5 Ways Success is Holding You Back

So much is written about learning from failure, but much less of failing from success.

This weekend, I had the extraordinary opportunity to speak and attend the National Speakers Association’s Business Accelerator Lab. It was inspiring to get to know Nido Quebein, President of High Point University, along with his concept of Productive Failures and Unproductive Success. Success can slow us down in other areas as well.

5 Ways Success is Holding You Back

“Success doesn’t come to you; you must go to it. The trail is well-traveled and well-marked. If you want to walk it, you can.” -Nido Quebein

1. You Don’t Take the Time to Understand It

It’s easy to celebrate and move on, instead of taking the time to truly dissect the specific elements that led to that success. Nido explains that success is often wasted, when we miss the opportunity to learn from it. When you succeed at something big,  was it due to the market, the price, the positioning, the long hours, the social media campaign, the right leadership, the right employees? If you don’t slow down to truly understand what worked, you’re much less likely to succeed in the next endeavor. Failure is much more likely to give us the pause needed to think, regroup, and improve.

2. You Believe Your Own PR

I see this happen with leaders at all levels. People sing their praises and they start humming along. Of course your leadership bio makes you sound like a rock star. Never forget that it’s only one side of the story.

3. You Stop Asking for Feedback

When the fist bumps are flying it’s easy to get caught up in the glory. Make it easy for people to share their insights. First say “Thank you,” and then ask for specifics. “Thank you. I’m so glad you enjoyed my presentation. What part of it resonated the most? Which parts do you think I should change?” “I’m glad you like the idea, but all ideas can be improved. What am I not considering here? Where are the holes?”

4. You Over-Emphasize Your Own Contribution

I’m amazed at how many leaders have the audacity to attribute the team’s success to their leadership. Hopefully, you had something to do with it. But you’d better figure out what everyone did behind the scenes to make it happen, including your peers. Overlooking their specific contribution will make them less likely to follow you as enthusiastically the next time. And, if you don’t know just what they did, you won’t know what to do again.

5. You Lose Ambition

Don’t get distracted by your one-hit wonder. It’s easy to think you can never top your last big success. Many don’t. Others do. Remain confident that there’s more success where that came from and go for it. Elizabeth Gilbert wrestles with this challenge in her TED talk:  Success, Failure and the Drive to Keep Creating.

Learn to maximize the power of sucessful success and your world will change exponentially.

5 Ways Naming Things Will Make You a Better Leader

The world goes nuts when someone finds a simple name for that universal feeling that makes you think more deeply about your leadership:  Who Moved My Cheese, Flow, fill in your favorite blank ________. You don’t need to wait for someone else to name it. Chances are you and your team can go a long way in naming your _______(fill in your favorite blank here, e.g. challenge, knee jerk response, team dysfunction). When you get stuck give your “stuckness” a name. When you are angry, name it. When you’ve got a cool project, name it something inspiring.

Leadership vision, challenge and hard work all become simplified in the naming process.

5 Ways to Use Naming in Your Leadership

1. Name Your Role

Consider asking your team to each pick a poignant name for their current role (and for a twist, have them add their desired role). I recently tested out the concept. Here’s what bubbled up.

  • Chief Difference Maker
  • Transformation Specialist
  • Mind Reader
  • Provocateur (I know this chick, trust me, this is not dirty)
  • Savior of Relationships
  • Stud Service Specialist (I realize this too could be taken in a different way. Trust me, his intentions are pure 😉

I’m quite sure there were also self-censored sarcastic names that are staying on hearts and minds. There’s power in naming the truth. If you can’t possibly think of a good name for your current role, that’s data.

2. Name Your Challenge

Give a creative name to your biggest business challenge. The process of finding a name will help you get to root cause and brings some levity to the scene. Operation______.

3. Name Your Anger

What’s really ticking you off? Name that frustration. Naming your anger helps you sift through the source.

4. Name Your Trigger Response

This one can get personal, but can be vital in an intrapersonal or team building context. Where do you go when you’re stressed? Being able to name the patterns makes them easier to recognize. If you can get your team talking about them, it’s easier for them to give feedback in a safe way when they see the response in play (perhaps start with yours). By giving your response a name you give the team permission to talk about it and help you grow.

