The Surprising Way to Encourage Disengagement

Within three years, Mike had gone from an excited, creative new hire full of passion, energy and ideas, to a guy with one foot out the door with disengagement like carbon monoxide: invisible and impossible to smell. Here is his story.

My first year, my ideas and alternative views were “refreshing.” I was quickly viewed as a rising star and invited to the right meetings. I was pleased to be rewarded with the coveted “exceeds expectations” rating. I was constantly looking for ways to improve our processes and make the company better. The next year, I guess I got a little too comfortable with sharing my opinions. In hindsight, I could have positioned them better, but I was saying what needed to be said. And every time I left a meeting the level above (except my boss) would thank me for speaking the truth. I just cared so much about our cause and was attached to our vision.

I received a “developing rating” that year.  That’s when I knew I was going to have to leave, but I wanted it to be on my own terms. I decided the only way to survive was to just stop caring. And that’s what I did. I buried my passion and I went along, even if I knew a better approach. And that year, I was once again given the rating of “exceeds expectations.” I “exceeded expectations” by caring less, offering less, and doing less.”

Mike’s boss made a point to chime in on the appraisal with a comment: “It’s nice to have you back.”

Mike is convinced his secret was subtle, but I doubt it. I imagine other box 9 candidates with great ideas vicariously got the “settle down” message and stiffled their enthusiasm as they polished their resumes.

It’s easy to think of engagement as everyone singing along with a merry smile.

Dig deeper. Your most engaged players may be the naysayers. They may need some polish, but be careful not to rub off their passion and value in the process.

Who Decides Your Future?

It’s been a long day, turning into tomorrow, but I can’t get her out of my mind.  Ling (not her real name) bravely raised her hand in my Masters level leadership class tonight. “Professor, I see how these techniques would be important for someone who could accomplish something great, but it’s hard to apply for someone like me…”

I gave more examples and stories of how these basic techniques are easily used in motivating frontline teams or to stand out in an interview.

Again, Ling shook her head.

Let me step back and paint a picture. Ling is early in her career, from China, taking a masters level curriculum completely in English. Life is tricky. Visas are uncertain. She’s a rock star contributor– thinking deeply and expressing great insights. She cares, she tries, she knows a great deal. She’s scared.

Someone like me…

I paused to hear more.

Ling continued, “I’m not going to accomplish anything like THAT.”

Next, a few more few anxious nods. Not from the men.

And I’m left with the nagging question so many of us feel.

“Am I someone who could accomplish something great?”

Who, or what, limits our belief that we can be great?

What’s the right level of audacious hope?

I’m sure she’s thinking, “For God’s sakes Professor, just give me enough practical advice to land a job.”

We’ll go there. But I’m not sure that advice will work.

“One notch above” won’t differentiate or lead an employer to go the extra mile to take on immigration.

Being remarkable takes bold moves, differentiated thinking, and a really strong “why.”

In an uneven playing field who defines remarkable?

How do you build audacious confidence amidst a chorus of assimilation advice to “just fit in?”

This is not just Ling’s story.

Her journey is hard. Yours is too. You can be the guy who “accomplishes something great.”

In fact, we’re counting on it.

Karin Hurt, CEO

Other LGL News

I’m delighted to announce I’ve signed a book publishing contract with AMACOM with co-author David Dye. Working title is Winning Well:  How to Lead Your Team to the Top Without Losing Your Soul.  We’re headed for an early Spring release, stay tuned for ways to get involved.

I also had fun this week with a feature article on Yahoo:  What to Do When Your Boss Drives You Crazy

Are you looking for a keynote speaker or some support in taking your team to the next level? Please give me a call for a free consultation. 443 750-1249.

5 Ways to Ensure Your New Program, System, or Idea Is Adopted

From my perspective, the new system was genius. Instead of our enterprise customers typing in their service orders in an email for call center reps to retype them into our systems (which almost always contained errors) the customers now had an easy interface that would “flow through” to the backend systems. Faster, with higher quality, and an added bonus of working on weekends.

