow Leaders

10. What the Best Leaders Know About Disengaged Employees (March)employee engagement
In this post, I share one of my signature keynote stories and the importance of “strapping on your skates” and making a genuine connection with the human beings you’re leading.

9. How To Get Noticed as a Leader–Before You’ve Led a Team (August)
Practical ways to demonstrate your leadership, before you take on a formal role. How to Get Noticed as a Leader– Before You’ve Led a Team

leading for results8. 3 Behaviors That Will Convince Your Boss You’re a Rock Star (July)
In this post, we cover a few of the behaviors we work on in our R.E.A.L. professionalism training.  3 Behaviors That Will Convince Your Boss Think You’re a Rock Star

7. 4 Powerful Ways to Get Helpful Feedback From Your Peers (October)
Here we work with our “Channel Challengers” concept that we address in many of our programs– with specific ways to solicit helpful feedback in a way that you can hear it.  4 Powerful Ways to Get Helpful Feedback From Your Peers

6. One Awful (But Common Leadership Practice and What to Do Instead One awful but common leadership practice and what to do instead(November)
David explains the downsides of the common leadership practice “Don’t bring me a problem without a solution” and offers concrete ways to help your team think more critically One Awful (But Common) Leadership Practice and What to Do Instead

5. How to Motivate Your Team When You’re Exhausted (July)
Here we share our technique of “looking down the mountain” and gaining confidence and motivation from past successes. How to Motivate Yourself When You’re Exhausted

4. 3 Simple Secrets to Running a Remarkable Meeting  (August) 
In this post, we share three of our Winning Well meeting management techniques that we frequently work on in our Winning Well programs.  3 Simple Secrets to Running a Remarkable Meeting

3. One Reason Your Employees are Rolling Their Eyes (March)
It’s sad when managers work to recognize employees, and all they do is roll their eyes. Learn how to avoid some of the most common recognition mistakes.One Reason Your Employees are Rolling Their Eyes

2.Stop This Terrible Habit You Don’t Even Know You Have (January)
Here I confess one of my biggest personal leadership challenges and why it can be so destructive.  Stop This Terrible Habit You Don’t Even Know You Have

Let’s Grow Leaders #1 Post of 2017

Mind the MIT Let's Grow Leaders1. 8 Techniques to Help Your Middle Managers Cultivate Their Sweet Spot in Your Organization

On paper, your middle managers are in your organization’s sweet spot. They’re the conduits between your strategic vision and the teams who implement that vision. In reality, however, your middle managers are in a tough place. They’re under increasing pressure–from above to improve results and from below to cultivate deeper relationships with their teams.

Results and relationships can be complementary; in developing relationships, managers can improve their teams’ results. But in practice, too many managers fall into an either/or mindset. They either drive hard for results and railroad their people, or they focus on team building and miss the numbers. Either way, they wind up feeling isolated, frustrated and overwhelmed. They find themselves working longer hours, caught in a vicious cycle between “being nice” to their teams to prop up morale and running everyone into the ground to win at all costs.

(Read more) 8 Techniques to Help Your Middle Managers Cultivate Their Sweet Spot in Your Organization

We were also delighted to be featured in the Training Industry’s top 10 articles of 2017

Shocking Truth About Santas Leadership

The Shocking Truth About Santa’s Leadership

Year after year, I’ve watched the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer television special and cringed at Santa’s leadership and the atrocious leadership displayed by nearly every adult character.

  • Donner rejects his son.
  • Santa ignores Rudolph’s obvious leaping skills because of his nose.
  • The workshop foreman ridicules Harvey (the elf who wants to be a dentist).

The workplace culture at the north pole stinks! It’s a great example of what we call “trickle down intimidation.” The leaders take their cues from how things are done at the top. Santa’s leadership leads to dysfunction at every level.

Fortunately, Santa must have found an early copy of the Winning Well Confidence-Competence model in his stocking. By the end of the show, he sees and encourages Rudolph’s true strength, competence, and talent. Christmas is saved.

Do you build on your team’s talents, strengths, and competence or do you waste time, energy, and capacity focused on irrelevant “weaknesses”? Let Santa be your guide.