5. Name Your Greatest Hope

What does your team want most… as individuals and as a team? Naming your dream simplifies the vision.

A Better Way to START your SMART GOAL process

If you’re really stuck in the creative process, your heart is telling you something. Listen to it. I did, and found myself backward mapping my entrepreneurial journey and found the START before SMART goal process.

The Start of START

I was recently asked to give a workshop for the National Speakers Association on SMART goals to help entrepreneurs launch their businesses. This is an important audience whom I care about deeply and wanted to help. But as I went to craft the talk, I found myself just staring at my computer, hopping on Twitter, and finally finding time to take that run… as Steven Pressfield would say, I was deep into the resistance phase of the creativity process.

Sure I could talk SMART goals–almost every leadership development person can. And possibly, this would not feel as old news to this crowd as it did to me, but I wasn’t certain. More awkwardly, the truth is that I can’t attribute any of my early success to S.M.A.R.T. goals.  I really resisted all the advice that well-meaning supporters gave me as I launched my business. “Set a specific revenue goal and break down which markets your income will come from.” “Set a measurable goal for the number of subscribers you’ll have by when.” “Identify a concrete strategy to monetize your blog.” “Contact 20 people a week and ask for the business.”

The truth is, my heart wasn’t ready for SMART goals at that stage of the game.

For me there needed to be a period of focused, deliberate, intense, long hours of what can no better be described as “mucking about.”

I needed to write, to speak, to explore, to connect, to knock on doors, to have doors open, to have doors close, to love, to get ticked off, to learn, to get rejected, to get accepted, to get supported, to support, to get burned, to invest wisely, to waste some dough… mostly to figure out who I really was as this new brand and what my unique contribution could be to the world.

I worked really hard.  But, I’ll admit, I didn’t write down a single goal.

I kept assuring my husband I was planting bulbs. Thank goodness he believed me.

And one by one the bulbs began to blossom and bloom in the most unusual places. I stayed open and the seeds began to spread.

And so today, I share with you an alternative to jumping right into your SMART goal planning: S.T.A.R.T. before S.M.A.R.T.

The S.T.A.R.T. Before S.M.A.R.T. Goals Process

1. S-  Sankalpa: Based in the yogic tradition well outlined in Rod Stryker’s latest book, spend the reflective time needed to truly identify what you most want.

Ask yourself:  What results would truly fill my heart’s desire?

2. T- Transformation: Identify who or what will be transformed as a result of your efforts.

Ask yourself:  What does success look like?

 3. A- Authenticity: Identify your values, operating principles and define your brand.

Ask yourself: What do I most value?

4. R- Relationships: Invest in building deep relationships based on trust and mutual support. Be deliberate with whom you spend your time.

Ask yourself: How will I enrich my relationships?

5. T- Timing: Prioritize your time. Develop a renewal strategy.

Ask yourself: How must I invest my time?

S.M.A.R.T. goals are vital. Everyone needs them. But sometimes it’s useful to head back to the beginning and S.T.A.R.T. Before S.M.A.R.T.

How to Give So They Will Receive

As the old adage goes, it’s better to give than to receive. And, the best networking advice I’ve ever given (or received) is to give first and then give some more. With all that giving going on, it’s also important to know how and when it’s time to receive.

I recently asked a group of managers, “Is it more difficult for you to give or to receive?” and “What percentage of your time is spent giving versus receiving?” The overwhelming consensus was that it’s harder to receive than to give, and most felt that they give far more than they receive.

“RECEIVING–until recently I was very uncomfortable asking for help and letting others see my vulnerabilities.”

“Probably it is more difficult to receive. Sometimes I expect that a person would do something for me since I would do the same thing for him/her if asked, but often it does not happen.”

“At work, I always feel the need to prove myself so I always give, give give (85% give, 15% receive).”

“When someone does something nice for me, I feel like I need to immediately pay back that debt and feel uncomfortable when I have received more than I have given.”

Part of the gift of giving is to give in a way that supports receiving.