Only one problem, the reps (and their union) HATED it. And they had a point. What about white glove treatment for high-end customers? What about relationships?

The truth is both points were true. Large Enterprise customers wanted efficiency AND differentiated service from THEIR kind reps, like Kenetra. It wasn’t either/or. It wasn’t them or us. It was about working together on building a customer-focused adoption strategy.

And that’s why our Region led the Nation in “Flow Through.”

Although I give some tongue-in-cheek credit to my rendition of “The Flow Through Happens Tonight (to the tune of The Lion Sleeps Tonight). Thank God this silliness preceded YouTube.

If your program, system, or new idea isn’t gaining traction, don’t push– involve.

5 Ways to Ensure a Smoother Roll Out

1. Be Honest about the Benefits

ALL employees care about is WIFM (‘What’s in it for me’) is BS. Sure, employees want to know “What’s In It for them.” They equally want to know what’s in it for you and for THEIR customers. Leaving that part out just leaves them to fill in the blanks and make assumptions (i.e. the next thing you’re going to do is downsize). They want to know you’re thinking this through with your brain, and not just your pocketbook.

2. Start Small

Don’t start advocating for a system that’s not ready or full of flaws. Test it first with a small group, take their feedback seriously and get it right. It’s tough to regain credibility. “Oh yeah, I admit it sucked before, but now it’s better,” only leaves the masses wondering why some bozo made a choice to sing praises for a system that was full of problems in the real world. Even if you think it works well in the IT war room, field test it first. Yes, this takes time. Go slow to go fast.

In the example above, we worked the kinks out with one team and gave headquarters feedback until I’m sure they were sick of hearing from us (actually, me… never make your team be the bad guy). Take the risk of making some waves to make it easy for your team. We were slower out of the gate than most regions. But no one remembers that part of the story.

3. Establish Easy to Access Listening Posts

This is perhaps the most important part. Really listen to what your people are saying. Most importantlly, respond to feedback with solutions–not selling. When you fix something, communicate it back five times, five different ways.

4. Gather Reluctant Testimony

Lift up as many testimonials as you can. Get your most excited employees showing how your new idea, system or process changed their world. Your most influential stories will come from the least likely suspects: the sales guy who never bothered with this crap before; the new rep who’s now running circles around the old timers because she uses the system; the supervisor who got her entire team (including the union steward) doing Harlem Globe Trotter tricks with the system.

5. Involve the Team in Key Decisions

No one wants stuff done TO them, or even FOR them. WITH them goes a lot further. What’s working well and how do we leverage it? What enhancements do we need? Where should we head next? All these questions go a long way.

Are you facing a vital strategic change? Please give me a call at 443-750-1249 to discuss how I can best support you through consulting and speaking. Together we will achieve breakthrough results.

employee engagement

The Power of A Good Practical Joke

I had just been promoted to manager and head swim team coach of our neighborhood pool. My staff and I had spent the week brushing algae off tiles, making bulletin boards, and organizing schedules–we were ready for the launch of an amazing season.

I locked up my bike and unlocked the gate, a bit nervous, I was excited to lead the first practice of the season. The kids arrived, and after a few complaints about the extra cold water, jumped in to begin their warm up.

Suddenly, sweet “6-and-under” Ned started splashing and screaming like he’d seen a shark. “Miss Karin, Miss Karin, Come quick! I saw a fish!”

“Ned, calm down, you didn’t see a fish. Put your head in the water and keep swimming,” I replied, knowing that I needed to stand firm to keep credibility as a new leader not much older than most of the swimmers.

But then, my assistant coach, John, who had gotten in the water with the kids to show them it couldn’t be THAT cold, pulled himself out the pool and came running over. As he dripped on my sweatshirt he whispered:

“Uhhhh, Karin. There really is a fish.”