SANTA THE INEPT LEADER

Santa, the inept leader
Had a special flying deer,
But if you can believe it
Santa wouldn’t let him near.
All of the black-nosed reindeer
They did all of Santa’s work
He never valued Rudolph
In fact he was quite a jerk.
Then one foggy Christmas eve,
Santa came to see.
Strengths are what you really need,
Weakness is a waste to heed.
Then how the Reindeer loved him
As they flew around and beamed.
Santa, the strength-based leader
Built a real productive team…

Happy holidays!

Your Turn

How do you avoid Santa’s leadership problem and stay focused on the strengths and talents your people bring to work, rather than obsessing about the characteristics they don’t have (that also don’t matter)?

thought leaders best post of 2017

Thought Leaders Best Blog Posts of 2017: A Frontline Festival

Welcome to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival Best of 2017 Edition. We asked thought leaders from around the world to share their very best post of the year. We strategically didn’t define “best of,” but instead let contributors choose their own criteria. Some submitted their most popular post in terms of page views or social sharing, while others submitted the post that had the most personal meaning for them.

It was interesting to see the themes that emerged.  Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

Next month’s Frontline Festival is all about strategy and alignment. New contributors are always welcome. Submit your relevant blog posts here!

“Not only are bloggers suckers for the remarkable, so are the people who read blogs.” -Seth Godin

Inspirational and Reflection

Winning Well at SHRMNew to the Festival, Wendy Dailey of My Dailey Journey shares that 2017 has been eye-opening for her. Building her HR Tribe allowed her to be open to a new definition of success. Follow Wendy.

What we loved: First off, meeting Wendy at the SHRM conference, and experiencing her amazing energy and enthusiasm. I remember feeling that excited when starting my blog and seeing how quickly it attracted wonderful people to connect with. She’s doing a great job engaging her tribe.  I loved how she takes her tribe with her to experience events. 

Tanveer Naseer of Tanveer Naseer Leadership shares, “Some of the most popular pieces on my leadership blog revolve around stories I share that reveal a timely lesson on how to be better at leading others. It’s for this reason that my top post of 2017 revolves around a story – in this case, a story of one of my failures as a leader and the powerful lesson it gave rise to on the importance of effective listening.” Follow Tanveer.

What we loved: Tanveer’s vulnerability and sharing. No leader is perfect. Real growth comes from knowing that and working to improve.

Kaylee Riley of Patriot Software, LLC  notes that 2017 had its ups and downs for many business owners. For inspiration and insight on leadership, motivation, failure, and more, check out these helpful quotes, and get ready to tackle another great year!   Follow Kaylee.

What we loved:  “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.” —J.K. Rowling, author

David Grossman of The Grossman Group explains, “In developing my thoughts on 21st century communications, I pulled together the best-of-the-best strategies that work from our clients who are leading in the global communications arena, and from my travels.” The results are these Top Ten Principles for leaders, organizations, and communication professionalsFollow David.

What we loved: Principle #6: There’s a greater focus on self.  Before you can lead others, you need to first know and understand yourself.

Thought Leaders Reflect on Leadership Behaviors

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership warns, “Please don’t become a boss if…” and then gives us a WONDERFUL list of reasons supervisors struggle.  Follow Wally.

What we loved: The ENTIRE list. We’ve seen every one of these derailers.

Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds asks, “What’s the alternative to micromanagement? Macromanagement!”  It’s a way of dealing with employees and others that honors who they are and what they know, while at the same time driving engagement and sustainable results.  Follow Julie

What we loved: Julie’s straightforward chart outlining the differences in behaviors of “micro-manager and a macro-manager.”

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates gets back to the basics with this top leadership tip--something we’d all like to see more of in this world. Follow Shelley

What we loved: The reminder that being nice can go such a long way when leading other human beings.

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference reminds us that inciting and supporting continued chaos is not a sound leadership trait. A return to calmness is a leadership imperative that we embraced in 2017 and will continue to embrace in the coming years. Follow Jon.

What we loved:  We have enough chaos in the world.

  • Odd, divisive presidential tweets slam early in the morning.
  • Opioid and drug abuse rises. “Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death among Americans under 50.”
  • Anxiety is up. “Over the past eight years, Google search rates for anxiety have more than doubled…”

We don’t need leaders creating chaos. We need leaders willing to solve the underlying issues to tame chaos.

Chip Bell of Chip Bell Group reminds us that after dark, all cats are leopards and shares what can a cat teach you about how to live life at the peak of success.  Follow Chip.