4 Ways to Give So They Will Receive

1. Give and Forget

In 20 Ways to Give Without Expectations, Lori Deschene lists great examples of how to give help and support with no expectations in return. Such self-less giving can go a long way in opening hearts to receiving.

2. Model it

“Giving opens the way for receiving.” -Florence Scovel Shinn

If you’re an over-giver, lead by example. Be willing to ask for and receive support.

3. Respond Enthusiastically

If someone asks for help, know that it’s likely not easy for them to do so. Say “yes” or “no,” but don’t say “yes” after listing the litany of reasons why it’s hard for you. That just adds to the guilt. Words such as “I’d be honored,” “Happy to,” or “Sure, glad I can support you” don’t make the task you’re doing any more difficult.

4. Ask What Will Be Most Helpful

Just jumping in and giving can be a waste of time at best and potentially do more harm than good. Ask what you can give that will be most helpful.

The truth is the world functions best when we know how to (and are willing to) both give and receive. Where can you be giving or receiving more?

Managing the Strong, Arrogant, Obnoxious Type

They come in all shapes and forms. Sometimes it’s talk dark and handsome, with an extra dose of charisma, and two espresso shots of attitude. Or blonde, with a great purse, an MBA from a top 25, and a sarcastic streak that makes everyone in her wake feel like crap. Or the balding dude from finance who can out-gun anyone with a spreadsheet at twenty paces, who won’t even hear your argument for more funding unless you can outwit his wittiness. Or, the been-there-done-that guy who’s “just about done” with all the rookies.

You didn’t select them, but here they are on your team. They’re annoying everyone, but driving results– with implications.  They’re on the fast track, so coaching feels tricky. But deep in your heart you know they’ve got career stalling flaws. What next?

Door Number 1:  Ignore the issues, leverage the strengths, and pray they move on soon.

OR

Door Number 2:  Be the brave leader who has the tough conversation which changes the game, and helps them truly realize their potential.

Sadly, I see so many “leaders” grit their teeth, complain to their spouse, and slip quietly through door number 1, praying the “right” people notice and the “wrong” people (meaning the truly high potential) miss your oversight this time. And that the next leader who manages this guy will have more courage.

Why?

  • “After all, this guy’s clearly high-potential.” (Read that: “I’m worried I’ll work for him some day and don’t want to burn any bridges.”
  • “I’m not sure I’m as smart as him. I’d better shut up and listen.” (Read that: “I’m insecure.”)
  • “Sure, she’s obnoxious, but she gets damn good results, and goodness knows we need that right now.”  (Read that: “Why not? Everyone else does.”)
  • “Sure she’s ticking off all her peers, but… maybe she’ll raise the bar.” (Read that: “Crap, maybe this confident humility stuff is all bunk, time to unsubscribe from LGL.”)

How to Address Arrogance:  What To Do Behind Door #2

If you want to change the game, you’ve got to deal with door number 2.

1. Show Concern

Start with. “You’re smart, creative, and highly productive.  But I’m deeply concerned that the way you’re showing up is going to derail your career. Would you be open to some exploration around this issue?”

2. Show Her the Data

If you’re the boss, your opinion will matter a bit, but not if they see you as a temporary stepping stone to tolerate. Do a 360 degree assessment. Have him do it himself, or there are some inexpensive ways to administer a more confidential customized survey (not formally endorsing, but stumbled upon and thought it was cool.)

She’s going to need to hear about specific incidences. I’ll never forget the time my boss said to me. “Your peer had a great idea in the last meeting. How hard would it have been to take out a pen and write that down?”  Yikes.  Amen.

3. Offer Help

When you’re passionate and great at what you do, it’s tricky to see how annoying you are. Ask for permission to point it out the next time. Invent a secret signal if needed.

4. Set A Goal

Get her focused on promoting an idea or person beyond herself. Teach her techniques to get folks to truly listen, even when they don’t want to hear. If she’s really high-potential, she’ll read between the lines and get the sub-text.

How to Help Managers Become More Strategic

John’s frustration had turned to exacerbation.  He’d done everything he could to position himself for the next promotion. His results were amazing. He’d taken on several cross-functional projects and nailed those, too.

