Massive Failures - What Great Leaders Do Next

Massive Failures? What Great Leaders Do Next

What do you do when you’ve screwed up and everyone knows it? Your failures weren’t just mistakes in judgment…you let yourself down. You didn’t keep your commitment. You hurt people you are supposed to help. Your team looks at you with disappointment.

Now what?

We recently spent a week in Germany sharing Winning Well practices with project managers from throughout Europe and the Middle East.

One of the most striking aspects of our travel in Berlin was the way in which Germany has chosen to confront its own history.

In the center of Berlin you will find monuments to the millions of victims of the Nazi regime. Holocaust education is mandatory for every student. Sections of the Berlin wall remain along with memorials to those who were killed trying to cross that border.

The ways in which Germany has acknowledged and taken responsibility are solemn and humbling examples of how to address your own failures so you can rebuild your influence and credibility.

big mistakes what great leaders do Holocaust Memorial photo

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin, Germany

 

  1. Don’t Hide
    Germany has chosen not to run from its past. It is literally out in the open for everyone to see. When you screw up, break a promise, or hurt someone, don’t pretend it didn’t happen. Acknowledge it. Own it.
  1. Apologize
    German leaders up to this day have apologized with statements of shame and repentance. Many leaders struggle to apologize for fear that it will make them look weak or ruin their credibility. The opposite is true. It takes strength to apologize and a straightforward apology builds your credibility. It signals that your team can trust you and it models how they should behave when they let one another down.
  1. Learn and Make It Right Going Forward
    When you’ve hurt someone or broken your word, do what you can to rectify the situation. These actions and commitments don’t erase what was done and, depending on the severity of your behavior, you may not regain the trust of those you hurt, but they do give you a chance to rebuild your credibility, influence, and relationships. Following large reparation payments and support for survivors, Germany has committed itself to human rights and living up to ideals of human dignity, diversity, and respect.

Progress Not Perfection

It’s not perfect.

Germany continues to struggle with anti-Semitism and the challenge of welcoming refugee immigrants while integrating new arrivals into a culture that strives to live up to its ideals of diversity and respect.

Your team doesn’t expect you to be a perfect person. They’re not perfect and when they see you screw up, own your failures, and move forward, you make it more likely that they’ll trust you and be able to do the same.

Final Thoughts

We recognize that for some readers this may be a challenging article. We do not mean to make light of the pain you have experienced nor would we suggest that you should readily trust someone only because they have apologized.

For others, we recognize the challenge that comes with discussing what has become the embodiment of evil in our age. We do not intend to make light of these events nor make false equivalencies between a leader’s broken promise and the systematic extermination of human beings. Even so, the principles that apply here apply to us all.

Lead well – the world needs you.

What to do when your boss cant focus

What to Do When Your Boss Can’t Focus?

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

Dear Karin & David,

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

                                                                                                Please help!

                                                                                                -Scattered

Dear Scattered,

We hear you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4 Ways to Help Your Boss Focus

Third, when your boss brings their latest new idea:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your Question?

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

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

the worst mistake you can make with a bad hire

The Worst Mistake You Can Make With a Bad Hire

“When did you know he was a bad hire?”

“Pretty much from day 1.”

“And when did you first have a frank conversation about your concerns?”

“Err… yesterday.”

“And now you want to terminate them?”

“Yeah, I mean it’s been a problem for a really long time. He’s got to go!”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this seen this scene play out–both in my HR exec days, and now in the frustrations of my clients looking to add more rigor to their performance management processes.

The worst mistake you can make with a low-performing
new hire is being overly patient.

Why are we overly patient with a bad hire? Well first off, we hired them, and it’s just freaking awkward that they’re this bad. So we convince ourselves they’ll be okay, and hold our breath and wait. Or, we know how hard it can be in a new job…so we just give them time and space to get better, and assume it will all work out.

Of course, most people don’t hit the ground running overnight. But if you’re REALLY worried after the first few customer interactions, or they just don’t seem to pick up anything you’re putting down, don’t wait too long. Better to lose the diaper drama as early in the game as possible– and tell your bad hire the truth (see more in our video interview).