What we loved: This one was just fun! What a clever approach to talking about confidence and other success-inducing behaviors.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited shares one of her most popular posts of the year–which happens to coincide with something leaders should be doing a lot of.  Here’s How to Write a Meaningful Thank You NoteFollow Beth.

What we loved: Beth doesn’t just encourage us to write thank you notes; she gives a helpful structure on how to make them more meaningful.

Sean Glaze of Great Results Teambuilding admits that marathons are hard. And marathons are far more of an individual challenge than a team activity. So what does running a marathon have to do with you leading your team? A good bit, actually… Follow Sean.

What we loved: As a marathon-runner I totally get this! I know my marathons have made me a more disciplined and supportive leader.

Paul LaRue of The UPwards Leader  brings to mind that leadership principles are timeless, and great principles transcend generations and cultures. He gives us some applications taken from what my kids learn from their martial arts Sensei. Follow Paul

What we loved: Heroic Courage. “Bushidos never waver in the face of fear or the face of compromise. They hold fast to Principles. Heroic courage is not a bravery to bend or break rules, but courage to stand for them…”

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement  posits that it seems that if there were better ways to manage, people would adopt those methods. But this just isn’t the case; sometimes better methods will be adopted but often they won’t. People can be very attached to the way things have always been doneFollow John.

What we loved: His question: How often is your organization losing out because better methods are ignored?

According to Alli Polin of Break the Frame, it’s easy to look the other way and assume that someone else will step up and get involved. What sets people apart are these five simple rules for your life and leadership.  Follow Alli.

What we loved: “Be someone who does what’s right, not only what’s easy.”

Jesse Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership reminds us that just because someone has the title of “president” doesn’t mean they’re a leader. A leader is someone who people respect, who says, “Let’s go this way,” and people follow of their own volition. Follow Jesse.

What we loved: “A leader is the person who takes action. And others join in.”

Thought Leaders on Teamwork and Teambuilding

According to Paula Kiger of Big Green Pen, it’s an old cliche’ that “there is no ‘I’ in team,” but this version of the phrase, via a television reality show, brought humor to the idea. Turns out leadership shows up when something truly matters to us.  Follow Paula.

What we loved: Paula’s starting question, “When does something stop being a drill and begin being ‘real life?’ “

Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture observes that we face a crisis of respect and civility in the US today  and gives us a solution.  Follow Chris.

What we love:  His reminder that the crises we’re seeing with sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior are not just with the rich and famous. “Incivility and disrespect play out every day in our homes, neighborhoods, workplaces, politics, and social media networks around the globe.”

Thought Leaders on Trust

Susan Mazza of Random Acts of Leadership offers that the conditions for trusting someone are very personal. In fact, despite how logical your assessments regarding trustworthiness may seem to you, it’s important to remember that not everyone takes the same approach.  Follow Susan.

What we loved: #5 of her 9 Actions to Build Trust, “honor your promises.”

“I use the word “honor” instead of “keep” your promises deliberately, because no one keeps all of their promises. Stuff happens and we are, after all, human. So this means EITHER do what you said you would do OR tell someone in advance of the due date that you can’t deliver. When you can’t deliver and you tell someone in advance, you can figure out together how to deal with the potential breakdown. That doesn’t count as keeping your promise, but it does honor your commitment and your relationship.”

Jon Verbeck of JonVerbeck.com  advises that all businesses big and small have great opportunities working with outside experts. We all develop our teams and being an outside expert, I understand it from both sides. This post describes some challenges and tips working with outside experts and consultants.  Follow Jon.

What we loved: his advice to help outside experts feel like they are part of the team. No one wants to feel like a “vendor.”

Thought Leaders on Conflict

Lisa Kohn from Chatsworth Consulting Group  presents Conflict is good – Five Ways to Make it Even Better! on The Thoughtful Leaders™ Blog where she presents a few simple, but not so easy, steps to take that can help make conflict more effective and productive. Follow Lisa.

What we loved: “We can get so caught up in the fight that we forget what we’re fighting for. And sometimes we’re fighting against each other, without realizing we’re fighting for the same thing.”

Won’t you join us?

We’d love to hear which posts resonated most with you (please leave a comment below). And we’re always looking for new contributors to the Festival!

how do I build a team of inspired followers?

How to Build a Team of Inspired Followers

How DO YOU build a team of inspired followers?