He was delegating more and growing the competence of his team. He’d become far more open to feedback and had truly become a team player, even navigating the tricky inter-departmental dynamics. This time, the “I’m sorry, we’ve given the position to someone else” call ended with “We’re concerned about your ability to be strategic.” When he probed deeper for specifics, he didn’t get much of an answer.

John’s not alone. I’ve seen some great talent hit a wall with this “competency deficit.”

There’s no doubt that strategic thinking is vital. There’s strong evidence to support that strategic thinking is one of the most important executive competencies.  In a recent HBR article,  Robert Kabacoff shares his research of 60,000 managers in 40 countries.

We found that a strategic approach to leadership was, on average, 10 times more important to the perception of effectiveness than other behaviors studied. It was twice as important as communication (the second most important behavior) and almost 50 times more important than hands-on tactical behaviors. (This doesn’t mean that tactical behaviors aren’t important, but they don’t differentiate the highly effective leaders from everyone else.)

But it’s a mistake to view strategic thinking like handedness–you’re either born a lefty or a righty, and it’s really tough to change. Managers can learn to be more strategic through understanding, exposure and challenge. Resist the urge to label and box your talent and move on. Instead invest in your highly talente managers and teach them the art of strategy. It’s a win-win. The more people you have thinking strategically, even at the frontlines, the more innovative and dynamic your company will be.

How Help a Manager Become More Strategic

1. Define It

Help them visualize what you’re talking about. An easy to articulate definition comes from the Lominger Institute:

Can think and talk strategy with the best; intrigued and challenged by the complexity of the future; likes to run multiple “what if” scenarios; very broad perspective; counsels others on strategic issues; can juggle a lot of mental balls; isn’t afraid to engage in wild speculations about the future; can bring several unrelated streams of information together to form a compelling vision; good at meaning making; produces distinctive and winning strategies.

And then customize the definition for your industry.

For example, being able to think strategically in the high-tech industry involves a nuanced understanding of strategy topics such as network effects, platforms, and standards. In the utilities sector, it involves mastery of the economic implications of (and room for strategic maneuvers afforded by) the regulatory regime. In mining, leaders must understand the strategic implications of cost curves, game theory, and real-options valuation; further, they must know and be sensitive to the stakeholders in their regulatory and societal environment, many of whom can directly influence their opportunities to create value. Becoming More Strategic:  3 Tips for Any Executives

2. Provide Opportunities For Broad Exposure

It’s frustrating when I hear executives complaining about the lack of strategic thinkers in their organization, and yet they hold all the long-term vision close to the vest. Strategic thinking requires context. Do whatever you can to explain not only the vision and the direction, but why those decisions are being made. A side effect that goes beyond more future leaders: stronger engagement and better decision-making down the line.

One of my favorite developmental activities is “bring a friend staff meetings,” where my direct reports could bring one high-potential manager to the table to experience the thought process. If you’re meetings are strategic, this is a real eye-opener. Oh yeah, and be sure to give the “friends” a few strategic action items for follow-up.

3. Move Them Around

Move your people around, particularly from line to staff and back.  Sure, many high-potential folks hate lateral moves. It feels slow. Share the wisdom of going slow to go fast. Nothing beats building strategic mindset more than looking at the problem from multiple perspectives. Don’t limit it to the hi-po crowd, you may be amazed at what blossoms in a different role.

4. Think Out Loud

It’s easy, and perhaps even tempting, to take all the input, make the decision, look wise, and move on. That doesn’t build strategic thinkers. Slow down enough to explain your thought process as you make decisions. Use each major decision to catalyze strategic confidence and competence.

You can help your managers to be more strategic. Let’s share best practice and tackle this challenge together.

Who’s Influencing Your Leadership?

Pleased to welcome this guest post from Bruce Harpham.

In the world of music, composers and performers are influenced by each other every day. I was recently reminded of this tendency when I enjoyed a performance by pianist Richard Rubin. He showed how Andrew Lloyd Weber, the Broadway composer behind The Phantom of the Opera and other works, liberally borrowed from musical works. In some cases, it is clear who influenced Weber’s work.

