11 Ways to Grow Leadership Skills in Children

Developing Leadership Skills in Children: 11 Ways to Grow Your Kids

When we talk about developing leadership skills in children, we’re often met with a sigh, “Oh my kids not ready for that…” And yet,  most of us take a deliberate approach to developing other skills in our kids early on. We teach them to swim, to ride a bike, to read, and read music, as early as we can. Leadership development should be no different. The earlier we can develop leadership skills in children the more natural these skills will feel.

how do I develop leadership skills in my chidren?Dear Karin and David,

You talk about growing leaders. How do I grow leadership skills in my young children? I’m trying hard to give my children the best advantage in life I can, but I can’t find much out there on how to help them develop as leaders. What would you recommend?



Dear Mom Growing Leaders,

Yes! Thank you for asking this important question. It’s a subject we’re very passionate about. Here are few insights from our experience. We hope others will join this conversation and share their experiences and approach as well.

11 Ways to Develop Leadership Skills in Children

Start with lots of love and building self-esteem. Too many grown-ups with power mess things up because they’re still dealing with childhood muck. Be a role model, and know they’re always watching. Beyond that, here are a few of our favorite approaches for building leadership skills in children.

    1. Teach them to give.
      Join them in volunteer activities  talk about the “why” as much as the “what.” Help them look for needs in everyday situations, and to consider how they can improve the scene. Help young children delight in giving and call it leadership. Averie’s experiences building homes in Mexico as a child shaped her leadership roles in college and her eventual career. Learning the servant part of servant leadership is as important as anything else when helping your children develop as leaders. You can help them to find the joy in their work and school assignments.
    2. Talk to them like grown-ups.
      Young children are smarter than they look. Talk about current events. Expose them to people who think differently than you and help them learn to listen and respectfully articulate their own point of view.
    3. Give them a say in some family decisions.
      Pick some decisions where you don’t need control. Invite your young children to brainstorm creative options. Encourage each family member to listen to one another’s viewpoints before deciding as a family.
    4. Nurture a love of reading.
      Read together and talk about the characters and relationships in the stories. For a list of great books to read with your young children click here. (one of the most popular posts every on Let’s Grow Leaders)  We would love to have you add your additional suggestions in the comments on that post (we received some great additions from other readers.)

teaching your children leadership

  1. Bring them along and give them a role.
    Kid’s love to see mommy and daddy in action. We’ve taken our children with us as we work and travel, given them concrete roles ranging from working the Verizon booth at a Festival to working the expo floor and promoting our book in Singapore. We’ve explained what we’re doing and why, and ask for their insights. Seb has seen our Diaper Genie™ talk so many times he can give it himself. See also  A Great Way to Teach Your Kids About Leadership.
  2. Admit when you screw up.
    Talk about your leadership mess-ups. Kid’s need to know that leaders aren’t perfect and that mistakes are all part of their learning. One of the best ways to develop leadership skills in children is to show them you’re still growing too.
  3. Hang out with other leaders
    So they can see leaders are regular people too. We’ve even included Sebastian on some of our Skype conversations in prepping for our International work—makes it much more meaningful when they meet in person. Sebastian has built his own relationships with leaders around the world and that can be fun for the whole family. Averie regularly spent time with David’s team-leaders, Directors, and Board members, developing her own friendships and business role-models.
  4. Teach them to craft and deliver a great prayer (or toast) at family gatherings.leadership connection
    “Let’s talk about why we’re gathered and what people may want God to hear ” or “Let’s find some words that would make everyone here feel special before we sit down to eat.” It’s so much fun to see what they come up with. After a few times with some guided help, it’s likely all they’ll need is a nod from you and they’ll know what to do.
  5. Encourage connections.
    Cultivate an awareness of other people, each person’s dignity, and the negative effect of labels. Help them to connect by showing interest. If you want to learn about networking for you or your children this is the post.
  6. Help them find their own voice.
    Help them find cultivate their passions and to talk and write about what they love. If you can get them on a stage early on, it will make speaking to an audience seem like a natural part of life. They might by-pass that fear of so many grown-ups by speaking early and often.
  7. Ask great questions.
    Asking great questions is one of the best ways to help your managers be more strategic. It’s also a great way to develop leadership skills in your kids. “What’s another approach we could try?” “Why do you think that happened?” “What’s the next best choice we could make here?”

Developing leadership skills in children is one of the most important ways to grow our future. Investing just a little time with any of these techniques each week can go a long way in helping your children grow.

If you enjoyed this post, or are a parent looking to help your children develop leadership skills,  you can download a FREE ebook Karin wrote in collaboration with Alli Polin a few years ago, write as she was starting Let’s Grow Leaders.  A Parent’s Guide to Leadership.

And stay tuned… we have an exciting Let’s Grow Leaders growing leadership skills in children surprise coming later this year.