Early in my career, I had a GREAT boss, Gary, who had hand-selected and developed a team of rock star leaders. It’s arguably the best corporate team I’ve ever worked on. I’m not sure how he pulled this off, but nearly every member of the team was a  Box 9 succession planning candidate. He was all about developing our leadership and visioning skills, and spent many hours with us debriefing our strategies and making plans.

At one point he told us our team was “an experiment.” He claimed he “was in cahoots with HR” (you’ve got to add his deep Southern accent when you say this for full effect) to build an “All-Star Team” and then challenge them to truly collaborate and see what was possible.

Gary tragically passed away years ago, so I can’t verify whether the “experiment” was real. But whatever he did worked. It was not without turmoil, but at the end of the day, we developed a deep respect for one another, blew away results, most of us ended up in senior-level roles in a few years.

AND THEN: He Challenged Us to Be Inspired Followers

I’ll never forget the day the union went on strike. Gary pulled his cahoot experiment team into a conference room and warned us:

Here’s the deal. Each of you are going to spend the foreseeable future doing union jobs, climbing poles, driving forklifts, answering phones. Sometimes these situations can become dangerous–the union is not happy. There are a lot of smart people who have been working for months on how we should respond to this. We can’t explain it all.  So for now, I don’t want you to be leaders. Until this strike is over,  we don’t need your vision, we need you to step up and be the very best inspired followers you can be.

You can learn a lot about leadership when you concentrate on improving your following skills.

My friend, a retired Baltimore City Battalion chief goes to a similar place whenever we talk about growing leaders.

Karin, yes, we need great leaders. But when the building is on fire or the drug raid is underway, you don’t need 12 great leaders. You need one solid leader and 11 highly skilled followers executing the plan.

Five Critical Follower Behaviors to Train, Develop and Encourage Inspired Followers

Following is an undervalued competency. We seldom train or recruit for it. 

And yet, there is huge ROI in training key following and collaboration skills.

If you’re an individual contributor looking to rock your role, or you’re a manager working to get your A team to A+, work to build and reinforce these five critical behaviors.

  1. Holding Tough Conversations: Oh, it’s hard to have a tough conversation when you’re the boss, but exponentially harder when you have no power. Equip your team with the same skills you develop in your managers for giving and receiving effective feedback. I.N.S.P.I.R.E. great communication up, down and sideways.
  2. Thinking Critically: The last thing you want your followers doing is following your stupid mistakes. Train your team how to evaluate nuanced circumstances, ask the right questions, and make the right call.
  3. Managing Time:  Your team is a whirlwind of urgent requests from you, from your customers, and a bunch of crap you may not even fully understand. Help them identify the MIT (Most Important Thing) priorities and behaviors and build a system for managing their day.
  4. Connecting What to Why: We teach this to leaders all the time. But it works even better when you can get the whole team thinking this way. Why are we asking our customers to do this? Why am I performing this task this way? Why are we doing this thing no wants to do? Building a deeper connection between what your team is doing it to the deeper why.
  5. Building Trusted Peer Relationships: In a stack-ranked world, with limited resources creating trusted peer relationships is a fine art. Your team needs tools and practice–and support from you to reach out and build relationships even with the most frustrating folks in other departments.

This year, what will you do to build followership competence on your team?

5 Top Leadership Articles Week of 12-11-2017

5 Top Leadership Articles for the Week of December 11, 2017

Each week I read leadership articles from various online resources and share them across social media. Here are the five leadership articles readers found most valuable last week. Click on the title of the article to read the full text. I have added my comment about each article and would like to hear what you think, too.

When Leadership Demotivates Employees by Mary Kelly, PhD. US Navy Ret.

I was part of an organization that loved conducting employee surveys. As an economist and leadership author, I love data that yields results. However, surveys need to be properly conducted, or the intention can backfire.

The leaders dutifully distributed survey after survey about work conditions, corporate culture, and ways to improve the workplace.

The problem was that the senior leadership didn’t share the information collected, nor what they planned to do with it. It was simply busy work for the sake of appearing to do something that looked like leadership, but clearly was not.

As employees realized that they were spending time on surveys that didn’t matter, their attitudes shifted. Employees felt that their time, their inputs, and their jobs didn’t matter. Worse, it was rumored that the survey was actually intended to pinpoint unhappy employees to get rid of them.

