To All the (Jerky) Managers I've Known Before

I had asked the group to share their teachable point of view on leadership in the form of a TEDdy Talk (e.g. “learn to improve your speaking Karin Hurt style”.) Ultimately everyone would have their 5 minutes of TEDdy Talk fame, but tonight we were just practicing “Wow” openings. “Carrie,” who hadn’t said a heck of a lot before this, stood up and gave the most impassioned imitation of a horrible boss I’ve ever heard– as her “wow” opener. “Why can’t you do anything right!” She screamed (pretending to be her bully boss). “Everyone tells me you are smart, but I just can’t see it!”

And then she shared: “This was my morning today.”

The entire room fell silent.

After giving her a hug and a copy of my Overcoming an Imperfect Boss book, I realized I’ve never dealt with that. Close…but by that time that jerk surfaced her ugly head,  I was too seasoned for that crap. This was “Carrie’s” first serious job and she knew it was wrong. She planned to leave my book on his desk the next day as a conversation starter. (I know… I’ve already said a little prayer.) Either way, growth comes through bravery.

My Best Communication Advice For Jerky Bosses

I know you’re out there. There’s a reason my “Dealing with Difficult People” course has a waiting list (note pretty much all anyone wants to do is talk about their bosses).  But I also know there’s a bat’s chance in hell the bad guys are reading this.

So it’s up to the good guys to spread the word.

If you’re looking to help someone turn their temper into a productive conversation, here’s a process to leave subtly on their desk.

Start Here

First, I’m going to assume you are right, and that your frustration is well-founded. Someone did something stupid after at least 17 times of you trying to help them. You didn’t START thinking they’re stupid, but now you’re starting to wonder. What do you do next?

1. Connect

Connecting gives your adrenaline time to chill. Remembering you’re talking to another human being will go a long way in ensuring a productive solution.

2. Acknowledge Reality

Don’t sugarcoat. State the problem and implications clearly. Most folks appreciate calm, straight talk.

3. Inspire Confidence

What you need right now is people who believe they can fix this, not bruised egos doubting their abilities. Be specific about why you believe they can do this.

4. Ask Questions (and LISTEN) to the Response There’s likely more to this situation than you understand. Slow down, ask open-ended questions and then shut up and really listen to the response. Repeat.

5. Link to the Bigger Picture: Explain why this matters. Provide context. People always work harder when they know why.

6. Set a Clear Goal: Be clear about what must happen next and by when.

7. Involve Them In the Solution: You need as many brains as possible to fix this. Include them.

8. End on An Encouraging Note: There’s a reason that half-time locker room speeches work. Be sure they leave inspired to go-get-this, not fearful of what will happen when they don’t.

No one wants to be a jerky boss. If you know someone who lets their reaction get in the way of their leadership, do us all a favor, and pass this post along.

I want to be a mentor

6 Secrets to a Successful Mentoring Program

Mentoring, at it’s best, is a magical elixir which shaves years off your learning curve through mistakes unmade. Thank God, I’ve experienced the transformational spirit of amazing mentors. Please God, let my mentoring have made a difference for others.

Ask anyone who’s ever had an amazing mentor where that experience ranks in their growth as a leader, and I’d bet money they’d put their mentor ahead of any keynote, consulting program, book they’ve read, and potentially their 80K MBA. I say that as a speaker, consultant, author, MBA professor, and someone who’s had the fortunate experience of having a gaggle of amazing mentors over the last two decades.

Great mentorship is unscripted, raw, real, trusting, challenging and kind. Great mentorship is a two-way journey. It’s so human it bleeds into other areas of your life.

I’ve attended a funeral of a great mentor and felt like I’ve lost my right arm. A dozen years later I still wonder what he would say when times are at the most difficult. I wasn’t the only one in the room who felt that way.

Great mentors are rarely monogamous.

Sadly, few folks I know have experienced that mentor-induced pull toward becoming the leader they are meant to become.

When I ask my audiences how many of them have had a truly great mentor, it’s surprisingly sad how few raise their hands. In my MBA courses, the number is even fewer. Sometimes no hand is raised. This is our future.

As a culture, we’re not mentoring well.

I think we know this, which is why I receive so many calls asking for mentoring as a keynote topic. “How do we do this better?”  “Who must we involve?” “Why isn’t this working?” “What about the ‘millennial situation?'”