See also: Issues Families Face: Are You Raising a Leader?

Project Manager Tools: An Easy Communication Tool

How to Run a Better Project: A Communication Tool For Project Managers

Whether you’re a PMI certified project manager working to spearhead several large-scale projects, or a manager balancing a critical project while still doing your day job, you know the importance of communication. 

And yet, people typically don’t communicate well. Especially not about risk; about the myriad ways their best-laid plans could implode. And when their plans do implode, and negative emotions kick in? Their communication gets progressively worse.

What does this mean for you, as a project manager? It means that in your efforts to get a struggling project back on track, the deck is stacked against you. The very thing you need—open, fluid communication among your stakeholders—is likely to be the one thing you won’t get. Communication takes time to rebuild once it’s broken down. You know the schedule you’re always up against. You don’t have that kind of time.


The best solution for you is to prevent your project from veering off track in the first place. To do that, you’ll need to consistently and ruthlessly seek out understanding of the risks your project faces.

An Easy Project Manager Communication Tool

A significant part of our work is supporting project leaders and teams to ‘own the ugly’ around what could prevent their teams from meeting project goals. Technology is progressing faster (and workplace culture is changing faster) than at any other point in human history. Your most important work as a project manager is to be aware of when you’re lagging behind, so you can take steps to immediately redirect and get your initiative’s efforts back on course.

To launch and guide candid, “ugly” conversations about the ways your project could be at risk, you can use the “Own the Ugly” Communication Tool inspired by our best-selling book Winning Well A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul:

Own the UglyU- What are we Underestimating?

Typically, the element of project management that’s most often underestimated is communication. You and your stakeholders understand the technical and operational risks to your project. You’ve taken steps to mitigate those risks. But you can understand risk and still underestimate the impact of failure on people.

When a project begins to veer off course—when deadlines are missed and deliverables don’t produce desired results — communication breaks down. Poor communication increases the risk of your project’s failure exponentially.

Consider, are you underestimating that?

Ask yourself how can you shore up your communication channels now, before your actual encounter with any of the dozens of elements that can take your project down. Where do you need to pay closer attention to how people talk to one another? The tone of your team’s day-to-day conversations is a good indicator of the strength of their relationships. People who are in strong relationships are more likely to keep communicating under pressure.

Create space for contributors to your project to dig in and identify exactly where communication will break down first—how, why, and between whom—if goals start to be missed. In having this conversation, you’ll learn a tremendous amount about your stakeholders. You’ll discover where they are already struggling to communicate effectively with one another and, possibly, with you.

G- What’s Got to Go?

As a project manager, you know better than anyone, to succeed, projects must be agile. Conditions change, and the things that you’re doing now may not make sense anymore.

Ask your team, “Which of our processes are more habit than value? What meetings are wasting your time? What’s simply gotta go for you to have the time, energy, and resources to focus on what matters most to this project’s desired outcomes?”

Ask these questions now. Be fierce about purging the policies and norms that are keeping your contributors in a holding pattern. Facilitating agility is more often about subtraction than addition.

L- Where are We Losing?

Mapping out a project management strategy and following through on your plans can be a monumental effort. But what happens when you and your contributors do everything ‘right’ and still fail to make strides in meeting your project’s initial goals?

Well, then it’s time for the gloves to come off—all the way off.

Ask, “Where are you under-performing despite your best efforts, and why? Who is doing it better, and how? And, most importantly, what systems and partnerships must evolve to support your effort?”

Leading projects within a rapidly shifting business environment isn’t easy. It’s hard. Be proactive in discovering why you’re not effective. Set yourself apart from other project teams that are waiting for change to happen to them, instead of because of them.

Y- Where are We Missing the Yes?

Beyond your project’s scope lies a universe of possibility. As project manager, you know this. That’s why you keep a sharp eye on scope creep. To meet your project’s budget, timeline, and promised outcomes, you must ensure promises don’t outstrip resources.

And yet. Is the mindset to prevent scope creep holding you back from effectively assessing creative options? Are there partnerships, research, or tangential efforts that, while not strictly within your project’s parameters, could deepen your team’s results?

Every now and then, remind yourself and your team that it’s okay to remove the blinders and explore counterintuitive options. Cultivate that curiosity. And, have the uncomfortable conversations about the ways curiosity isn’t cultivated within your project and the impact of that absence.

PMI EMEA Congress 2018 Karin Hurt and David Dye

Remember—you’re going to need innovative solutions should your project’s risks ever become reality.

Won’t you join us? Are you a Europe-based Project Manager? We would love to have you join us for our session at the PMI EMEA Congress in Berlin. Click here for more information.

Download this Project Article to Share with Your Project Manager Colleagues

Would you like a printable version of this article? Click here.

See Also: 6 Reasons Even the Best Project Managers Fail 

how do i stop my boss from treating me like a kid?