5 Reasons to Be Real With Your Bad Hire

1. They’re As Frustrated As You Are

No one starts a new job with the intention of really screwing it up. If it’s not working out, it’s likely they’re more frustrated than you are. It’s a good idea to be having “How’s it going?” conversations with all your new hires–and particularly those who are struggling.

A few conversation starters:

  • Why did you choose to work here? What most attracted you to this company/job?
  • Is the job what you expected it to be? Why or why not?
  • What do you find most satisfying with this role? What is most frustrating?
  • Where do you need some extra support?

2. You’ve Got a Limited Window to Clarify Expectations

Don’t assume you’ve been perfectly clear with your expectations. If you wait too long to articulate and reinforce your standards, your  new hire is likely to assume you just aren’t that serious, or that what he or she is doing is acceptable.

It’s fine to give some time to ramp up to be at full performance–but you always want to be reinforcing the end-goal and what success looks like. I can’t you how many times I’ve had crying employees in my HR office saying, “But my supervisor never told me…” And the truth is, often there was some truth to that. Be sure expectations are clear.

3. Bad Habits Are Hard To Break

Enough said. Be clear about the most important behaviors for achieving success, and reinforce those until they become a habit.

4. Your “A Players” Are Taking Notes

If the new guy comes in and gets away with less than productive behaviors, you will instantly lose credibility with your strong performers.

5. HR Can Help

Your HR manager can help you get extra resources to support your new hire’s success. AND, they can also help you deliver (and document) the conversations you are having. I’ve never met an HR professional who complained about being notified too early about a problem.

The best way to give your new hire and your team the best chance of success is to ditch the diaper drama as early in the game as possible, and have real conversations with your new hire.

trust the trenches

How Do I Get My Team to Trust Me? (Story and Video)

Our 8th Winning Well Principle: Trust the Trenches has so many nuances, all of which I learned the hard way. For me, it wasn’t the delegating, or asking for input, that was the hardest… it was trusting my team enough to be vulnerable. To trust them enough to admit that I’m far from perfect, and having the confidence to know that was okay. I still had vision. And a plan. And we could still win well.

“Because when people see leaders who are real and have real life challenges,
they look at those leaders and say,
“Wow, she’s not perfect.
And I’m not perfect.
And we can still win well together.”

The Hardest Way to Trust the Trenches

I had just been promoted to my first executive job in human resources at Verizon. All the players were new. I had a new boss and an entire new C-level suite to impress. And because sometimes life throws you curve balls, I was also going through a divorce and was trying to navigate an unexpected life as a single mom.

I hadn’t told a soul. My best friends at work didn’t know. And my boss certainly had no idea.

So here’s what I imagined would be said about me. 

Well, we know we can’t talk about this, but…

“This is probably not the right time for her. Yes she’s high-potential, but with all this personal stuff on her plate…”

“I’m not sure she’ll be able to manage the travel of this high-profile role as a single mom.”

“She’s young. Let’s skip this round with her, and wait to see how she handles her new life circumstances.”

So I did what I thought was best and ignored the unspeakable.

Which might not have been a terrible approach. Except…

My First Project in the New Role

My first assignment in my new role was to build a diversity strategy. I was to gather a “max mix” of managers (think race, age, sexual orientation) from across disciplines and cultures to talk about the very real challenges that were limiting our ability to have an inclusive culture.

And it was working.

We had an amazing team. And great dialogue. Scott, the gay man, came out to us for the first time at work–and that informed our strategy.

Sherika shared a few horrible examples of being overlooked as a woman of color–and that informed our strategy.

John, who weighed 400 lbs., opened our eyes to discrimination we hadn’t even considered–and that informed our strategy.

We were on the cusp of presenting our recommendations to senior leadership, when Sherika burst into my office, and shared her truth from the trenches.

“Karin you are a fraud.”

“All this time we’ve been talking about diversity, and what really matters. Scott came out to you and you applauded. I shared my story, and you raised an enthusiastic, ‘Game on… let’s address that.” And John was close to tears in sharing his deal, and you wrote the travel policy into the plan. And there you sat, TOTALLY QUIET, as we discussed the challenges for single moms.

Our single mother strategy is incomplete. And you know it.

Yeah, we talked about schedules and daycare. But what about the fact that executives like you have to hide who they are for fear of being discounted?”

Sherika was right.

Imagine the Difference

Sherika shared, “Karin, trust goes both ways.”