So, prompted by another such conversation this afternoon, I’m opening this conversation for our LGL Community. Here’s what I think matters. I  hope you’ll chime in.

What Matters Most

  1. Establish Measurable Goals: As Covey would say, begin with the end in mind. How will you know you’re successful? Determine how you will measure success. I promise you, it’s not just
    “that folks feel better.”
  2. Pick the Right People: If you’re going to get into the business of match-making, do it well. Consider the value of Nemesis mentors. What often works best is announcing the program, providing people with scaffolding to make their own matches, and then support.
  3. Get Them Started: Ready, mentor, go! is seldom enough. Even your smartest, most creative types can get a little twitchy when asked to do something outside of their day job. I’ve found a half-day kick off workshop including multiple mentoring relationships can go a long way in launching them toward success.
  4. Establish Parameters: Guidelines are vital. If you’re a mentor, does that mean you’re signing up to be a sponsor? These are key conversations. I’ve mentored a long list of folks I’ve helped to improve, but I wouldn’t put my brand on every one of their careers in support of the next promotion.
  5. Give Them Something To Do: In every mentoring program I’ve developed, I’ve given them easy tools and activities to them started.  Organic is great, and some will throw your guidance away. Awesome. Others will kiss it and make it so.
  6. Consider Alternative Models: I’m a big fan of alternative mentoring models: speed mentoring, mentoring circles, peer mentoring, reverse mentoring. Too much to discuss here. Call me to learn more.

Do you need help getting started? Please call me for a free consultation. 443-750-1249.

5 secrets to effective conference calls

5 Big Rules For Productive Conference Calls

It’s easy to fool ourselves into the illusion that “just having a conference call,” instead of a face-to-face meeting or one-on-one, will save time. In fact, it’s that kind of thinking that leaves many managers moving from call to call with little time to connect with their team.

In an attempt to salvage some productivity in their day, they put the phone on mute and try to get real work done at the same time—and don’t pay close attention to much as a result.

A Quick Rant Against Conference Calls

Perhaps you’ve been on one of these soul sucking calls. A direct report stops by, and, grateful for a distraction, you mouth “Oh it’s just our regular update call,” put the phone on mute and attempt to a have a meaningful conversation.

Just when you’re fist-bumping yourself for being a high-energy multi-tasker, you hear your name mentioned…twice. Oh crap. You quickly take the phone off mute, apologize and say, “I was speaking to the mute button,” which of course is technically true. The opinion you offer next is nowhere near as salient as it would have been if you had been paying attention. Your peer IMs you, “What are you doing, aren’t you going to bring up the idea we agreed to last week?” Oh boy, now you’ve ticked her off, and stumble awkwardly into, “Oh, I forgot I do have one more thing to add. You see Janet and I were thinking…” Awkward.

Think Like an Entrepreneur

One thing has been conspicuously missing this past year as I started my own business–no wasteful conference calls. Why? Well first, the last thing I want to charge my clients for is any time that will not add absolute value to them and their bottom line. Second, I don’t want to pay my contractors for a minute of wasted effort that could be working productively to advance our mission of growing leaders around the world. The next time you have a conference call, try thinking like an entrepreneur. Estimate the hourly rate of those attending the call, and see if there’s a more efficient use of their time to get to the result you need.

Big Rules

Look them in the eye

Honestly, one of the biggest reasons my “conference calls” have become so productive is that they’re almost always done over video–for free. Zoom (my favorite), Skype, Go to Meeting, or Google Hangouts all work. You can see facial expressions and get a better read on emotions AND it takes multi-tasking off the table.

Articulate outcomes

Meetings are meant for two things, to move results forward or to build relationships. Be clear on your objectives. Are you there to make a specific decision? Are you working to gain buy-in to a change? Knowing why you have each item on the agenda will go a long way to keeping the call on track.

Invite only necessary players

When you’re considering flying people in for a meeting,  you take a lot of thought to the time out of the field and the expense involved. Don’t let “It’s just a conference call” suck you into a trap of over-inclusion. That kind of thinking compounds quickly.