How Do I Stop My Boss From Treating Me Like a Kid?

Have you ever seen this dynamic? A manager has known “a kid” on their team forever. LOVES her. WANTS the best for her. AND is ironically holding her back. If you ask “the kid,” (who also loves and respects said manager), it’s because he just “can’t stop treating me like a kid. I know I’ve grown. How do I convince him?”

We call this the “Tommy syndrome.” Tom is ready for what’s next, but his well-meaning manager can’t stop thinking about him as Tommy.

Dear Karin and David,

I’ve grown so much as a leader. I’ve gone back to school. Worked hard as a volunteer leader in my professional associations. My team’s results are solid. But my boss doesn’t give me a chance. I’m her go-to guy to get stuff done, but when it comes to presenting to senior leaders, or for stretch assignments, she seems to give those opportunities to the folks she’s hired in the last few years. I know I have the deeper personal relationship, and I value all I’ve learned from her. But honestly, I wonder if I should start looking outside for a fresh start.


A Grown-Up #AskingForAFriend

How Do I Stop My Boss From Treating Me Like a Kid?

  1. Don’t act like a kid.
    This may seem like the most obvious answer, but we often find that this familiarity goes both ways. Don’t over-disclose your frustrations, your insecurities, or ask for extra guidance or concessions. Act the part of the role you want.
  2. Approach one-on-ones as organized as if you’re in a new job.
    Our free MIT huddle planner can help you organize your thoughts and prepare for your discussions. Treat every one-on-one as if it were an interview for the next role. Bring that level of professionalism and preparation.
  3. Ditch the Diaper Genie® and clearly state your goals.
    Be straightforward with your manager and tell her that you would like to be considered for the role that interests you. Ask her what skills and competencies you need to demonstrate to be qualified for consideration. Sometimes it’s as simple as asking. David’s first middle-level management promotion came when he actively said, “I want to do that.” The organization had been looking externally until he expressed interest.
  4. Get real about expectations.
    What does success really look like for your current role and at the next level? Be sure you’re crystal clear about your manager’s expectations. Here’s another approach that can help. Often, your manager isn’t sharing where you’re not meeting expectations because they see you as a known quantity and don’t want to jeopardize the relationship. Be clear that you want to exceed the requirements of your current role and get the feedback you need to know where you’re not meeting the mark.
  5. Play bigger.
    To be seen as a thought-partner, you’ve got to act like one. Start thinking and speaking strategically. What are the business concerns that keep your boss’s boss up at night? What goals must they achieve to be successful? In interactions with your boss and her colleagues, start speaking in terms of these initiatives and concerns.
  6. When you’re overlooked, have an honest conversation.
    Once you’ve done all of the above for several months, if you’re not considered for the next opportunity, it’s time for another conversation. You might say something like, “It seems like you don’t consider me as qualified for these roles. Do I have that right?” Pause and let them respond. See what additional information you uncover. If it’s not obvious, ask again what skills, behaviors, and achievements you need to demonstrate to be considered.
  7. Change your context.
    Some people will always have a difficult time seeing you differently than the person you were when they first met you. If you try all of these tactics and you’re still not being seen the way you’d like, check with a mentor or some other colleagues to verify that it’s not something you’re failing to do. If you’re doing everything you can and nothing changes, you may have to change your context where you new professionalism and strategic thinking are seen without the baggage of history.

Your turn. What advice would you give A Grown Up so their boss stops treating them like a kid?

Have a leadership or management question? Send it here and we’ll do our best to share our perspective.  You might also enjoy our Fast Company article on 10 Excuses that Silently Damage Manager’s Careers


leadership competencies: how to hold a great interview

How to Interview For Winning Leadership Competencies

You’re working hard to build a Winning Well culture. You’ve identified your MIT leadership competencies and are working to cultivate and encourage the right behaviors. How you staff your key leadership roles matters more now than ever.

How will you identify the very best candidates for reinforcing your Winning Well culture?  How will you identify the candidates who really exhibit Winning Well leadership competencies, versus those who just talk a good game?

Be sure you’re asking strategic questions that require candidates to share how they’ve actually demonstrated the leadership competencies you’re selecting for.

Here a few strategic, behavior-based interview questions based on eight key behaviors we build in our Winning Well training programs. and keynote speeches.

We encourage you to weave a few of them into your next interview.

Winning Well Leadership Interview Guide


how to help your middle managers find their sweet spot

Tell me about a time when you had way too much to do—how did you decide what was most important? How did you prioritize? What was the outcome?

Describe three ways you work to communicate and reinforce expectations on your team.

Tell me about at a time you helped turn around a serious performance issue. What was your approach? What was the outcome?

play the game don't game the score

What metrics do you use to measure your success in your current role? How do you keep your team focused on achieving those outcomes?