I quickly got everyone out of the pool and discovered that there was not just one fish, but THREE. The kids all jumped back in and tried to chase them with their bare hands. Ned ran home to get his fishing rod.

The phone rang.

It was Peter. The head coach of our rival swim team. “Just calling to congratulate you on your first day as head coach and pool manager. How’s it going?

“OMG, there are FISH IN MY POOL.” As soon as I got the words out I knew who had placed them there.

Well played.

A great start to a great season. Our rivalry turned from competitive angst to collaboration and real friendship.

April Fools Day Prep

“Taking the time to polish a pun or fine-tune a practical joke is a way of saying, ‘I’m thinking about you and I want to please you.”
Andrew Hudgin

In honor of April Fools Day, I’d love to hear your favorite practical joke stories. Who knows what shenanigans we may be able to inspire amongst our tribe.

See also Top 10 Office Practical Jokes (Matt McWilliams), Strategic Silliness:  When to Lighten the Mood (Karin Hurt)

In Other LGL News

Karin Hurt, CEOExciting to have my thought featured in this Time Magazine article:  5 Questions to Ask When You’re Looking For Feedback. It’s a nice collection of thinking worth sharing with your team.

If you’re looking to take your results to the next level, please give me a call at 443-750-1249 to discuss how I can help.

How to Stop Having Stupid Staff Meetings

I asked the crowd, “Raise your hand if you’ve been to a really stupid staff meeting.” Every hand in the room went up. “Keep your hand up, if you find most staff meetings in your career could have been more efficient.” Nearly all hands stayed raised, with the exception of the new kid, who’s in his first job, sitting next to his current boss. He grins knowingly and stays quiet.

Most meetings suck, but staff meetings are amongst the suckiest. Interestingly, my experience has been that the higher the pay grade of the people in the room, the more stupid they become. And, wasted time gets even more expensive.

Why? Because they’re usually scheduled on regular intervals for a pre-determined period of time, rather than for a specific purpose. Often there’s an agenda, but seldom a concrete plan on how to maximize the experience.

I asked, Paul Axtell, author of Meetings Matter: Powerful Strategies for Remarkable Conversations about this phenomena:

“They’ve gotten bad because people aren’t thinking about them and take for granted that people will show up. Information sharing is never a good reason to meet–that can be done in different ways. If you don’t have topics that need real conversation, cancel the meeting. If you’ve got real substance to discuss, hold the meeting, but only for as long as you need, with the people who need to be there. Don’t add a “Let’s go around the table for general updates” to fill the time.

3 Great Conversations to Have at Staff Meetings

I asked Paul for some pointers for the best way to generate real conversations at staff meetings

1. Cultural Conversations

Use staff meetings to gain alignment on cultural issues and how you’re going to respond to specific situations. “Let’s kick this around” topics are great.

  • “Let’s talk about how we’re going to address supervisors who are getting great results the wrong way.”
  • “How are we going to respond when someone is chronically late?”
  • “What’s really getting in the way of people using our new system?”

2. The Elephant in the Room

Ask your team, “What are the conversations we’re not having that we should be having?” And then, go there.

3. How We Lead

“Let’s talk about how we’re leading our people. What’s working well? Where do we need help?” It’s particularly valuable to give people a chance to ask for help. “I’ve got this situation and I’d like to get your best thinking…” And then, watch colleagues think out loud about your situation.

Meetings matter. Don’t waste this important opportunity to build powerful connections.

Paul Axtell CREDIT Cindy OfficerFor more information about Paul and his book and for additional resources, visit his site. 

 

3 Communication Mistakes Screwing Up Teamwork

“Oh she didn’t copy me on purpose.” “He’s withholding information to make my life harder.” “Making us guess what he’s thinking is just a big power play.” “Why would she put something that important in email?” “What’s that supposed to mean anyway?” “Why did she copy my boss?”

Some teams spend more time second guessing the intent behind poor communication than working to improve it.