Segmentize discussion

Use a narrowing agenda. Arrange the more general topics up front and then let people drop off as the topics become more specific. Explain what you’re doing and why in advance, so you don’t get people riled up about secret meetings. Be sure that it’s not always the same people invited to drop first.

End standing calls early and often

I get nervous about weekly check-in calls, mostly because discussion expands to fill the time, when a briefer discussion could do. If a regularly scheduled call is important for your team or project, craft the agenda and estimate the time you think you will need. State that intention up front. “If we keep to our agenda, I think today’s call should only last about 37 minutes. Let’s be as productive as possible so we can all have some time back.”

Done well, conference calls can be an effective and efficient way to get the results you need. A little extra planning can save hours of lost time and productivity.

Are you looking to help your team streamline efforts and produce better results, please call me at 443-750-1249 for a free consultation.

How to Achieve the Impossible

IT managers, Lori and Ann, were both shocked when they were given their latest projects. What this new client wanted was really complicated, and their teams were already about to tip over, not to mention the ridiculous time frame the sales team had committed to. “Why don’t they ask us before making these impossible commitments?” “What are they smoking? We can’t possibly do this!” ​ They both knew better than to say what was on their minds. ​​

But now the tough part. Telling their teams.

Feeling the urgency, Lori immediately called her team together for a quick huddle. Her team knew there was trouble by the look on her face, before she even said a word. And then she looked at them sincerely, “Guys, I’m so sorry. We’ve been given an impossible deadline, and I know you’re already working so hard. We’re just going to have to do the best we can. Here are the parameters…”

Ann took her cell phone to the parking lot and vented to her husband. Then she took a walk and cleared her head. She had to figure out a way to do this without crushing the team. Back at her desk, she sent out a quick calendar invite for 8 a.m. the next morning labeled “Launch Project Flying Colors”–no other details.

Intrigued, her team got there a bit earlier than usual to find the conference room filled with colorful helium balloons and streamers, along with blank white easel sheets plastering the walls. She had a medley of upbeat “color” themed songs playing on her iPhone.

“Guys, we’ve been given an exciting challenge and I’m sure we’re going to pass it with flying colors. It’s going to be hard, perhaps the most difficult thing we’ve accomplished, which is why I’ve brought us here to get really creative on the best path forward. Let me outline the parameters we have to work with, and then we’re going to work together to make a game plan.”

How to Galvanize Your Team to Achieve the Impossible

Don’t get me wrong. I’m fully aware that hard work is still hard work. But I’ve seen a little bit of galvanizing magic go a long way in sparking creativity and getting folks into a “Yes, we can!” mindset.

To galvanize your team toward achieving the possible…

Make winning feel like a sport.

In sports, nothings more fun than winning when the odds are stacked against you. A game of lay-ups would be a real yawner. Tap into the sporting side of human nature.

Be clear why every role matters.

Watch any Little League game and at some point there will be a kid in the outfield with his finger up his nose. Not so in the major leagues. Be sure everyone on the team has a valuable role and is deeply connected to the vision.

Identify specific skills and behaviors needed for success in every role.

Be sure that every team member knows the behaviors they must exhibit for success.

Align team member’s passions with purpose.

Tap into skills and abilities that may be outside of the person’s day job. Nothing galvanizes people more than being able to do what they love while adding value.

Acknowledge challenges and obstacles, and include the team in finding solutions.

Go ahead, admit that it’s tough. “Heck yeah, those parameters are ridiculous. But we’ve got to find a way to do it. What would we do if we did know how to make this happen?”

Articulate a winning game plan.

Be clear on the actions of who will achieve what by when. Build in natural celebration points along the way.

When you develop a reputation for being a galvanizer, folks will knock down your door to join you the next time. Winning well is fun.

How to Make Someone Feel Welcomed

We had no intentions of actually going in. Sebastian and I were just trying to figure out the best way to walk to the new school he’ll be attending next year. But there we were, his nose pressed against the glass and me in my moving cut-offs and tee-shirt. “Mom, lets just sneak in like ninjas and look around.” Knowing there’s no way “sneak in” to schools these days and worried about the impression we’d make showing up scruffy with no appointment, I paused. But the eagerness in his eyes won. “Let’s just ring the doorbell.”

“Hi, This is Sebastian. He’d like to come to school here next year.”