What do you see as the most critical behaviors in this new position? How would you go about reinforcing them?

Can you tell me about a time a supervisor wanted you to focus on something you knew wasn’t a priority for your customer, your team, or the company? How did you handle it? What was the outcome?


Describe the best team you ever worked on. What was your role in making it a success?

When you are working on a strategic project in your current job, how do you go about identifying the relevant stakeholders? How do you get them involved?

Can you tell me about a time you joined a new team and how you built trust with your new teammates?

trust the trenches

Tell me about a project where you successfully delegated some important tasks. How did you decide what to delegate and to whom?

How do you help your team recover from setbacks?

Can you share a time where one of your team members had a new perspective and how you were able to incorporate it into your work?


what makes you a rock star in your role? What makes you a rock star in your current role? How would you leverage those strengths in this new position?

Tell me about a time you had to make a tough decision with limited information. What was the situation? How did you approach it?

What are your favorite techniques for building confidence and competence in your team members?

ditch the diaper drama #WinningWellTell me about a time you had a really tough conversation with an employee. How did you approach it? What was the outcome?

Describe a decision you made that was unpopular and you how implemented it.  What was the situation? Who was involved? What did you do? What was the outcome?

Can you share a time when you seriously disagreed with your boss and were convinced you were right? How did you address it? What was the outcome?


Own the UglyWhat’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made at work? How did you recover?

Describe a time a project you were leading did not turn out as you had hoped.  What was the situation? Who was involved? What did you do? What was the outcome?

What is the most difficult apology you’ve ever had to make at work? What made it challenging? How did you do it?

What tools and techniques do you use to get feedback from your team?

How would you describe your conflict style? Tell me about a time that you had a significant conflict at work where that style served you well. Tell me about a time when that style got in the way.

Who are your most important stakeholders in your current role? How do you go about getting feedback from them?

Some other innovative interview questions that help uncover leadership competencies

Inc. 9 Interview Questions You Need to Be Asking

LinkedIn: Hiring For Trust: 9 Interview Questions

Fast Company: 7 Interview Questions for Measuring Emotional Intelligence

Your Turn

What are some of your favorite interview questions to ensure you have leaders that are committed to Winning Well?

Managing Remote Teams

Managing Remote Teams: How to Increase Engagement and Performance

Managing Remote Teams: Relationships First

Dear Karin and David,

Do you have any best practices for managing remote teams? I’m finding it hard to build genuine connection and to stay on top of performance when the team is so dispersed.


On the Road Again #AskingForAFriend

How to Increase Engagement and Performance in a Remote Team

Employees working from home, virtual teams, and global teams in multiple time zones are an increasingly common reality for managers across industries. While some organizations are insisting everyone come to the office to work, the trend is undeniably toward geographically dispersed teams. To be an effective leader, you’ll want to master the art of managing remote teams.

When David talks with leaders about remote teams, one of the common problems he sees is diving into technology first, without thinking about why you’re using it.

To succeed with virtual teams and remote employees, think relationships first, tools second. As with a face-to-face team, what does your team need in order to succeed? The answers here are the same as for any team, eg: trust, connection to purpose, clear expectations, encouragement.
When it comes to managing remote teams, think relationships first, tools second. (Tweet this)
Once you’ve re-clarified these foundational team needs, then you can look for tools and methods to fulfill them. Key areas to focus on include communication, trust or connection with one another, mission alignment, and accountability.

Karin first tackled this topic back in 2012 when she was still at Verizon leading a remote team of 300 people around the country who were supporting 10,000 outsourced employees from 7 different companies.

In that post, she shared that despite the challenges, when done well, there are also some real benefits to managing remote teams.

  • Every interaction counts, people plan more for the time they have.
  • Both the leader and the team make extra effort to show up strong.
  • Teams and team members gain more confidence in self-direction.
  • Teams feel more encouraged to take risks.
  • It’s easier to be creative when no one is looking over your shoulder.
  • When teams are together they work hard to create relationships and are deliberate about maintaining them across distances.
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder—remote teams call on one another when needed, and have quality interaction.
  • They make better use of tools and technology.
  • They listen more closely because they are not distracted by the daily noise.

You can read additional insights here. 

Many of our clients work extensively in remote teams, and in fact, we often leverage a variety of technical solutions to keep communication going across continents to create high-engagement while training these teams together, virtually.

Here are a few behaviors to focus on as your working to increase engagement and productivity while you’re managing remote teams.

  1. Establish and over-communicate a crystal clear vision and expectations.
    Managing a remote team forces you to be very clear and organized about your priorities and goals. Everything we share in Winning Well about establishing clear MITs (most important things), checking for understanding, and communicating frequently through multiple channels is EVEN MORE important when leading a remote team. Be sure your team knows what’s most important and why. It is more important than ever to check for understanding and ensure that everyone is on the same page.