My Comment: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen scenarios like this play out with employee morale taking a nose dive, leaders frustrated, and at a huge waste of time, money, and energy.

If you’re going to gather information of any kind, whether through a survey or just asking for feedback, it is critical that you plan and commit to responding before you get the information. Don’t ask questions you’re not prepared to address. Asking a question and then ignoring the answers makes you look craven or manipulative. In contrast, when you Channel Challengers and productively respond to feedback, your credibility soars.

How Leaders and Their Teams Can Stop Executive Hubris by Jonathan Mackey and Sharon Toye

If an organization has just one or two people whose power has gone to their head, it can demoralize subordinates, cause valuable talent to flee, disempower teams, and lead to foolhardy strategies. Whether you are a board member, a CEO, a senior executive, a high-potential employee on the rise, or an HR leader concerned about culture, you need to understand how such hubris works so you can head off its destructive effects on careers and on your company.

My Comment: This is an excellent article to help you address excessive confidence in both executives and to prevent it from happening to you. As the authors point out, this hubris is often acquired over time as leaders encounter fewer peers and people who will tell them the truth. You can counter these influences with intentional strategies to leverage doubt in decision-making, Own the UGLY, and Channel Challengers.

10 Questions to Ask Your Employees Every Quarter by Michael McKinney

Most leaders (the less than great ones) can become afraid of learning their employees’ true feelings towards the company and its overall structure. In turn, they shy away from even initiating such conversations and asking the important questions.

Strong leaders, on the other hand, happily ask these questions with an eye on making things better for their team. When everyone is heard and acknowledged, only then can a leader make the right decisions and give each employee what he or she needs. If you don’t ask, who will?

My Comment: WOW – there is definitely a theme this week – three articles in a row focused on getting feedback from your employees. McKinney’s questions will help you assess your team’s health and how the individual employee is doing. In order to make questions like these to work, you’ll need to have built relationships with your people (so it feels like a conversation, not an interrogation). In addition, be sure not to react or punish people for the feedback they share.

Are You a Micromanager or a Macromanager? By Julie Giulioni

Micromanager. It’s one of the least flattering labels one can be tagged with in business today. It connotes an unproductive level of involvement in the work and work products, excessive need for control, nit-pickiness, attention to unnecessary details and a generally unpleasant overall workplace experience. Nobody wants to be a called a micromanager.

Question: But, what’s the alternative?

Answer: Become a macromanager!

My Comment: There are some great suggestions in this one to help you get out of the weeds, stop micromanaging, and focus on what matters most. One of the things I appreciate here is Julie’s acknowledgement that many managers micromanage because it’s all that they know. They know how to do the work. They know the individual contributor role very well. It’s uncomfortable to learn a new set of skills and to view the world differently – from the view of a macromanager. One additional way to avoid micromanaging is to focus on how you delegate. Focus on the outcome. Don’t delegate the “how”; delegate the “what”, be clear about the finish line, and schedule a mutual appointment to receive the project back from your team member.

The 8 Best Interview Questions You Could Ever Ask by Jim Haudan

I’ve interviewed a lot of people in my career for all kinds of positions and from many backgrounds. Most people have favorite interview questions to ask and some believe certain questions can quickly reveal what they need to know about a candidate’s cultural and positional fit.

The leaders with the greatest success in hiring the right talent often like to point to the exact questions that made it clear that a candidate would or wouldn’t work. I’ve made it a hobby to consider the questions that really made me think and to experiment with the ones that make it hard for interviewees to prep for, as those are the ones that reveal the most.

I often ask people from different walks of life about their “go to” interview questions and why are they so important. Here’s what I’ve collected.

My Comment: I’m a fan of behavior-based interviewing. If you only have 20 minutes with a candidate, start there. This is an interesting list of interview questions for the times when you want to go deeper. Most of them provoke thinking and may give you insights into a candidate. They may be most useful when you’re looking at a deeper partnership with someone. Some of these questions, however, I’d have to see in practice before I would recommend them. In particular, #3 is absolutely not mutually exclusive and I’m curious what is behind this one.

Your Turn

What thoughts do these articles bring to mind? Do you see something differently than the author? Did you have a favorite leadership article this week? Leave us a comment and let’s hear from you.

6 Ways to Get the Information You Need to Make the Best Decision

6 Ways to Get the Information You Need to Make the Best Decisions

Mark stared at the floor, his jaw clenched in frustration. He wanted to make the best decisions, but…

I was sitting with a leader who had just crashed and burned. He’d made a decision that had cost him his reputation and maybe his job.