Scientists are also heavily influenced by their peers. Ground-breaking scientist Isaac Newton observed, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” That is a powerful idea for all leaders to consider. However independent minded you are, others influence your leadership approach.

Choose your leadership influences carefully.

The Rule of Five: Understanding Your Influences

If you take pride in your independence, this section may be hard. As a leader, you are constantly influenced by those you lead, fellow executives and others. Influences are inescapable.

In our complex world, it is challenging to imagine all the influences that impact you. The country you live in, your education, your age, and your leisure pursuits are some of the influences that leave lasting traces.

The most important influence on your leadership is the people all around you. Answering the question “Which five people do I spend the most time with?” is the easiest way to understand your influences. Don’t worry if you don’t like the answer! That discontent gives you the fuel to make a change.

Tip: Start small by changing your focus. Use the final section of this article to find one new person to provide positive leadership influence.

Growth Is Not Automatic: Harness Helpful Influences To Grow

John C. Maxwell’s excellent book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth emphasizes the importance of growth. Maxwell points out that growth happens naturally in childhood. In adulthood, growth is not automatic (except around the waistline!)

You may grow occasionally when a new obstacle comes your way. Accidental growth is not reliable. Would you buy a car that only worked “on occasion?” Not if you valued your time. In order to grow your skills to reach new goals, you must grow intentionally.

With the right influences, greater growth will come fast and furious. Mentors, coaches, sponsors and others can bring new perspectives, questions and resources.

With the wrong influences, your leadership will never grow. Even worse, the constant doubts and negativity will undermine whatever leadership qualities you have.

Accessing New Influences

By this point, you’re convinced about the importance of influence. Even more, you understand that the right influence can push you toward your goals. Read on for ideas to cultivate positive influences.

Books (Hint: Go Beyond The Business Section!)

For years, I have accessed new influences, ideas and opportunities through books. I often find myself browsing through the business section at my bookstore. For growing leaders, that is only the beginning. I also strongly encourage you to read widely – consider Ryan Holiday’s recommendations for Moral Biographies for example.

Here are two book suggestions to bring new influences into your leadership thinking.

  • Tribes by Seth Godin

Godin is best known for his expertise in marketing and the Internet. Tribes is Godin’s contribution to leadership. He points out that today’s tool makes it easier to build a tribe of followers behind your ideas. The only barrier is you. Do you have the skills and commitment to lead?

  • Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson.

Known to many for his studies in electricity, Franklin has much to teach us. Franklin regularly changed his occupation: from entrepreneur publisher, to diplomat and American statesman. For those interested in personal development, I also encourage you to read Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography – Franklin’s desire to better himself through self-education, study and moral discipline is well worth studying.

Consulting and Coaching

Once upon a time, accessing consulting was out of reach for most people. That is starting to change. Today, you can hire coaches and consultants for reasonable rates. For less than $500 using a website like Clarity FM, you can obtain helpful, customized recommendations to help you reach your goals.
For the best results, prepare and send out a written agenda for your first meeting. Bring several written questions that you can reference. Now is not the time for an unfocused conversation. For the best results, I recommend bringing a paper notebook (I prefer Moleskine notebooks for their durability and easy-to-handle size) and pen rather than an electronic device.

Follow these seven steps to get the most out of your time working with a coach. I recommend having at least two coaching sessions, with an interval of one to four weeks in between.

  1. Decide on a single goal to pursue, preferably with a clear measure (e.g. “to sell 1,000 copies of my book” or “to land my first executive management role in the financial industry”).
  2. Study your coach’s materials before you contact them. (e.g. visit the person’s website and read multiple articles. If they strike you as promising, I suggest buying and reading one of their books next). Take notes as you study their material. If they cannot clearly communicate their abilities, I suggest you move on.  Tip: Search for coaches and consultants on Google by searching for “keyword coach” or “keyword consultant” (e.g. “project management consultant” or “productivity coach”)
  3. Based on steps 1 and 2, decide whether this coach can help you in your current quest. If yes, continue to the next step. Otherwise, return to step two to review another person.
  4. Prepare for your first meeting with the coach. Complete any forms or questionnaires. Make a list of your goals and questions in writing.
  5. Attend the first meeting with your coach. State your goals clearly and ask for specific homework – vague suggestions such as “work harder” need to be refined and made specific (e.g. improve your ability to give feedback to staff).
  6. Work on your homework from the first session. Make notes on what you achieve and what you want to discuss next time.
  7. Attend the second meeting with your coach. Review your first meeting, homework completed and discuss your next challenge.