3 Communication Mistakes Screwing Up Teamwork

 

“The single biggest problem with communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
-George Bernard Shaw

1. Assuming mal-intent

Sure people play games… but not most of us, most of the time.  Don’t let an innocent oversight like being left off an email or out of a meeting degrade trust.

I’ll never forget the time a peer executive left me off a meeting invite. Our departments had some competing priorities, and I was sure it was intentional. I stewed on it for weeks. Finally after I’d let the fuel from my fabricated fable of his intentions combust into full-on stupidity, I blew a gasket when he asked me to move one of my meetings around so he could attend. As the drama unravelled, it became obvious that the original oversight was just that, an oversight.

We cleared the air and it never happened again. I could have saved both of us a lot of angst by just picking up the phone and asking to be included.

2. Hiding behind email

Email is fast and easy, but rarely effective for important communication. Never assume “they got the memo,” and your work is done. Don’t use email as a way to communicate bad news, or as a way to escalate over a peer’s head by copying their boss.

The best communication happens five times, five different ways. Email’s a great supporting tool, but rarely plays well as the lead medium.

3. Failure to write down decisions

I’ve seen great teams with excellent communication skills break down because they miss this simple step. High-trust teams will often raise a lot of creative ideas, debate pros and cons, and then challenge the decisions some more. All healthy. Once the debate has concluded be sure to summarize the final decisions, along with next steps and timeline.

With all that discussion, I often find team members each leave with their own memory of what was decided, which may or may not match the recall of other team members.

Writing down and reading back key decisions and next steps is an important way to keep the team all moving in the same direction.

Communicating well builds the most important ingredient of any successful team–trust. Take the time to establish clear expectations around how your team is communicating, and to discuss where it’s working best and how it’s breaking down.

talkingteams-02-3DFor specific exercises to get your team talking, download my FREE ebook, Talking Teams: 9 Easy to Implement Exercises to Inspire Confident Humility and Achieve Breakthrough Results. 

3 Ways Thinking Small Will Improve Employee Engagement

Great entrepreneural companies have a passionate spirit that feels like a gust of warm wind sweeping you off your feet as you walk through their door. It may be a bit hectic, but you want to tighten your shoelaces and run along. I’ve been working with some of these guys on strategy and growth, and it’s an exhilarating journey.

There are challenges of course, but I’m not finding them in the employee engagement arena. Employees are volunteering to help with the enthusiasm of Horshack in Welcome Back Kotter. 

I’ve also seen companies rush to get (or stay) big, and lose their edge. Vision turns into secret plans for the inner circle, lawyers cautioning against transparency, building a diversity “strategy” that translates into babble and ratios, leaders turning to HR for employee engagement, and somewhere along the line, someone deciding it’s time to start “stack ranking” performance.

As you become bigger, never forget the joy and freedom of being small.

3 Ways Thinking Small Will Improve Engagement

“From a small seed, a mighty trunk may grow.” -Aescuylus

1. Be Real, Fun, Involved, and Empowering

An entrepreneurial CEO recently brought me in to help build leadership bench strength. Rather than “train,”  we built a vision, identified priorities and then a business case for a program with a significant spend but a massive ROI.

The CEO stayed out of the room until the team presented their “case” along with theme music and dramatic visuals at the end of the day. His eyes glistened, and his comments were brief, “If this works, this will be gold.” Then he laughed and said. “Hold on, I’ll be right back.”

He then came back with a large, professionally printed version of a previous plan to tackle the same issue that had failed. He said one word. “Execution.”

After his eight word caution, he funded the project.

They executed flawlessly.

A well-mannered, “I believe in you, don’t screw this up,” goes a long way.

2. Keep the Vision Visible

Despite the obvious common sense nature of this statement, I’m always surprised at how rare this is. Sure you’ve got to hold some stuff close to the vest, but if you’re having employees sign “non-disclosures” right and left or are keeping your true strategy confined to a small inner circle, know there are a lot of dots not getting connected and a lot of brains thinking small because they don’t have the perspective to think bigger.