Now, if the school secretary had been doing her job, she would have handed us a registration packet or asked us to make an appointment.

But she wasn’t DOING her job.

She lit up like she was welcoming a dignitary to Disneyland.

“Oh, Sebastian, YOU are going to LOVE this school. All the kids and teachers are so nice, we have so much fun and learn a lot.”

And then she asked questions.

For every question, she knew just what to send him over the moon.

“What do you like to do?”

“Well, I like to ask a lot of questions and I like art.”

“OH, We totally need kids who ask great questions. Questions are so important to learning. You are really going to make a difference here. And you know what? You’ve come not only to the right school, but to the right county. We have so many programs to help you become an even better artist. And guess what, every year you can even have your art displayed at the mall!”

“What school did you attend before?”

“St. Paul Lutheran.”

“Oh, a private school… I see. That’s nice. Did you have to wear a uniform?”

“Yes. I hated that part.”

“Guess what, no uniforms here! You can dress to fit your awesome personality.”

And then the clincher.

“What time did you start at that school.”


“Well, you’ll have to wait until 9:15 to start here.”

The dancing began.

She then proceeded to share all kinds of helpful information about lunches, traffic jams and getting involved.

As we left with our registration packet, Seb looked at me and grabbed my hand. “Mom, I’m going to work really, really hard at this school.”

Thank God she wasn’t doing her job.

Lost in Translation: Communication Techniques for Middle Managers

You know your boss cares deeply about customers, employees, and doing the right thing for your business. And you’ve built a passionate team of customer advocates, who want to make a good living and feel good about coming to work every day.

And yet here you are, precariously squashed amidst the intensity of all this passion and good intentions.

At the core, everyone wants similar outcomes…you get it. But the cacophony of misunderstanding and misinterpretation can be deafening.

“Why don’t they understand why this is so important?”

“Why would she do THAT if she really cared about employees?”

“How can they be so out of touch with reality?”

“These executives don’t have a clue how annoyed our customers are about this decision.”

“This is just another sign the frontline is disengaged.”

Chances are no one put “translator” on your job description. But trust me, the managers with the best outcomes are masters of translation.

Great Managers are Translators

The very best managers are leaders with a keen ability translate:

Industry dynamics into pragmatic straight talk

They listen closely to what’s happen with competitors and strategic partners. They’re intrigued by the dynamics, and help their team to better understand their company’s proactive approaches and responses.

Organizational vision into meaningful work

They work hard to understand the big picture and have a keen ability to explain articulate specifically how the work their team is doing makes an impact on customers and to the world.

Executive urgency into tangible action

They don’t let stress roll downhill. They buffer negative executive emotion and translate the meaning into specific behaviors for the team to implement.

Questions into dialogue

They listen carefully to questions from executives, bosses, peers, and direct reports, to understand the deeper concern. They proactively work to bring the right people together to have meaningful conversation.

Employee angst into reasonable requests

They empathize with the stress and concerns of their team. They help employees frame their needs so they can be heard and addressed to get the resources and support they need.

Great middle managers take time to learn the languages of those around them, and listen well to hear the truths from multiple perspectives. Translating well saves time and is a vital step toward achieving breakthrough results.

5 Benefits to Working With People Who Drive You Crazy

You know who I’m talking about? Perhaps it’s the guy who’s obsessed with font size, color schemes and alignment. Or the incessant questioner. Or the gal whose desk looks like hurricane I-don’t-care just blew across her office. We’ve all got them–the folks that make us crazy. Oh sure they’re effective, but given your druthers, you druther not have them on your project.

The truth is, it’s often the folks whom we’d like to choke who are best positioned to challenge our perspective and help us grow.

5 Benefits to Working With People Who Drive You Crazy

1. Humility

Working with people who make your hair curl provides a perfect opportunity to practice humble patience. Focus on your shared mission, and in really listening to the bozo (oh… I mean that other human being who has a different style).

2. Complementary Skill Sets

If someone is really making you crazy, it’s likely they’re focusing on areas you’d rather not think about. Instead of being annoyed, be grateful. They can sweat that stuff so you can do you what you do best.

3. Their Network

As they say, birds of a feather. Remember the “strength of weak ties” theory (if you missed that post, click here). Chances are they’re hanging out with a different crowd. If you lean in, you could substantially expand your network.