“Can you imagine what would have happened if you had told us the truth?”

“Hey guys, this discussion of single moms is only half the battle. Yeah, we need daycare, and flexible schedules. But we also need to make it safe for people to show up how they really are at work. Without judgement.  I’m a single mom too. I don’t meet the profile we’ve been discussing. AND I’m scared as hell that the minute people find out that I don’t have a husband, all bets are off.”

THAT would inform our diversity strategy.

Trusting the trenches starts with–trusting the trenches to be who you are.

Sherika’s message changed my approach to leadership forever.

To win the trust of your team, you have to trust them to trust you.

Trust the trenches to accept (and even embrace) that you are human being too.

And lead from there.

 

3 Character Traits That Make You a Better Leader

A guest post from Greg Marcus.

Being a better person is easy in theory – do less of the negative stuff, and more of the positive stuff. The same holds true for leadership. The problem comes in when we either don’t know what we should do, or we do know but can’t help ourselves and do the negative anyway. When I was in the corporate world, I was very good at my job, and very, very arrogant. It held me back in a very, very, very, big way. I so wish I had practiced Mussar back then.

Mussar is a 1000-year-old Jewish mindfulness practice that teaches us how to find those things inside that cause us to get stuck making the same mistakes again and again. And, Mussar offers a step-by-step way to bring those things towards balance and healing. On a personal level, Mussar is a daily practice that helps one become a Mensch, a person of outstanding character. On a professional level, Mussar can be the key to unlocking your full leadership potential.

Mussar offers a different perspective than many other wisdom practices, in that having too much of the trait is just as bad as having not enough. The way we change is to first identify where we are on the spectrum from too much to too little for a given trait, and then to take action to bring ourselves towards balance.

3 Character Traits That Make You a Better Leader

Here are three character traits that we should balance in order to be a great leader.

Humility  -Mussar humility is not the classic definition of humility that we have grown up with – it is much closer to Karin’s definition of Confident Humility. Humility is the proper balance between being arrogant and a doormat. Or put another way, it is learning to occupy the proper amount of space in the world. Leadership often requires that we occupy a lot of space. We have to make hard decisions and follow through on them. A leader must be willing to put it out there, and make the difficult call. At the same time, many leaders occupy too much space, and micromanage those around them. One simple way to change is to monitor how much you speak in meetings. If you are the type of person who speaks early and often, try remaining quiet and letting someone else ask the first question. If you are the kind of person who stays quiet, try asking a question earlier in the meeting. Or if you are really nervous about speaking out, ask your question 1:1 after the meeting.

Patience – too little patience makes us angry, frustrated, and hard to work for. I once worked for a failing company that had a re-org every six months. The re-orgs started before we were failing. They helped torpedo the ship because just as we were starting to get somewhere, the direction changed. This wasn’t just bad strategy or leadership – it was an outgrowth of a character flaw. The same leaders who could not stick with a strategic plan were impatient in everyday life. They had knee jerk overreactions to small situations.

By working to cultivate patience, they would have been better leaders. I have a student who was a cut-you off, curse at everyone driver. To balance her patience, she started letting every car merge in front of her. She was transformed into the calmest, happiest commuter in California. And that fortitude, the ability to bear the burden of the unpleasant traffic situation, helped her be a better marketing VP at work as well.

We should remember that too much patience can lead us to stay in a bad job, or to allow a failing project to continue for too long.

Order – it may surprise you to see order as a character trait. But if you think about it, there is a spectrum of people who may be totally disorganized on the one hand, with a chaotic desk and inability to complete projects on time, to the obsessively controlling micro-manager on the other. Both extremes are bad for business.

To balance order, pick one small change towards the middle. For example, if you are a procrastinator, try starting your day with just 20 minutes of focused work on an important deliverable due in the future. If you have too much order, you will find yourself excessively planning, trying to account for and control every contingency. You can practice letting go by setting a strict limit on the amount of time you prepare, and then trust yourself to be able to handle things as they come up. Or, you might want to try an unscripted check in with a colleague. Focus on listening, and see what you can learn when you don’t control the agenda.

In a Mussar practice, we focus on one of these traits for two weeks at a time. By repeatedly making small changes in how we show up on the world, we actually rewire our soul/nervous system, and begin to change long-standing habits that we may not have been aware of.