Folks feel the secrecy, which leads to a fast growing feeling of “If you don’t trust me, why should I bother?” Bothered and included leads to brilliance. Share enough information to stir positive, proactive angst.

3. Stay Humble

Small companies have the common sense to know they can’t know it all, and are not afraid to learn, read, and bring in extra support. I’ve only heard, “I really need to get smarter in this arena” from the small guys.

When you think you already know, you don’t learn.

In a fast-changing world, the confident and humble will outsmart and out run “I’ve got this.” Every time.

Be real, open and humble. Think smaller to think bigger.

employee engagementToday’s image is a word cloud based on your awesome comments (and emails) on Friday’s post, defining “employee engagement.” If you missed the chance to add your definition click here 

 

The Real Definition of Employee Engagement

Ever since Gallup revealed their findings that 70% of workers are either disengaged or actively disengaged in their work, “employee engagement” has been all the buzz. Quite frankly, none of this is new, and anyone reading this blog knows that and is working hard to change the game.

Tonight, I started to write a different post (which I’ll save for Monday), but got sidetracked when for grins, I looked up Employee Engagement in the Urban Dictionary, searching for a pithy opener. I was shocked by the search results:

urban-dictionary

employee engagement isn’t defined.

Can you define it?

Game on.

Let’s do this!  Please leave your best definitions in the comment section here, and I’ll upload your responses (or just go for it and upload your own to Urban Dictionary). What an opportunity to tell the truth. Of course consider the medium–you’ll want to be “hip.”

P.S. my son Sebastian (9) reminded me the other day (after I commented on how “hip” he looked) that neither of us would know “hip” if it bit us in the butt… but “the way we looked now, was about as good as it gets.”

With that said, I’m quite sure our hip crowd is up to the challenge.

5 Ways to Strengthen Trust With Weak Ties

I would describe our meeting as a roll of the dice. Perhaps someday we will upgrade our relationship to “weak ties,” but yesterday we were just 2/850 at the Great Ideas Conference chatting through our freebie Hyatt sunglasses over lunchtime brisket and gluten-free potato salad. “Joe,” the CEO (named substituted for anonymity and rhyme), seemed genuinely intrigued by our LGL mission. He works with significant innovators (with a capital I– think people who will invent the next product you must have and will be willing to spend too much for.)

“Karin, what I’d be most interested to hear from you is how you build trust with weak ties. We depend on that. Getting true innovators to connect with and trust one another online and around the globe is a vital ingredient of real progress.”

Game on. I’ve got perspective (as Granovetter’s strength of weak ties theory is arguably my favorite communcation theory of all time), but I’m sure our LGL tribe is up to the challenge. Let’s go help Joe (and others ready to go) make positive change in our world.

5 Ways to Strengthen Trust With Weak Ties

All the components of the Green’s trust equation still apply (credibility + reliability + intimacy/ self orientation)

1. Share expertise (Credibility)

Share your good stuff. Showing up with real expertise will attract other curious and innovative souls. The more people are talking about your ideas, the higher the probability of being introduced to other experts with complementary or challenging views.

2. Respect Others Consistently (Reliability)

I’m always amazed at the stupidity of those who check out credentials before helping. Or treat folks differently based on letters behind their name or klout scores. Discriminatory respect ignores the strength of weak ties theory. Treat everyone with deep respect and you’ll be known as the “really great guy (or gal)” others “just have to meet.” The brother of the intern you met in the forum may turn out to be just who you need on your next project.

3. Do What You Say (Reliability)

It’s certainly easier to blow off a commitment to a weak tie than a colleague. You don’t have to help everyone, but if you say you will, do.