He looked up at me and with a quiet whisper, Mark asked, “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

The sad part was that it didn’t have to happen this way. People in his organization knew it wasn’t a good call. He had everything available to ensure that he made the best decisions…

But he never heard their feedback.

He was known for an explosive temper, for belittling and shaming people who saw things differently than he did, and he only ever asked people to validate what he thought.

In short, he never knew how to Channel Challengers.

Many people in positions of power often sabotage themselves and create environments where no one will tell them the truth – often difficult truths about themselves.

If you want to achieve breakthrough results, however, you’ve got to make the best decisions possible. To do that you need to have as much relevant information as possible.

6 Ways to Get the Information You Need to Make the Best Decisions

Here are six ways to Channel Challengers and ensure you have the truth and get the feedback you need to make the best decisions:

  1. Ask for the Truth

Regularly encourage dialog in your team. Ask people to teach you one thing you didn’t know. Become a person known for caring what’s really going on. Does what you hear match what you see?

  1. Say Thank You

When someone shares a hard truth, especially about you, thank the person for having the courage, taking the time, and caring enough to share it with you.

  1. Respond

If you ask for input, take time to respond. Even if the ideas aren’t actionable, when you acknowledge that the ideas were heard and considered, you increase the likelihood of hearing more in the future.

  1. Never Ever Shoot the Messenger

If someone has the heart and courage to bring you a difficult truth, even if you vehemently disagree, bite your lip. If you attack them, they won’t bring you another concern.

  1. Find Your Truth-Tellers

There are people who understand their team, environment, or processes and are willing to voice their observations. Find these people, keep in regular communication, and let them know you value their observations.

  1. Look In the Mirror

If you suspect you are not hearing the truth from those around you, it is time to look in the mirror and examine how you are interacting with others. I would bet you are not doing one or more of the first four items on this list.

If you are struggling to see it, ask others for input, find a mentor, or consider a leadership coach.

Your Turn

It may take time, but if you consistently Channel Challengers by asking for the truth, showing gratitude for input, and responding to it, you will earn trust, gain credibility, and have the information you need to make the best decisions.

Leave us a comment and share: How do you ensure you hear the truth from your team and colleagues?

End-of-year meeting:How to host a great end of year meeting

End-of-Year Meeting: How to Make Yours Remarkable

In one way or another, your team has had an incredible year. Fill in the blank: It was incredibly ________(successful, challenging, stressful). Maybe it was all you hoped and planned for. Maybe you got thrown a whopper of a curve ball. Or maybe you can’t wait for the calendar to turn over and start again. Your team’s feeling it too. Don’t throw the opportunity out with the holiday wrappings. Carve out time to talk about what you learned in an end-of-year meeting.

It’s tempting to have a “no one talks about work” luncheon, do the secret Santa thing and have a few giggles. Or, to jump right into 2018 planning, “after all the past is behind us.” The best meetings build both results and relationships, and an end-of-year meeting done remarkably well sets the stage for thoughtful reflection and a more energized start to the new year.

How to Have a Remarkable End-of-Year Meeting

Make a CAREful plan and have your best end-of-year meeting ever.

C- Celebrate 

Celebrate both results and the human beings who achieved them.  Be sure your team knows the Most Important Things (MIT) they accomplished in terms of both results and building relationships. For example, it’s not just the 28% increase in efficiency, it’s also that they improved the contentious relationship with IT that made the collaboration possible.

If you’re doing formal recognition, resist the urge to just pick the top three by the numbers of a stack rank. Consider HOW the results were achieved. There’s nothing more demoralizing to a team than seeing their boss recognize some bozo who gamed and back-stabbed his way to the top. If there’s any chance your team will be texting one another “WTF” when an award is given, supplement your criteria to include behaviors that matter.

A-Acknowledge

Acknowledge the disappointments. Acknowledge what you could have done better. Acknowledge the effort that may not have paid off the way you would have hoped. Acknowledge the effort that did.  When we ask our audiences  “What’s one thing you feel underappreciated for?” at work, the number one answer is always, “The time I spend developing my people.” Acknowledge that too.