SpirOrder, humility and patience are three of thirteen soul traits covered in my latest book The Spiritual Practice of Good Actions: Finding Balance Through the Soul Traits of Mussar. If you’d like to see where you sit on the spectrum for humility, patience, order and the other ten traits, you are heartily invited to take this quick quiz on AmericanMussar.com.

Three Critical Steps to Developing Your Millennial Leadership Talent

A guest post from Elisha Yeoh, Thriving Talents, Malaysia.

You’ve seen them, you’ve heard of them, and some of you may even be working with them. These them I’m referring to is the Gen-Ys. Regardless of what you may currently think of them, the presence of these young individuals have definitely changed the realities of workplace dynamics, especially now that Gen-Ys are slowly being reviewed to fill in managerial positions.

More and more organizations are beginning to tear down walls (both metaphorically and literally) to keep up to date with the current trends of building up great young leaders who will one day assume more responsibilities. However are these young people in your organization ready to make the hard decisions and lead a team?

Step 1: Understanding The Way They Work

For years experts have been trying to understand millennials, to find out what makes them tick, and what drives them to want to do great work. And after all that research and with all the different clashing views, the general consensus to this finding is that this generation of young people is unlike anything we’ve seen before.

Team Dynamics

In the work setting, Gen-Ys are vastly different from the generation before them. Although they seem to be confident and want to stand out from the crowd, they actually value the opinions of their peers especially when it comes to making decisions. They aren’t shy about getting opinions be it about work or other personal related matters from their peers and are more likely to take their peers advice more seriously than those higher up in authority.

Roles in Leadership

The Gen-Ys today do not place a very high importance on leadership as they believe that they do not need to be placed in roles of authority to lead. They prefer to work in a group in a democratic setting where the decisions made are derivative of the values added by each person member of the group.

 Step 2: Providing A Clear Purpose

Unlike the other generations, the Gen-Ys are no longer only motivated by monetary incentives or added perks and benefits that an organization provides them, rather they need to be intrinsically motivated to want to perform at their very best.

Organizations need to give the Millennials a reason to want to be involved, to want to commit their time effort and energy. One of the best ways to sustain their dedication is to provide them a greater purpose to the tasks they are currently doing. Make them part of something so much bigger than themselves and keep them inspired as well as motivated by telling them of the impact that their work creates for the people outside your organization.

Step 3: Provide Them With Avenues To Grow

The Gen-Ys are painfully aware of their own strengths and weaknesses, they may seem like they are unaffected by their shortcomings, but growing up in an environment where they are so used to having their actions and ideas being validated can cause distress whenever they are faced with a problem they aren’t able to get over.

Organizations need to build an environment in which these Gen-Ys are given the chance to work on their strengths and learn to cope with their weaknesses. Provide them with a support structure in which they are allowed to continuously work on themselves as they become more invested in your organization.

Empower them with the necessary skills and training that will lead them to make better decisions. Allow them to test their limits, set them up for defeat in a safe environment through team building exercises and simulations for them to really know themselves and identify their leadership styles.

Join Us: August 19th for a FREE Webinar The Great Millennial Hoax Why Most Millennial Experts are Wrong and What to Do Instead

Malaysia Webinar blackDavid Dye and I are partnering with Michael Teoh, Author of The Potential Matrix and Founder of Thriving Talents on a series of events in Malaysia and the United States, beginning with this FREE webinar– register here. 

Whether you’re a veteran leader or a millennial recently promoted into a leadership role, leading your younger team members can feel like an endless struggle. Why don’t they understand? Why aren’t they motivated? Why won’t they put in the time?

To make it worse, instead of making life easier, much of the advice you get from generational “experts” can actually make the situation worse. The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Your younger team members can be an incredible source of talent, energy, and productivity.

Join three internationally recognized leadership experts for a conversation that will answer your questions about getting the most from your millennial team members. You’ll walk away with:

  • What you really need to know to develop your millennial talent
  • How ordinary people have transformed their lives to achieve success
  • Keys to cultivate motivated, energized teams that get more done, solve problems on their own, and make everyone around them better.
  • And specific answers to your questions!

We are so excited about the opportunity to combines experience, wisdom, and perspectives from across generations – and across the world!