4. Creative Tension

Being challenged is the best way to grow. If you can keep an open mind, their perspective may be just what you need to break through to the next level.

5. Improved Skills

The best way to get better at working with people who drive you crazy is to work with people who drive you crazy. It forces you to practice all those vital teamwork skills: listening, communication, running effective meetings, working through conflict.

In fact, if you’re not working with anyone that makes you crazy, perhaps it’s time to seek out a nemesis mentor, or invite that nut job (oh, I mean really valuable human being) to join your next project.

Why NPS (Net Promoter Score) is Never Enough

The call center had ventured into this unknown territory organically. Their leadership knew their processes needed rigor, so they called me in to take a look and help them create a scalable model.

My basic question, “How do you measure performance?” was met with an embarrassed silence followed by the awkward answer, “Attendance and adherence to schedule.”

Now you don’t need to be a customer service genius to know that measuring whether reps show up to work is not enough to guarantee a best-in-class customer experience. Most centers at least use NPS (Net Promoter Score), which measures whether the customer would recommend the company to a friend. But this project was different, and that wasn’t so easy.

My expectations lowered, I asked, “Would it be okay for me to sit with some reps?” And that’s when the real surprise began.

I watched as each rep passionately explained their processes.

“Oh my gosh, I love my job, I just can’t wait to help customers. You see this guy here? He thinks everything is fixed, but I dug a bit deeper and I know we can help him more. It takes a few extra clicks to get what I need, but it’s worth it.”

“Well, each morning before I get to work, I go onto our–and our competitor’s–Facebook page to see if anything hot might have surfaced since my last shift. Stuff changes fast, and it’s important to come into work fully prepared.”

“The best part of our work is that no one gives us a script, we are each able to use our own unique style as long as we follow the basic guidelines. Customers love that. We also share what works best with one another.”

I reviewed customer conversation after conversation. I surely would recommend these reps to a friend. They were scoring “10s” on an invisible scoreboard.

My mind raced to the week before when I had met with the builder for our new home.

“Okay, here’s a survey you need to fill out.  I only get my bonus if you give me a 10. It’s really important that you answer 10 to these three questions. I don’t care what you put for the rest of the survey, you can be as honest as you want on those. In fact, that’s how we know what to improve. But whatever you do, please give me a 10. In fact, let me just circle that in for you.”

If he worked for me, I would have fired him.

But, here’s where it gets trickier. This guy’s going to be our project manager for the next year. He’ll have discretion about whether he fixes our borderline problems on our new home. The wackiest part is until that conversation it had been a 10 experience.

My gut says, report this stupidity his boss, but then what? And of course, I have no way of knowing if his boss isn’t playing the same game. I wonder how many other new home owners leave their final walk-through feeling similarly gamed?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for NPS and other CSAT (customer satisfaction) measures. I will help that call center build a meaningful balanced scorecard, and recommend they include NPS, but not without telling this cautionary tale.

The spirit of NPS is easily destroyed when mathematical gymnastics trump a sincere desire to improve.

If you’re using NPS, be sure you dig deeper. Follow-up with your promoters. “Why would you recommend us?” Give them a chance to say, “Because I didn’t want your rep to get fired.”

Want to give your customer service a competitive edge? I’d love to help you dig deeper. Please give me a call at 443/750-1249 for a free consultation. 

5 Ways to Help a Decision Maker Decide

My client, Laura, had invited me in to observe the spectacle. I watched as she carefully articulated her research findings and presented her “no brainer” suggestions to Mark. Each time Laura’s ideas were met with a similar response, “Thanks so much,” followed by a bogus reason of why the idea wouldn’t work.

The conversation was the equivalent of Laura saying, “I’d like to give you 100 bucks. No strings attached. I just found a way to save the money and I’d like to give it to you.”

And Mark saying, “Well, thanks for making the effort, but I’ll have to think about that for a while, talk to some other folks and see what they think, and then get back to you.”

Mark was clearly afraid to make a decision, even if it was obviously a good one.

Perhaps you’re dealing with Mark or his doppelgänger. If so, here are a few ideas that can help

5 Ways to Help a Decision Maker Decide

1. Ask More Questions

If you’re met with resistance, stop selling and start asking questions to understand why.