4. Be Real (Intimacy)

Don’t be a snob or tell us how wonderful you are, just show us through your ideas and engagement. Share a bit about yourself as a person. Be honest about where you’re stuck. Whether you’re around the world or sitting in the cube next door, human beings want to work with other human beings.

5. Give generously without expectation (Self-Orientation)

If you’re just out for yourself, people will smell it and tell their weak ties. Social media makes it easy folks, to warn the world. In my own collaborations, I’m consistently being warned of when to steer clear. “Trust checks” are often only a DM (Twitter Direct Message) away. (See also:  7 Reasons Collaboration Breaks Down.)

People trust people who know what they’re doing, who show up consistently with a generous heart. Be that guy, and your weak ties will quickly tighten into trusted bonds of true collaboration.

Other LGL Fun

Karin Hurt, CEO

I’ve had some fun with media interviews this week. A Fortune article on the hottest job trends, and Blogging and Marketing Tips by Experts on FirstSiteGuide and a round-up of most vital leaderhip characteristics. Tip: Blogging is a great way to give generously. Check out Matt Banner’s updated guide to starting a blog here.

5 Mistakes to Avoid During a Restructure

Times of downsizing and restucture require every ounce of confident humility you can muster. Your team is starving for information, reassurance, guidance and support. And quite frankly, I’m amazed at how many leaders totally screw this up. In part I blame lawyers that scare the humanity and common sense out of otherwise sensible human beings. But mostly, it’s layers of people not thinking through what it means to be at the other end of the conversation. Every one of these mistakes comes from real stories I’ve heard or witnessed in the last year.

1. Communicating Prematurely

“We’ve got some exciting changes next year which will include an important restructure to streamline efficiencies and operations. More to come after the holidays.” Seriously? Queue the massive energy drain, distraction, resume writing, sleepless nights, worried conversations, LinkedIn surfing, and butt kissing. Don’t communicate until you’ve got tangible information about structure and process. I’m all for transparency, but vague vision without information does nothing to inspire trust or engagement. Wait to say something until you know what you’re doing.

2. Restructuring in Waves

Common in large companies, “the planning team” thinks it make sense to go one department at a time. I get it from a workload point of view, but consider the ripple effect. The stress and rumors circle the company like a wave of hands moving across the stadium. “Where are they headed next?” “How many people got laid off?” “What process did they use?” “Did the good guys land?” You’ve taken what could have been a month’s worth of restructuring and spread the pain and suffering out across nine months to a year.

3. Sloppy Administration

“My direct report just found out his job was eliminated by an email, before I even knew it.” Even I couldn’t believe this stupidity. As it turned out it was a glitch in an HR system that got the proverbial cart ahead of the horse. I’ve experienced it directly too. I once received the entire restructuring plan, including all impacted names, intended for another “Karin.” I deleted it immediately and told the sender. A disgruntled employee could easily have sent it to the Wall Street Journal.

4. Not Thinking Through the Details

“I’ve got 60 days to find a job.”

“And what happens if you don’t?”

“I get a package.”

“What does the package include?”

“They haven’t decided yet.”

Before you tell someone there job is impacted, image the next five questions you would ask if you were in their shoes. If you don’t have the answers, get them first.

5. Underestimating the Angst

“And it’s important that no one miss a beat during this time, we’ve got work to do.” Of course that’s true, but if people are worried about their livelihood, they’ll put first things first. Pretending a big deal is no big deal will just reduce your credibility. Be available for support and as a sounding board. Give them the time they need to process, and they’ll likely go back to work more focused.

Restructuring is often a necessary, bold leadership move. Be sure your execution is as solid as your plan.

 

Why Can’t I Fix Him?

My heart sunk as I heard all Kathy had done attempting to fix the scene. Actually, despite the reason for her call, the “scene” was progressing remarkably. They’d come so far in such a short time: a clear vision for 2015; a strong action plan on the biggest rock; a shared leadership model for execution; and Kathy had stepped up to lead her peers in coordinating the action plan. When they presented the plan to the CEO he remarked that the plan was “gold,” all they need now was execution.