Register today and be sure to submit your question and get the answers you need!

Don't Let This Relationship Undermine Your Success

“The opposite of love is not hate– it’s indifference.”
– Steven Pressfield

Megan approached me as soon as I left the stage.

“Karin, I’m so with you on this not losing your soul thing… I resonated with everything you said… but for me it was the reverse.

I wasn’t losing my soul at work, I was finding it.

You see my boyfriend was always tearing me down. Or worse, acting like everything I was accomplishing was no big deal.

I would come home from work so excited, but the minute I started sharing my day, he made me feel like crap… like I was stupid to care that much.

I really love my job and I’m good at it. I know I’m making a difference.

My manager started really paying attention to what I was doing. Seeing my potential. Investing in me. Encouraging me. Giving me opportunities.

My confidence was growing.

And that felt good.

When I tried to explain all that to my boyfriend  he would roll his eyes.

I tried to talk to my mom, but she said maybe I was a workaholic.

She cares about me and wanted my relationship to work, so she took his side.

But one day it hit me.

He was scared of my success and my new-found confidence.

I tried to help him understand for a long, long time. I encouraged him in his career too.

I finally had to leave.

I feel like I’ve regained my soul.

I’m so much happier.

Been there. Amen sister.

Don’t Let a Naysayer Undermine Your Confidence

God knows I’m no relationship expert.

What I do know is that I am asked almost every day to help high-potential women show up with more confidence.

There are many factors at play.

The unspoken challenge some of the women I work with face is that they’re dealing with a naysayer:  at home, or in the next cube, or in the form of a childhood friend threatened by their success, or even lingering words of someone who’s no longer around.

There’s someone in their lives with their own confidence challenges questioning their next move.

If this story sounds familiar you are not alone.

How to Outwit the Naysayers

If you have a ground swell (or even a spark) of confidence building up in you… don’t let anyone talk you out of it.

  • Surround yourself with people who claim their own confidence– do everything you can to encourage one another
  • Limit your exposure to the naysayers
  • Create boundaries with the people you love to limit confidence-crushing conversations
  • Take time to acknowledge your own success and growth– write down your personal and professional accomplishments, even the small ones
  • Identify the situations where you feel more confident, notice the behaviors that are working for you in those scenes and try them in other environments
  • Do something that scares you every day. Nothing builds confidence faster than succeeding at something that scared you

Remember, an important part of confident humility is to know that other people’s behavior is almost always more about them than you. If you’ve got a naysayer trying to undermine your confidence, throw some compassion their way– but don’t let their negativity impact your growth.

For more discussion and tools on the power of confident humility in getting results that last, read or listen to or book, Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul.

Also, our Winning Well online course is now live! Contact me  for a demo, or to talk about getting a discount for your team.

The Secret To a Great Leap

It’s been almost 5 years since that fireside chat. My friend “Joe” and I were one of the last few remaining at our campsite fireside on our annual church camping trip. The embers were glowing and yes, there was a bit of whisky involved. I distinctly remember Val emerging from her nearby tent in her pajamas and explaining that although our conversation was “indeed fascinating,” she was tired, and to please keep it down. Clearly the conversation stuck with me, as I wrote about it a year later.

Over a year ago I had a debate with a friend that just keeps staying with me. His premise, “By the time we are in our 40s our path is set. Your potential is channeled. You are just not going to accomplish anything significant you haven’t already started…”

His words angered me more than they should, perhaps because I was preparing for my own leap into the leadership development space. Looking back, my frustration with him was most likely driven by my own fear. What if he was right? Maybe it was too late to follow this dream. I woke up the next morning worried I had given him a bit too much “encouragement.” We never spoke of that evening again.

Fast forward to this week, leap year 2016.

His wife approached me. “Joe’s got a great opportunity for a huge new job in a new city. It’s just perfect for him and for us. It’s all so new and exciting.”

Surprised and delighted, I leaned in to hear more. What she said next floored me.

“Joe shared something the other night, I thought you should know. He said that conversation you had by the fire really stuck with him and made him think. He believes it helped him to be open and confident when the recruiters called out of the blue with an offer to change course.”

Great leaps don’t start the moment our feet leave the cliff. They begin in the moment we open our hearts and minds to the possibility for more.