    For example, to ensure meetings translate into action, an international project manager we worked with relied on agendas that are built entirely around the Winning Well meeting formula. Every item on the agenda is detailed as to the decision to be made and includes a clear ‘who is doing what, by when, and how will the team know’ outcome.

  2. Formalize your approach to informal communication.
    When you work together it’s easy to pop into the next office or catch someone in the elevator for casual updates. Don’t leave communication to chance. It’s helpful to formalize a communication process, even for informal updates, to keep your remote team informed. This is particularly important if some of your team are in other time zones.
    Mix it up – a common mistake when working with remote employees is to default to only one form of communication. Remember that people receive and retain information differently. In addition to project management software, chat platforms, and email, use a mix of more personal communication as well. There’s no substitute for a real human voice. We’re big fans of using video over phone calls whenever possible. Find creative ways to leverage technology.
  3. Be real.
    Building trust can be extra hard when face to face interaction is limited. A little vulnerability can go a long way. Find ways to get to know one another as human beings. Ditch the Diaper Genie® (or as this Fast Company article says, make an effort to  “talk about the tough stuff.” ) When people don’t have information, they make it up. And most of the time what they dream up is way worse than the truth. Reduce this tendency by taking time to intentionally “re-humanize” yourself and your team. Be vulnerable, be real, and use tools to help you make these connections. For example, one manager we worked with use a private Facebook group where her team had different fun and personal activities from sharing a meaningful object in their office to discussing what in their life mattered more to them than their work.
  4. Foster collaboration.
    One overlooked part of leading remote teams, is fostering peer collaboration. As the leader, it’s easy to become the hub of the communication, which can be extremely time consuming and limits creativity. Invest in building up the communication skills on your team. Encourage them to reach out to one another and to meet without you.
  5. Show up face-to-face more than is practical.
    Even with a solid communication plan, it’s hard to beat the benefits of spending some informal time together getting to know one another as human beings. If your budget allows, travel to your remote teams from time to time and invest great skip level interactions, roll-up-your-sleeves work, and some time to grab dinner or take a walk.

Your turn. What is your best advice for managing remote teams? 

Do you have a leadership or career question? Would you like some additional insight? Submit your question here and we’ll do our best to offer our perspective.

innovation and creativity at work

Innovation and Creativity at Work: A Frontline Festival

Are you searching for ways to bring more innovation and creativity to your team? In this month’s Frontline Festival, thought leaders from around the world share their insights on how to foster innovation at work.

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 employee engagement. New contributors always welcome. Submit your relevant blog posts here!

Innovation and Creativity in Customer Service

Chip Bell of Chip Bell Group (in the Inc. article, How to ‘Kaleidoscope’ Your Customers reminds us that today’s customers do not talk (remark) or tweet about good service; only experiences they find unique, special, and ingenious. Research shows value-added (taking what customers expect and adding more) will not provide a solid ROI. But, value-unique (delivering an unexpected, compelling surprise) creates animated advocates and fuels bottom line impact. Follow Chip.

As technology advances, you must innovate certain aspects of your business, too. Because so much communication takes place online, in-person customer service is limited.  Kaylee Riley of Patriot Software, LLC inspires us to come up with creative ways to provide excellent (and personal) customer service when we communicate with customers online.  Follow Kaylee.

Innovation & Critical Thinking

Own the UglySusan Mazza of Random Acts of Leadership  shares why positive thinking isn’t enough. In fact, sometimes we need a more realistic view of reality to create positive movement and action. Sometimes what may occur as “negative” is actually a very good thing for business. Follow Susan.

According to Ken Downer of Rapid Start Leadership to lead well you have to be able to think creatively and independently. The good news is that thinking is a skill; these 25 ideas will help you sharpen those thinking skills and improve your chances to succeed as a leader. Follow Ken

Tanveer Naseer of Tanveer Naseer Leadership helps us learn about the neurological mechanisms that can impede your employees’ creativity and ability to collaborate. He gives us three strategies leaders can employ to overcome these impediments. Follow Tanveer.

Sean Glaze of Great Results Teambuilding  posits that as complicated as sometimes we try to make it sound, innovation is most often either a MODIFICATION of an existing idea or the MARRIAGE of two existing ideas in a new or unexpected way… consider this very simple equation: NI = OI + YI.  Follow Sean.

Wendy Dailey of My Dailey Journey shares that in order for HR to help eliminate the salary gap, we need to change how we look at compensation and stop asking for salary history.  Follow Wendy.

Innovation Through Collaboration

“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R & D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R & D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.”
Steve Jobs

There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period. Brene Brown
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/topics/innovation

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference offers that we’re at the tipping point of a new era of leadership. leaving stale leaders behind. The big change required is better collaboration and productive problem-solving. To get smart citizens, we need smart leadersFollow Jon.

Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds tells us that a key prerequisite for creativity and innovation is curiosity.  This post explores what it is and how to leverage it for improved results. Follow Julie

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates takes an innovative look at the role of feelings in the workplace. Follow Shelley

Encouraging Innovation

“There is no innovation and creativity without failure. Period.”
Brene Brown

According to David Grossman of The Grossman Group  research published by the Harvard Business Review on fostering innovation within companies underscores the value of encouraging employees to be decision-makers. Read on to find out what the most successful innovation leaders do to foster innovation in their teams. Follow David.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement advises we make sure people have time, encouragement and freedom to pursue their passion. Far too often managers spend their time dealing with problems: problems with employees, and dealing with internal politics. Shift priorities so we instead prioritize creating space for people to flourish with other things being done if there is time.  Follow John.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership provides questions, answers, and the four commandments of creativity and innovation. Follow Wally.

Jesse Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership shares: Your questions are more important than your answers. In your role as a leader, before jumping to a conclusion, ask questions that increase possibilities and creativity like “What don’t we know yet?”  Follow Jesse.

Are you a leadership blogger? We would love to have you join us in the next Frontline Festival. New contributors are always welcome.

Overlooked for promotion again - now what

Overlooked For Promotion Again: Now What Should I Do?

Dear Karin and David,

I’ve been sitting in the “ready now” box on the performance potential grid for over a year. But this is the third promotion in a row that’s gone to someone clearly less qualified for political reasons. I’ve been overlooked for promotion again, but my boss says to “be patient,” that “my time will come.” I’m not so sure. What should I do?


Impatient and Frustrated

5 Ways to Respond When You’ve Been Overlooked For a Promotion

Dear Impatient and Frustrated,

We are so sorry to hear about your situation and know how frustrating that can be. The most important thing you can do at the moment is to respond well. Don’t let your frustration at feeling overlooked for promotion bring out any poor leadership behaviors that could get in the way of you being considered the next time.

1. Keep Your Cool

The truth is everyone is watching your reaction. If the decision really was political, there will be others frustrated along with you and it’s tempting to commiserate and gossip. Resist the urge to complain (even behind “closed doors.” Take the high road.) Handling this disappointment elegantly will foster respect and differentiate you for future consideration.

2. Ask For Genuine Feedback

There are a lot of criteria that go into who was selected and why. There may be political reasons that have nothing to do with you, or it may be true that there is someone (or someones ) involved in the decision who have concerns about your performance or behaviors. Calmly ask your boss for candid feedback about what you can do to be best positioned for the next promotion, in terms of results and relationships. The feedback may be hard to hear, but it’s better to know.

See our post on 5 Behaviors Keeping You From Getting Promoted , our Fast Company article on communication mistakes that silently damage careers.

3. Be Supportive

Another classy move. Be supportive and helpful during this change. Be sure you and your team go out of your way to help the newly promoted manager.

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. Remember How This Feels

Someday someone will come to you frustrated at being overlooked for promotion and asking for candid feedback. Remember how you wanted to be treated during this time and use that to inform your leadership in the future.

Most of all, remember that your team is watching. Your brand is at stake. Respond as the leader you are.

(Note: we recognize and have observed real discrimination and ethical violations in promotions. In these instances, a conversation with your human resources department is the place to start.)

Your turn. What advice would you give Impatient and Frustrated?

Have a leadership or management question? Send it here and we’ll do our best to share our perspective.

how do I stop workplace drama?

Workplace Drama: How Do I Stop It and Improve Morale?

Are you having trouble with workplace drama? Perhaps this will sound familiar.

Dear Karin and David, 

I try so hard to be an empathetic leader. I really do care about the human beings on my team. But there is one woman on my team who is driving me crazy. She’s a drama queen.  She’s got drama at home. Drama at work. Drama with her co-workers. Drama on personal calls … I want to show that I care, but she’s sucking up a lot of my time and energy and it’s dragging the team down. What do I do?


Her Workplace Drama is My Workplace Drama

Six Ways to Address Workplace Drama

Dear Her Drama is My Drama,

This is one of the toughest dynamics for a Winning Well manager. It’s really hard to know if she’s overly dramatic or if she’s truly in a bad situation. You want to be approachable and you want to help. There’s also a limit to what you can, and should, do in your role. It’s time to establish boundaries and find her some additional help as needed.

1. Limit the Audience

Don’t entertain her complaints or stories in front of the whole team. Acknowledge her issues and schedule some limited time to understand her concern privately.

2. Watch Your Body Language and Facial Expressions

Looking annoyed and ticked off will only reinforce her opinion that you’re an idiot who doesn’t care and now you’re part of the drama. It’s easy to slip into passive-aggressive mode here, to roll your eyes, or sigh deeply. Stay true to your values as a Winning Well manager.