R-Renew

Do something to refresh and renew. One year one of my sales managers took his team bird watching in the local park, before digging into their strategic review. Another year I hired a caricature artist to come do a composite sketch of the team. Another time, we had white elephant exchange, but instead of wacky presents, each member of the team brought their favorite business book– people were stealing from one another right and left, and the side effect was a lot of strategic reading and dialogue happening that year. Most years at Verizon, I brought my team to my home for a planning session followed by a dinner celebration. Find some way to refresh and have some fun along with the reflection and planning.

E-Engage

Engage the team. Ask each team member to reflect on their own contributions in terms of results and relationships this year, as well as disappointments.

If you’re holding a small meeting with just your direct reports give them time to share. If you’re hosting a larger event, there are lots of fun ways to engage and capture reflections, from sticky notes and grouping themes; to “best of”/”worst of” reflections on index cards collected at the beginning and sorted into themes; to simple polling texting apps, with results projected immediately on the screen.

Find a way to get your team’s best view of the year into the conversation.

2018 Fast Start

Operational Excellence RalliesGet your team off to a fast-start in 2018. Learn more about our Let’s Grow Leaders Operational Excellence Rallies. Let’s us help you and your team have a remarkable fast start to the new year.  We’d love to talk more about how we can custom-design a one or two-day strategic working session with high ROI.

 

how to support your project managers

Six Reasons Even the Best Project Managers Fail

The project is mission critical, and complicated with lots of moving parts across departments. You’ve assigned your rock star, PMI certified project manager to shepherd the process and the project is way behind schedule. She’s frustrated, you’re one missed deadline away from frantic, and your boss wants to know what she can do to help. What next? How do you best support her and your team of project managers to ensure their success?

Six Reasons Even the Best-Run Projects Derail (and How to Help Your Project Managers Avoid These Traps)

When great project managers fail, which they sadly sometimes do, the root cause is almost never a breakdown in a technical expertise. More pressure on the PM won’t solve these issues; neither will more frequent readouts or points of escalation. When your great PMs fail, take a step back and check for these surefire project derailers.

1. Lack of Executive Alignment

Of course, every exec in the room was “all in” when their boss said, “Fix this now, we need all hands on deck.” But what exactly does that mean?

What exactly are we fixing now and how?

What does success look like?

Which departments are going to do what by when and how will we know? If this is not clear at the executive level, you’ll never foster true collaboration a level or three below.

How does this issue rank in priority to the other top 3 issues everyone is already working on night and day?

When your PM goes out looking for support and resources, where does this rank? Are you sure all are aligned?

2. It’s Not the MIT (Most Important Thing). 

Closely correlated to number 1, your project team members are attending your meetings, agreeing to next steps, and then going back to their “real” priorities and day jobs. If your project is not what’s top of mind for their boss, it’s unlikely any tasks will be on the top of their to-do list.

3. The Team’s Full of B-Players

I’m guilty as charged. Perhaps you are too. Have you ever been asked to commit resources to a project that you feel is a distraction from your MIT? All “headcount” is not the same. If your project is failing, you may have more than one leader giving you less than their A team.

4. They’re Too Stressed to Put People Before Projects

The pressure’s on and the team jumped right in, no wasted time. Teams take a minute to gain trust and to build collaboration. If the team is failing, a quick time out to focus on the people issues might be just the trick. Go slow to go fast.

5. No One Wants to Hear the Tough Stuff

If #3 doesn’t apply, you have the A-team, everyone’s aligned on MITs and expectations, but you’re telling the team to stop complaining and make it happen– you might be missing the most valuable insights for true project success. Be sure you and your team are taking time to channel challengers.

6. PMs Don’t Feel Empowered to Have the Tough Conversations

No project succeeds without clear expectations and accountability. But so many of the PMs we work with share how hard this is without the support they need to lead through influence.  Here’s our INSPIRE methodology applied to Project Managers.

I.N.S.P.I.R.E. Model for Project Managers

Your turn. When great project managers struggle, or when important projects derail, where do you look first?

5 Top Leadership Articles 11-27-2017

5 Top Leadership Articles for the Week of November 27, 2017

Each week I read leadership articles from various online resources and share them across social media. Here are the five leadership articles readers found most valuable last week. Click on the title of the article to read the full text. I have added my comment about each article and would like to hear what you think, too.

The 5 Things Mediocre Managers Forget (But Inspirational Leaders Never Do) by Chad Perry

Most of my career has been in leadership roles — and I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I mean, a lot of mistakes. More than I can count.