Your path is not set.

Stay open.

What's Going to Happen to You in 2016

If only you had a crystal ball. The planning, the decisions, the choices would be so much easier. But you don’t. And those decisions and tradeoffs aren’t easy. Should you stay? Should you go? Is that project realistic? What if they reorganize… again? Are you getting the whole story?

What You Do Know About 2016

There’s much you can’t possible predict. But I’m confident…

  • A co-worker will really tick you off.
  • An unlikely subject will surprise you with their generosity.
  • Work you do will be vastly under-appreciated.
  • You’ll learn something new.
  • You’ll regret what you said.
  • He’ll take more credit than he should.
  • It will be one of those weeks.
  • The balance will get way off kilter.
  • You will know you did the best you could.
  • You will screw it up.
  • The news will suck.
  • You will fix it.

Knowing natural ups and downs are going to happen, and they are happening to everyone, will help you save vital energy for what matters most.

There’s much freedom that knowing the minor frustrations are not so much a matter of “if” but “when.” That way when they do show up, instead of reacting poorly you can say “Oh there you are… I’ve been expecting you” and keep perspective on your bigger mission.

I was inspired to write this post when my blogging hero, Seth Godin, shared his more universal Surefire Predictions.

The Worst Reason Women Don't Get Promoted

The room was filled with successful, competent, middle-aged women. We’d just finished a powerful workshop where each of them had identified ways they could make a bigger impact in the their organizations, in the world and in the women leaders coming up behind them. Then over lunch, Laura turned to me and confessed, “Karin, I’m still having trouble with your confident humility model. I think most women have way too much humility and that actually gets in the way of their success.”

Of course, the whole point of my model is that it’s the balance of confidence with humility, but my point was not the point. I needed to hear her story.

They just filled a really critical role in our organization, and everyone was shocked. “We thought it would be you!”  I know I’m way more qualified than the guy who got it, and I could have added a lot of value. But the truth is, I didn’t apply. No one asked me to. I guess, I figured if they wanted me they would have asked.

She continued,

I don’t think we should be teaching women about the power of humility. I think we need to get them to learn to believe in themselves and tell others why they should believe in them too.

And then several other women chimed in with similar experiences. One C-level exec shared her observations.

I think the problem is that many women look at the long list of requirements on a job description and think “Shoot, I’m missing one, better not apply.” Whereas a guy is more likely to say, “Ha, look at this, I’ve got all but one nailed, I’m a shoe-in.”

As I listened, I thought about the many roles I have taken on in my career that were really a stretch. On paper, I was completely under-qualified for these cross-functional assignments. What was the difference? Why did I exude that “masculine” audacious confidence that made me believe I could be successful without the experience?

And then it hit me. Much of that confidence came from the fact that one time, one senior leader convinced me I should move out of HR and take on a field role for which I had no experience. He told me he had “no doubts” that I would be successful. So I put my hat in the ring and was hired. He was right.

The next time, I didn’t need any external convincing.

Humility has nothing to do with selling yourself short. Humility is about knowing the mission is bigger than you. For goodness sake, if you’re the best person for the job, don’t stand back and let someone else take the helm.

And we all need to be on the lookout for women and men, who might need a little extra convincing.

Are You a Closeted Servant Leader?

Are you afraid to talk about leadership development at work? Would you like to invest more in developing your people, but worry that your boss will pooh pooh the idea?

You’re not alone.

This week, I had the honor of co-hosting the Online Servant Leadership Summit with Becky Robinson. We had some great guests including Ken Blanchard, author of the new One Minute Manager and Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes. You can watch the recordings and pick up some awesome free resources here. A common question coming in from the audience was “Is it possible to be a servant leader if the culture doesn’t support it?”

The answer from all participants was a resounding “Yes!”

Now as a moderator, it would have been uncouth for me to jump up and down and scream,  “YES, YES, YES!!! In fact, the more the culture is lacking these behaviors, the more vital it is that you put your own fears and vulnerabilities aside and serve well. You’re not serving anyone if your first thought is to protect yourself, fit in, and let fear and intimidation roll right past you on the way to your team!”

But the phone call I received yesterday, made me realize I needed to scream this message from some rafter, and thank goodness, we have one right here 😉

A high-ranking official of an important non-profit doing great work reached out to me via LinkedIn– after participating in the Summit.