3. Listen with an Open Mind

Sometimes within the fury of complaints and drama about her experience on the team or at your company, there is something important to learn. Listen carefully. We’ve both had times where chronic complainers brought us real issues, we were glad we had the opportunity to address.

4. Engage Professionals As Needed

If she needs real help, help her find it through HR and your Employee Assistance Program.

5. Reinforce Clear Expectations

Assuming you’ve appropriately addressed the real issues, and engaged support, it’s time to reinforce clear expectations for her role both in terms of results AND relationships. An I.N.S.P.I.R.E. conversation may be just what you need here, where you notice specific behaviors that are destructive to the team and the work that you are doing.

6. Give Her a Project

If the drama is work-related, they may just have too much time on their hands. Get her involved in solving the problem, not just talking about it. It’s always easier to tear something down than to build something up. Pull her into the solution-building equation.

Who wants to play? What advice would you give Her Drama is My Drama?

Have a leadership or management question? Send it here and we’ll do our best to share our perspective.


my peers are lazy: how do I stay motivated?

My Peers Are Lazy: How Do I Stay Motivated?

So often we talk with clients or teams who are frustrated because their peers are lazy. Perhaps you’ve been there. What advice would you give to someone dealing with a slacker co-worker? 

Dear Karin and David,

How do I stay motivated when my peers are lazy? I’m working twice as hard as them and I’m sick of picking up the slack. My boss doesn’t seem to notice.


Tired and Frustrated #AskingForAFriend

If Your Peers are Lazy: A Few Dos and Dont’s

Dear Tired and Frustrated,

We’ve both been there, and you have a right to be frustrated. Keep in mind that these peers are temporary, but your track record is forever. Don’t let the #$#%@#%@# slackers tank your hard work. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to consider.

  1. DO keep rocking your role.
    Stay focused on your MITs (most important things) to serve your customers and the business. Stay creative. Chances are your boss is picking up a lot more than you know. Performance management conversations happen behind closed doors. I wish we could tell you how many performance issues we’ve dealt with that we longed to share with the high-performers we knew were frustrated, but couldn’t. Be sure you keep building your brand with a strong track record of results and collaborative relationships.
  2. DON’T gossip or whine about the scene.
    Whatever you do, don’t let their bad behaviors turn you into a jerk. Take the high road, and count on karma. 
  3. DO ask your boss how you can help.
    Resist the temptation to start with the words,  “I know we’ve got a lazy team…,” if it’s true, she already knows. Use this as an opportunity to become go-to support. With a team of slackers, she can use all the help she can get and will be grateful for your support (and a grateful boss can never hurt).
  4. DON’T become a victim. 
    You don’t have to do their work. Stay focused on your deliverables and nail them. If your co-worker consistently drops the ball, let him experience a few of the consequences. Do your best to foster a culture of accountability.
  5. DO build a network of support.
    Seek out folks with similar ambition and work ethic to support and challenge you. Find a mentor. Seek out peers on other teams. Take on a leadership role in a professional association.  Genuine connections are lighter fluid on the fire of motivation. Find people who get you and you admire and find ways to spend more time together.
  6. DO speak the truth.
    (Or as we often say: “Ditch the Diaper Genie“) When a team member breaks a promise or doesn’t deliver on their commitment to you, it’s often useful to have a healthy conversation about it. Start by observing the behavior. e.g. “I noticed that the report you said you’d get me isn’t in my email.” Note the consequences: “We can’t take care of the customer without that information.” Then invite them into the conversation: “What’s happening there? When can you have it to me?” Sometimes just the act of personalizing work and connecting what you need to why you need it can help slackers pick up their pace.

Who wants to play? What advice would you give Tired and Frustrated?


Have a leadership or management question? Send it here and we’ll do our best to share our perspective.


What to do when your boss cant focus

What to Do When Your Boss Can’t Focus?

Have you ever had a boss who couldn’t focus? What advice would you have for Scattered?

Dear Karin & David,

What do you do with a boss who makes it impossible to focus? We agree on a direction and three days later he has seventeen new ideas, dumps them on us, and the managers are expected to somehow get their teams organized and performing. We can’t ever finish one project before starting three more. Of course, I’m asking for a friend.

                                                                                                Please help!


Dear Scattered,

We hear you.

It can be incredibly frustrating when it feels like you can’t focus. We have worked for, consulted with many, (and even been) leaders whose frequent new ideas leave their people gasping for breath and confused as to where to focus.

The good news is that these leaders can bring many strengths to their jobs and together you can be very effective.

Let’s start by appreciating what your boss is bringing to the relationship. It sounds like your boss is an innovator. These people see the world as a series of opportunities.

They’re energized by possibilities and can create new and exciting ways of doing things. They often think about the big picture, start initiatives noone’s ever thought of, and are the antidote to lethargic “business as usual.” All sorts of ideas excite them and their enthusiasm can be contagious and motivating.