Learm more about Bruce here.

Who's Influencing Your Leadership?

Pleased to welcome this guest post from Bruce Harpham.

In the world of music, composers and performers are influenced by each other every day. I was recently reminded of this tendency when I enjoyed a performance by pianist Richard Rubin. He showed how Andrew Lloyd Weber, the Broadway composer behind The Phantom of the Opera and other works, liberally borrowed from musical works. In some cases, it is clear who influenced Weber’s work.

Scientists are also heavily influenced by their peers. Ground-breaking scientist Isaac Newton observed, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” That is a powerful idea for all leaders to consider. However independent minded you are, others influence your leadership approach.

Choose your leadership influences carefully.

The Rule of Five: Understanding Your Influences

If you take pride in your independence, this section may be hard. As a leader, you are constantly influenced by those you lead, fellow executives and others. Influences are inescapable.

In our complex world, it is challenging to imagine all the influences that impact you. The country you live in, your education, your age, and your leisure pursuits are some of the influences that leave lasting traces.

The most important influence on your leadership is the people all around you. Answering the question “Which five people do I spend the most time with?” is the easiest way to understand your influences. Don’t worry if you don’t like the answer! That discontent gives you the fuel to make a change.

Tip: Start small by changing your focus. Use the final section of this article to find one new person to provide positive leadership influence.

Growth Is Not Automatic: Harness Helpful Influences To Grow

John C. Maxwell’s excellent book The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth emphasizes the importance of growth. Maxwell points out that growth happens naturally in childhood. In adulthood, growth is not automatic (except around the waistline!)

You may grow occasionally when a new obstacle comes your way. Accidental growth is not reliable. Would you buy a car that only worked “on occasion?” Not if you valued your time. In order to grow your skills to reach new goals, you must grow intentionally.

With the right influences, greater growth will come fast and furious. Mentors, coaches, sponsors and others can bring new perspectives, questions and resources.

With the wrong influences, your leadership will never grow. Even worse, the constant doubts and negativity will undermine whatever leadership qualities you have.

Accessing New Influences

By this point, you’re convinced about the importance of influence. Even more, you understand that the right influence can push you toward your goals. Read on for ideas to cultivate positive influences.

Books (Hint: Go Beyond The Business Section!)

For years, I have accessed new influences, ideas and opportunities through books. I often find myself browsing through the business section at my bookstore. For growing leaders, that is only the beginning. I also strongly encourage you to read widely – consider Ryan Holiday’s recommendations for Moral Biographies for example.

Here are two book suggestions to bring new influences into your leadership thinking.

  • Tribes by Seth Godin

Godin is best known for his expertise in marketing and the Internet. Tribes is Godin’s contribution to leadership. He points out that today’s tool makes it easier to build a tribe of followers behind your ideas. The only barrier is you. Do you have the skills and commitment to lead?

  • Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson.

Known to many for his studies in electricity, Franklin has much to teach us. Franklin regularly changed his occupation: from entrepreneur publisher, to diplomat and American statesman. For those interested in personal development, I also encourage you to read Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography – Franklin’s desire to better himself through self-education, study and moral discipline is well worth studying.

Consulting and Coaching

Once upon a time, accessing consulting was out of reach for most people. That is starting to change. Today, you can hire coaches and consultants for reasonable rates. For less than $500 using a website like Clarity FM, you can obtain helpful, customized recommendations to help you reach your goals.
For the best results, prepare and send out a written agenda for your first meeting. Bring several written questions that you can reference. Now is not the time for an unfocused conversation. For the best results, I recommend bringing a paper notebook (I prefer Moleskine notebooks for their durability and easy-to-handle size) and pen rather than an electronic device.

Follow these seven steps to get the most out of your time working with a coach. I recommend having at least two coaching sessions, with an interval of one to four weeks in between.