We laughed about the Summit attracting people who already believe in leading through service, and that the folks who most need to hear the message would likely not sign-up. His next words shocked me. “You’ve got to understand the culture. My boss has no idea I participate in such things, we just don’t talk about leadership development around here. I do what I need to do–but in secret.” Wow.

I thought back to the conversation I had earlier in the week with a manager who so wants to bring in my online course for her team, but is afraid to raise the topic with her boss–because it will look like she’s not focused on more important matters. Huh? If you know your team’s results will improve as they develop, have THAT conversation.

A vital part of being a servant leader is advocating for what your team needs.  Scared leaders can’t serve well.

You Can Serve Well Without Using the S Word

If the S word scares your boss, for goodness sake, don’t use it. Just serve. Serve your team. Serve your boss. Serve your peers. Serve your customers. Get results. You’ll attract real servants like a magnet and the upwards results spiral will continue.

I’ve worked for some really tough cookies over the years. I would never have set up a meeting to talk about building a servant leadership culture. I just did it, the results followed, and they gave me bigger teams to turn around. I spent 30% of my time developing leaders, who then got promoted and led the way they knew got results (no S word articulated, just lived).

One of the senior execs I worked for actually told me privately over coffee, “The difference between you and me is that you’ll stand up for your principles even if it rubs people the wrong way. Man, do I respect that.”

I don’t think most C-levels care if you want to be a servant leader, as long as you out perform expectations with a side effect of strong employee engagement. If the culture’s not right to call it serving— don’t worry about semantics. Just live it. Teach it. Help your team grow.

P.S. If you need help convincing your boss to invest in leadership development, call me 443-750-1249. I’ll help you.

Defining Your Unique Value Proposition: A LGL Virtual Meet and Greet

What is your unique value proposition? What unique set of experience, skills, and style do you bring to the your work? If you’ve never tried this before I challenge you to give it a shot and share it with our community. That’s not bragging, that’s confidence.

Why I’m Writing About Unique Value Propositions Today

When I recently published a post on the Lead Change Group Website, How to Promote Yourself Without Being Annoying, my first tip was “be confident in your product.”

“Be Confident In Your Product – If you don’t believe in what you’re selling, your customer won’t either. Make a list of your features and benefits. What truly differentiates you? What’s your unique value proposition? If this step feels too hard, ask some trusted advisers to help.”

John’s Query

I was deeply touched by one of the responses: here’s an excerpt:

I do have a question about one thing: This “Unique Value Proposition.” Maybe I am just being too literal here, but I have always found this difficult to do. When I see the word “unique” or the phase “sets you apart from everyone else”, I freeze up, because I cannot imagine any value, attribute, behavior, or trait that is truly “unique.”

I do believe that my blend of experience, education, and attitude makes me very competitive and a stronger candidate than many others, but “unique” is a word I just cannot use in reference to myself.

You mentioned asking trusted advisors for their input and I will do that … but I cannot imagine them identifying something completely unique to me.

My Response

KARIN HURT | 13 OCT 2015

John,
I think if you really consider this carefully, you will realize that there is something about the cocktail of John that is truly unique.

For example, when I am positioning myself for change management work in the call center space, I do believe I have a cocktail that is unique. There’s a blend of a significant academic background in leadership, a decade in HR strategy and field work, coupled with having led several internal large call centers at Verizon, and then completely transformed the entire customer service outsourcing function at Verizon to parity with internal centers by building strategic partnerships and great cultures….and I’m about to publish a book for AMACOM based on that experience.

I don’t have to say all that out loud, but it pops on LinkedIn.

I’m uniquely positioned to help a call center turn their results around.

Find me a guy that looks like that, and I’ll buy you lunch… she said with #confidenthumility.

Namaste,
Karin

Of course, I can mix the cocktail in different forms drawing on my varied experience depending on the needs of a prospective client and the industry they serve. My “How I Can Set Your Sales Team on Fire” cocktail has a different flavor, but a common base.

So can John.

So can you.

I challenge you to mix up one cocktail of you and share it with our LGL community.

Showing up confident in your own unique mix of talents, experience, and the scar tissue that makes you stronger lets the world know how you can best serve.