I’ve learned about leadership the hard way. I’ve learned the most about leading by doing it the wrong way.

I can still remember when I first hit the management track. My very first thought? “Finally, I don’t have to be ‘on’ all day!”

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

So with that in mind, here are some things I once forgot, and I’m sure others have too at some point in their careers.

My Comment: This is one of those rare articles that has made two appearances in the Top 5 – and with good reason. I once read a fable that said the “curse of our humanity is that we forget.” Those words stuck with me and they will certainly resonate as you read Perry’s article. I’ve watched so many fantastic team members enter management roles and forget the very things Perry mentions. I know I’ve done it too. How can you prevent yourself from forgetting: What it’s like to follow? That you can be wrong? And more…

The Importance of Surrounding Yourself with the Right People by Lewis Howes

“Surround yourself with those who see the greatness within you, even when you don’t see it in yourself.” Edmund Lee

I’ve got another epic custom track from Fearless Motivation for you today. This one is on a topic that I really believe in.

We are so influenced by the people we surround ourselves with. It’s nearly impossible to rise to your own personal greatness if you aren’t surrounding yourself with people who are doing the same.

My Comment: Look back at motivational speakers through the centuries and you will find a common thread: surround yourself with people who are doing what you want to do and who are like the person you want to become. This isn’t empty hype. Your brain takes shortcuts to keep you safe and healthy with the minimum amount of effort. One of the big shortcuts it takes is to look at the people around you. What are they doing? If you do that too, you’re likely to be okay. Peer pressure is a real phenomenon that you can use to propel yourself.

13 Amazing Travel Gift Ideas for Entrepreneurs Who Never Stop by Rose Leadem at Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs aren’t known for their fondness for sitting around. We’re always on the go! And while traveling around the country, or world, can be fun and exciting, it’s also exhausting and sometimes even a little stressful. Getting enough sleep, staying healthy, being organized — these are only a small number of the obstacles of constant travel. Luckily, there are tons of products available today to make traveling smooth and stress-free. Here are a few of our faves for you nomadic types.

My Comment: First, I was surprised at how popular this article was. I guess many of you have entrepreneurs in your life and the holidays are approaching. Karin and I totally fit the description of “on-the-go entrepreneur” – I spoke in seven countries last year and had several ten-day stretches that included eight airplanes. That said, #6 is cool and #7 is intriguing.

5 Tips for Measuring Employee Engagement by Saige Driver at Business News Daily

Every employer has heard the words “employee engagement,” but do most executives truly understand what it means? More importantly, do they know how to measure it?

Employee engagement is important because involved employees are typically more productive, have more energy and are more creative.

“Engaged employees are passionate about what they do,” said David Almeda, chief people officer at Kronos Incorporated. “Highly engaged employees build better products and take better care of customers because they want to, not because they are told to.”

My Comment: I invite you to approach this article with caution. Measuring employee engagement is useful, but can also be very destructive. The worst thing you can do is survey your people and then either ignore what they said or, as I’ve seen happen, punish them for their answers. Another poor practice I’ve seen: executives don’t realize the extent of Gamer manager behaviors and managers bribe or pressure their people to answer differently than they might.

If you want inspired, energized employees who give discretionary effort, be prepared to do the work. The survey is just a measurement to let you know where you’re starting. Before measuring, commit to the work of fixing your broken systems, of developing your leaders, and addressing cultural issues that undermine trust and collaboration.

Lessons I Learned from Adversity by Shubha Apte

With the hectic pace of today’s world, we easily get caught up in the busyness of life.

We are forever stressed, overwhelmed, and running errands, attending to work, rushing to office, stuck in traffic jams. Our mind is swirling with thoughts, and we have no control over it. We do not even think to press the pause button and listen to the body whispers.

The bones creak, joints are screaming for attention, but we don’t care. There is a lot of work to get done and many mountains to climb. The to-do list never ends and goals remain goals forever.

My Comment: Apte has some important reminders for us in this piece. Your leadership is a marathon, not a sprint. Take care of yourself so you’re able to go the full distance. Reflect and know what matters most. Filter the noise. Always pertinent.

Your Turn

What thoughts do these articles bring to mind? Do you see something differently than the author? Did you have a favorite leadership article this week? Leave us a comment and let’s hear from you.