Remember these assets as you consider the challenges: they get distracted, their excitement can be exhausting, and it’s easy for projects to get lost as they pile up.

Next, let’s look at how you can help yourself and your boss to maintain focus.

First, have a conversation to establish the MITs for the year and for the immediate quarter. What is the Most Important Thing you and your team will achieve? We recommend you initiate this conversation so it doesn’t seem like a reaction or negation of your boss’s latest idea.

Next, communicate weekly with your boss about how you are making progress toward the agreed-upon MITs. (We recommend using the MIT Huddle Planner to facilitate these conversations.) This serves two purposes: First, it lets your boss know what you’re doing. Second, it subtly reminds your boss what you both agreed were the Most Important Things you would do.

4 Ways to Help Your Boss Focus

Third, when your boss brings their latest new idea:

  1. Take time to listen. Make the effort to understand why it excites them and why they think it’s a good idea.
  2. Validate their reason for suggesting it by reflecting what you hear. e.g.: “That sounds like a great way to get in front of more customers.” Note that this isn’t a commitment to do it. You’re entering into the conversation by ensuring you’ve understood the reason for their suggestion.
  3. Ask how it aligns with other priorities. e.g.: “I know you’ve asked us to prioritize the new product development and customer retention this quarter. Is this an alternative to those priorities? Would you like resources reassigned this quarter or is this for the future? Which of these initiatives is the Most Important Thing?”When you ask these clarifying questions, your boss will often think about just how much of a priority the new idea should be. Sometimes they’ll say something like “It’s a fun idea, but let’s maintain our current focus for now.” Other times, however, they’ll have a good reason that the new idea ought to be pursued. It may achieve more than an existing initiative or meet a more urgent issue your boss has to respond to.
  4. Check for Understanding. e.g.: “Okay, let me make sure I’ve got it: we’re going to stick with new product development and customer retention as our MITs this quarter. We’ll reconvene in six weeks to look at this idea with an eye to scheduling it for next quarter. Do I have that right?”

After this conversation, continue your weekly communications about the progress you’ve made on your MITs. This cadence of communication and conversation will help everyone think through priorities and shift them with clarity and purpose.

We’ve coached many managers on both sides of these conversations. In our experience, the idea-generating managers may initially be a little frustrated, but they come to value the questions.

In the words of Matt, a CFO who was frustrating his team with weekly new ideas:

“I hated it when my direct reports would ask me ‘How does this idea fit in with our other priorities?’ but after a few times, it helped me to really think it through and keep us focused on what mattered most.”

Let us know how you and ‘your friend’ use these conversations.

Your Question?

We love to hear from you. Send us your real leadership challenges (or ask for a friend!) and we’ll give you real answers.

See Also Forbes: 17 Tips For Dealing With a Disorganized Boss

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!

sexual harassment in the workplace

Sexual Harassment: The Second Most Troubling Part of All These Revelations

The most troubling part of the recent sexual harassment revelations is that they happened.

We are deeply saddened by the constant parade of allegations and the deep pain being surfaced and resurfaced for so many. No one should feel threatened or demeaned at work. No one should be intimidated by sexual acts. No one should suffer in years of silence, humiliation, and shame because they were scared into doing something they regret by someone more powerful.

The Second Most Troubling Part of all this Sexual Harassment

For us, the second most troubling part of all these sexual harassment stories is that other people knew what was going on, and did nothing.

In the case of Matt Lauer, while we can’t know for certain what happened, victims report having informed management at the time (NBC management maintains no current executives were aware of past reports and they acted immediately once they were). Many of the other recent revelations (e.g. Charlie Rose, Louis CK) were followed by bystanders saying they were aware at some level and chose to stay silent.

It’s not just celebrities.

It’s “Steve,” a manager who observes his boss verbally harassing women on his team, yet stays silent.  And, “Jane” who tells the “girls” on her team to “just ignore” the inappropriate touching, “It’s no big deal. Let it go.” Or the co-workers who know John is sick of the homophobic jokes, but just ignore their peer’s banter, because John does too.

“Unless someone like you, cares a whole awful lot.

Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
-The Lorax, Dr. Seuss

We understand the fear that keeps people silent. Often, saying something means risking your career or reputation.

So does staying silent.

You can’t lead without trust. Staying silent or refusing to treat these situations seriously tells your team you can’t be trusted – not when it really matters. You undermine your credibility and erode team unity.

Moving Forward

We don’t need another policy. Most human beings know right from wrong.

We need courage.

We need to build cultures where speaking the truth is not only tolerated, but encouraged.

We need leaders to lead. To take a stand, even when it’s hard. To recognize that choosing self-protection over what’s right is exactly what perpetuates inexcusable behavior, degrades trust, and permanently damages relationships and results.

It’s going to take all of us to end this epidemic of harassment and distrust.

What will you do next time?