  • How do you think this change would impact the customer experience?
  • Have you ever tried anything like this before? How did it go?
  • What’s driving your hesitation?
  • Who else needs to be involved in such decisions?
  • What do you think would happen if we implemented this approach?
2. Provide a Clear Path Forward

When presenting an idea to a guy like Mark, don’t just talk conceptually. Be crystal clear on what your idea would take to implement: specifically who would need to do what by when.

Folks like Mark are often afraid of change because it just sounds like too much work. Show how moving forward with your plan is easier than sticking with the status quo.

3. Make it Reversible

One of the biggest reasons for decision paralysis is that it feels so permanent. Find a way to let them taste the impact of the decision in a way that can be easily reversed. Got a new process? Try it with one team. Worried about the customer experience? Try your idea out with a small subset of customers and carefully monitor the experience. It’s a lot easier to sell-in a pilot, than to convince a risk-adverse decision maker to make a “permanent” change.

4. Include Others

If Mark suggests a need to socialize the idea with others, offer to tag along. Chances are if he’s afraid to make a decision, he’s equally afraid of expressing his opinion to his boss or other stakeholders.

Offer to support him with an enthusiastic, “Awesome, I’d love to join a quick call to help you socialize the idea.”

5. Don’t Give Up

It’s true that it’s hard helping some people. But stay humble. This isn’t about you or your Mark, it’s about doing the right thing. There’s nothing more convincing than someone passionate about doing the right things for the right reasons.

Give Mark a chance to sleep on it, and give it another go.

stage fright

How to Overcome Stage Fright

I was deeply worried that my Dad was right, there would be no way I could hold it together to sing at my Mom’s funeral. I envisioned myself as a weepy mess at the front of the church. But for me, singing is a prayer, and after the hundreds of concerts my parents attended to support me over the years, not singing felt wrong. I’m normally not a stage fright kind of girl. I always love a good microphone. But fear was showing up in all its glory, and I almost gave in.

Then I realized that this fear was a gift. I needed to be humbled by stage fright, to better serve my clients and students who ask me for advice on how to overcome theirs.

4 Ways to Overcome Stage Fright

Here’s what worked for me. I hope it can help you.

1.Remember WHY you have the mic

If you’ve got a mic in your hand, I’m going to assume you’ve got something important to offer. Remember that stage fright is about you, not your message. Fear is not humility. Connecting with your message and remembering your purpose takes your ego (and the fear that’s trying to protect it) out of the equation.

2. Find some scaffolding

My scaffoldiing came in the form of people. My first text was to my cousin Katie, a professional folk singer and one of the happiest people I know.  Now we had a duet. Mary is a rock star on piano, so I knew if we got into trouble she’d just keep playing.  When Al, who I hadn’t sung with since my wedding, showed up at the funeral home, we added one final touch to the scaffolding for the next morning–guitar.

For you the scaffolding may be a clever prop, slides that prompt you through the tough parts, or a podium to put a barrier between you and the audience. Find what will make you feel more secure.

3. Practice until it “gets into your body.”

Award winning speaker and coach, Patricia Fripp, advises speakers to practice a speech until it “gets into your body.” She rehearses on a treadmill, so I decided to take my song for a walk in the woods. I got a few strange looks when I stumbled upon a fellow hiker, but what the heck.

4. Visualize success

As corny as it sounds, that morning I spent some quiet time picturing myself in front of the familiar terrain of the church I grew up in. The stained glass, green carpet, and the harmony that needed to surface.

Here’s a 30 second glimpse of the outcome.

Need help with communication, leadership development, or a funeral singer (just kidding), give me a call 443-750-1249.

rocket light bulb

7 Questions You Should Ask When You Launch a New Project

I’m launching a new project that will significantly propel the LGL mission of growing leaders with the confidence and humility to make a deeper impact on the world. It’s a strong team, and I found us organically asking one another questions to frame our mission and set us up for success. There was no checklist, but I thought, “Wow, wouldn’t it be helpful for others in such scenes if there were?”

And so today, I offer 7 questions to ask before you launch any significant project.

7 Questions You Should Ask Before You Launch a New Project

1. Why is this project vital?

Why are we doing this?  Why now? Who will benefit and what do they most need? How much will it cost and why is it worth the investment?