She had tasted the beautiful, supported cocktail of pressure coupled with opportunity, and was ready to change the game.

But the call wasn’t about all that. It was about her stuckness.

“Everyone’s on board. But one of my peers hates it.”

She went through everything she had tried to get him engaged.

Connection. Listening. Disclosure. Listening. Questions. Vulnerability. Inclusion. Sharing Credit.

Nothing worked.

Her conclusion.

“This means I’m failing as a leader.”

EDITORIAL TIMEOUT: How many times have you drawn that same conclusion? P.S. Yes, start with humility and do everything you can. But sometimes, it’s not about you. Ironically, being sure it’s about you, is not humility.

Careful to be sure I hadn’t missed anything, I asked her to repeat exactly what she’d said. This time she added, “I know I’m not always like this, but I this time, I’m sure. I was really nice. I promise.”

EDITORIAL TIMEOUT: This could be part of the issue. Folks have memory of our past behavior, even as we’re looking to grow. 

She shared the connection she’d made with others. The engagement. The helping people get past “I’m not sure.”

She was nailing it.

EDITORIAL TIMEOUT: Yikes, maybe I was failing. I was out of provocative questions, and even worse, advice.

And then I went where I usually don’t.

“Can you succeed without him?”

“Yes,” she replied, “But it won’t be as much fun.”

That’s the spirit. She had the big picture.

“I understand. Does the business need this? Is everyone else all in? ”

Reinforcing the obvious.

“Yes. Yes. Yes.”

Sadly, my best advice, “Do everything you can to keep trying. Stay confident in your vision, humble in your approach. But at the end of the day. Keep moving the project forward.”

“Oh yeah, and be sure your boss is in the loop.”

Why Can't I Fix Him?

My heart sunk as I heard all Kathy had done attempting to fix the scene. Actually, despite the reason for her call, the “scene” was progressing remarkably. They’d come so far in such a short time: a clear vision for 2015; a strong action plan on the biggest rock; a shared leadership model for execution; and Kathy had stepped up to lead her peers in coordinating the action plan. When they presented the plan to the CEO he remarked that the plan was “gold,” all they need now was execution.

She had tasted the beautiful, supported cocktail of pressure coupled with opportunity, and was ready to change the game.

But the call wasn’t about all that. It was about her stuckness.

“Everyone’s on board. But one of my peers hates it.”

She went through everything she had tried to get him engaged.

Connection. Listening. Disclosure. Listening. Questions. Vulnerability. Inclusion. Sharing Credit.

Nothing worked.

Her conclusion.

“This means I’m failing as a leader.”

EDITORIAL TIMEOUT: How many times have you drawn that same conclusion? P.S. Yes, start with humility and do everything you can. But sometimes, it’s not about you. Ironically, being sure it’s about you, is not humility.

Careful to be sure I hadn’t missed anything, I asked her to repeat exactly what she’d said. This time she added, “I know I’m not always like this, but I this time, I’m sure. I was really nice. I promise.”

EDITORIAL TIMEOUT: This could be part of the issue. Folks have memory of our past behavior, even as we’re looking to grow. 

She shared the connection she’d made with others. The engagement. The helping people get past “I’m not sure.”

She was nailing it.

EDITORIAL TIMEOUT: Yikes, maybe I was failing. I was out of provocative questions, and even worse, advice.

And then I went where I usually don’t.

“Can you succeed without him?”

“Yes,” she replied, “But it won’t be as much fun.”

That’s the spirit. She had the big picture.

“I understand. Does the business need this? Is everyone else all in? ”

Reinforcing the obvious.

“Yes. Yes. Yes.”

Sadly, my best advice, “Do everything you can to keep trying. Stay confident in your vision, humble in your approach. But at the end of the day. Keep moving the project forward.”

“Oh yeah, and be sure your boss is in the loop.”