  1. Decide on a single goal to pursue, preferably with a clear measure (e.g. “to sell 1,000 copies of my book” or “to land my first executive management role in the financial industry”).
  2. Study your coach’s materials before you contact them. (e.g. visit the person’s website and read multiple articles. If they strike you as promising, I suggest buying and reading one of their books next). Take notes as you study their material. If they cannot clearly communicate their abilities, I suggest you move on.  Tip: Search for coaches and consultants on Google by searching for “keyword coach” or “keyword consultant” (e.g. “project management consultant” or “productivity coach”)
  3. Based on steps 1 and 2, decide whether this coach can help you in your current quest. If yes, continue to the next step. Otherwise, return to step two to review another person.
  4. Prepare for your first meeting with the coach. Complete any forms or questionnaires. Make a list of your goals and questions in writing.
  5. Attend the first meeting with your coach. State your goals clearly and ask for specific homework – vague suggestions such as “work harder” need to be refined and made specific (e.g. improve your ability to give feedback to staff).
  6. Work on your homework from the first session. Make notes on what you achieve and what you want to discuss next time.
  7. Attend the second meeting with your coach. Review your first meeting, homework completed and discuss your next challenge.

Learm more about Bruce here.

7 Ways to Build Trust When Your New Team is Skeptical

You’ve got a long track record of leading well. You just wish your new team would talk to your last team. That would save a heck of a lot of precious time. If they would just trust you, you could get on to making your usual magic. But it’s never as simple as that. If you’re good, at this stage of the game you may feel you deserve a better reception from your new team. You may, but they’re still skeptical. The last guy was a jerk and the scars are still oozing.

7 Ways to Build Trust with a Skeptical Team

1.  Don’t Trash the Last Guy

The more you listen, the worse the stories will sound. It’s tempting to react and trash the guy before. It may feel cathartic, and it may even feel like you’re part of the solution. Don’t go there. Build your credibility on your own merits. No good ever comes from tearing other people down. Besides, you never know the whole story. Tell the stories at dinner to your spouse and (if they’re not too dirty) to your kids. Then let it go.

2.  Listen, and then Listen Some More

Hear the frustration and understand the root cause. Get to know the team as human beings. But be careful. Watch your facial expressions. See #1.  Seek to understand, but resist the urge to judge.

3.  Break it Down

The best way to get to know a new team is one person at a time. Invest deeply one-on-one. Learn about what they need, want, and yearn most to give. Here’s a tool that can help.

4. Share Stories

The team is yearning for signs that you are credible and competent. Share a bit about your leadership track record of results–framing it in the context of stories of what your previous teams were able to achieve (not what YOU achieved).

5. Find some Early Wins

Pick some important low-hanging fruit, and help the team achieve an early win. Nothing builds credibility faster than success.

6. Let them in

Tell the truth. Be a bit vulnerable. Let them know who you are and what scares you. Show up human.  This post can help.

7. Prove They Matter

Show them you’ve got their backs. Take a bullet or two. Give them the credit. The team needs to know you care about them and their careers at least as much as you care about your own. First impressions matter, for you and for them. Don’t judge their early skeptical behavior, or assume they’re disengaged or don’t care. If they sense your frustration, that will only increase their defensive stance. Investing deeply at the beginning will create the strong foundation you need for long-term, breakthrough results.

6 Simple Ways to Answer Tough Questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How will you respond?

6 Simple Ways to Answer Tough Questions

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

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

Web Bonus Post

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

7 Steps to Convince Your Boss To Promote You

How To Lead With Guts (and Have Their Backs)

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

A Short Story on Having Guts and Backs

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

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

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

5 Ways Your Team Knows You Have Their Backs

1. Live By the Same Standards

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

2. Take Some Bullets

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

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

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

4. Distinguish the Urgent

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

5. Fight Misperceptions

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

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

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

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

5 Ways to Respond When You’ve Been Screwed Over

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

1. Stop Talking

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

2. Don’t Be a Blamer

Accusations make terrible leadership apparel.

3. Don’t Give Up

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

4.  Channel Your Energy to Create Something Extraordinary

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

5. Let Your Anger Inform Your Leadership

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

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