2. What does success look like?

How will we measure our success? What are the process measures that will let us know we are on track?

3. Who else must we include?

Who do we need to be successful? Who are key stakeholders who should be brought in early?

4. How will we communicate?

We’re actually using some cool collaboration systems, including Hall, Gather Content and Cage.

5. How does this project integrate with other work underway?

In my work at Verizon this was always one we had to consider well. It’s worth going slow to go fast in this phase to ensure there’s no redundancy or worse, competing efforts.

6. What can we learn from others who’ve done similar work?

Again, it’s worth taking the time to benefit from other people’s key learnings. Breakthroughs are almost always improvements of work that has come before. Be sure you know what that is.

7. Who will do what by when?

Too many project teams jump right into the action planning. Asking the first six questions first will help to ensure you plan is effective.

So, Karin, what’s the project? Ahh, that leads to the bonus question, “When do you announce your plans?” Stay tuned.

5 Big Mistakes Managers Make When Developing Their People

Let’s be real. The biggest mistake managers make when developing their people is that they don’t spend enough time doing it. Or, even worse, aren’t spending any time at all. The fact that you’re reading this indicates that you care, and are trying.

Even imperfect development beats what many employees telling me they’re getting–nada.

The only way to achieve exponentially greater results is to get every member of your team functioning on more cylinders, as individuals and as a team.

Good managers spend at least 10-20% of their time developing their people.

Be sure you’re investing your time well by avoiding these common traps.

5 Mistakes Managers Make When Developing Their People

1. Forget they’re still learning too

There’s a weird imaginary threshold I see too many managers cross. They creep into “I’ve got this, and now my job is to teach it to you” land.  Almost every manager goes there at some point in their career, and many get stuck in it’s delusional abyss. The only way to be an effective leader is to scurry back to reality as fast as you can. Leadership is never handled. See also, 60 Reasons Leaders Stop Learning.

I’ve learned the hard way that our teams see our flaws and mistakes better than we do. Even if they love you, there are at least 17 reasons they don’t want to lead like you.

Be sure the learning and listening is a two-way street.

2. Invest only in the “high potentials”

“I don’t have time to develop everyone, so I’ll really invest in the top 5%, maybe even 10%,” is the cry I’ve heard many times. I’m all for giving extra effort the box 9s, goodness knows I’m grateful for every ounce of extra effort folks poured into me as I climbed the ladder. BUT, imagine the possibilities when you tap into the majority of your team, building on everyone’s strengths, and helping them to see themselves as more than “also-rans”?

3. Focus on individual development but don’t develop the team

A team of super stars who don’t know how to work as a team, can’t win. The egos get in the way, and conflict sucks the life out of all productivity, and prohibits real creative breakthroughs that involve integrated thinking.

I once worked for an executive who painstaking recruited the very best players in every discipline, and then got us in a room and announced his plan. Our bonuses (a large percentage of our salary, usually stack ranked) would all be exactly the same, based on our performance in his experimental organization. He’d received permission from HR to try it. If we blew it out of the park, he’d get money added to the pool. If we sucked, he’d give it back. Either way, we’d all be paid the same percentage.

We fought like brothers and sisters, but we figured it out. We nailed it. In fact, 20 years later, we’re still amazing friends (I even dated one of the guys a decade later, see also: Never Date the Guy Who Hates HR — just kidding, haven’t written that post… yet;-)

4. Ignore their unique gifts and strengths

It’s easy to develop leaders in our own image, but what if they see the world in an entirely different way? What if they never say a word? Go deeper. Get to know them. In every MBA class I teach, I’m blown away by the men and women who I worried about at the beginning. Go there.

5. Underestimate their capability to grow horizontally as well as vertically.

Everyone wants to move up, and it’s easy to focus on promoting your best and the brightest in your discipline. The truth is, people choose a path early on and it’s often a crap shoot, or overly influenced someone else’s advice. Give people opportunities to draw on new skills, test them in wacky environments, and see how they grow. My career was built on doing things I knew nothing about, and so was my Dad’s. I bet there could be more of us out there if only given the chance.

Developing your people is so important, be sure your work gets the return on investment you deserve.

See Also: A Brilliant Mentoring Match Takes Hearts and Smarts.