How to Give a Motivational “Locker Room” Speech

The band had traveled 13 hours on 14 buses for this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Now slime was falling from the sky. The 500 piece band had planned to hold their final rehearsal on the fields of Newark airport. Now they were stuffed into the Marriott ballroom. It was raining, sleeting and blowing on their parade. David Starnes, the band’s director, stood on the makeshift podium– a pile of chairs– on the far edge of the ballroom and said,

“I know this is not ideal, but sometimes you have to make chicken salad.  All eyes on me.”

As I experienced his leadership, “eyes” had little to do with it. Between songs and sets he wove in one of the best motivational locker room speeches I’ve ever heard.

How to Give a Motivational Pre-Game Speech

David Starnes on leadership (with admiration and apologies for paraphrasing).

1. Visualize Game Day

He set the scene with great detail. “Matt Lauer has just introduced us. The whistle blows. Ready stance. And we begin the NBC sequence (nice touch to call it so).” It was enough to make me want to stand at attention, and I was just there taking pictures.

2. Inspire Perfection

“I heard one early entrance and one delayed cut-off. We don’t want to be watching the tape at the banquet tomorrow night wondering– who was that?” Who would want to be “that guy?” I’m not sure if he really heard two lone stragglers or not, but the sentiment was brilliant. Everyone needed to be on their A game. No one could afford to get lost in the cacophony.

3. Invite Improvement

“Woodwinds, what ONE THING can you do tomorrow that would make your performance just a little bit better?” If I were leading he trumpet section you can bet your dingles, I’m asking that question too. Leaders inspire leaders.

4. Make it Personal

“I want this to be so awesome that Cynthia Jenkins (name changed) can’t speak because she’s so choked up.” When I asked my son who Cynthia was (assuming it was a long-time Dean dying of cancer or some such story) he shared, “Nope, just a clarinet section leader.” Everyone of these 500 music makers matters.

5. Express Pride

“I am so proud of you. You’ve got this. All those hours of practice have come down to this and you are ready.”

They nailed it. 

Helping People Find Their Voice

Even the most confident among us sometimes lose our voice. Everyone needs encouragement every now and then.

A Story of Voice Losing and Finding

Our church is exceptionally progressive when it comes to women in leadership. In fact, the ministers and all church staff are women. And yet, we have this big deal tradition– a fundraiser auction– which has been historically led by male auctioneers. Something just didn’t seem right about that.

After hearing enough behind-the-scenes chatter on the phenomenon, I mentioned my/our concern to Bob, the auctioneer lead.

“Why are there no women on the stage? Why are they all behind the scenes?” He looked surprised, “Not sure. I guess no one’s expressed an interest. There used to be a woman who did it.” That wasn’t quite enough for me, ‘”Who have you asked recently?” It was friendly banter, and he said he’d work to change it up next year.

We picked up the conversation 10 months later, when my phone rang. “Karin I’m doing the line-up for the auction. I’d love for you to be an auctioneer.”

Oh boy. I’d wanted SOME woman to do this. But didn’t really see myself in the role. Sure, I’m a speaker, but “go bidder bidder” wasn’t exactly my style. But what could I say?

“I’d be honored.” I smiled and thanked him for his follow-through.

So that year, I donned an evening gown–in some feeble attempt to have the congregation notice there was a woman at the mic. I did the best I could (or so I persuaded myself). But honestly, I had a hard time finding my auctioneer’s voice. I’d give myself a C at best. I was a little sorry I’d brought the whole thing up.

Generously, I was asked back again this year.

Time for an upgrade. As I looked at my auction item list, I realized that the first few items really leant themselves to song. If you haven’t heard this before, I was voted “most likely to burst into song” in high-school, so this is not really a stretch thought, but the wacky place to which my brain orients naturally.

But stay with me… There was a grown-up women slumber party, just calling for a round of “Look at me, I’m Sandra Dee.” Or the poker night, “Luck be a Lady Tonight,” from Guys and Dolls. You see?

And so I went for it, belting out the attention-getting openers. The crowd smiled.

A few items in, it was time for our dinner break. I checked in with my veteran auctioneers. “Oh yeah that works,”  they were all with me using the non-traditional approach. When I confessed I had no idea how I would sing about sushi, we brainstormed ideas (we landed on “Fish Glorious Fish (Oliver style).” Richard on sound gave me a thumbs up and adjusted the mics for the new sing-to-sell approach.

We sold a plenty of sushi.

When taking on an uncomfortable role, it may feel safer to play the role as it’s been played before. But that’s not always what will bring the best results. Digging deeper to find your most natural voice (and encouraging others to do the same), may be the best way to inspire confidence and improve results.

5 Ways to Rebuild Confidence

It didn’t go well for Jennifer the last the time, and now her confidence was shaken. She was doing everything she could to avoid the situation, which only increased her anxiety and frustrated the rest of us. We had to rebuild her confidence and encourage her to try again. When the last time goes south, it can be hard to pick up the pieces.

Perhaps you’ve heard similar concerns.

“The last time I gave someone feedback they cried.”

“The last time I was honest with my boss, I got a negative review.”

“The last time I presented to senior management, I got so nervous I forgot what I was going to say.”

“The last time I stayed up late working on a report, they didn’t even look at it.”

“The last time I interviewed, it turned out the job had already been promised to someone else.”

The memory of last time can destroy this time before you even start.

5 Ways To Get Your Team Past a Bad “Last Time”

1. Acknowledge What’s Real

If last time really was a complete disaster, acknowledge the issue. Trying to say something “just wasn’t that bad” — if it was–will only make you lose credibility. If they’re blowing it out of proportion, offer evidence to help them see the past from a different perspective.

2. Break It Down

Ask questions to help them understand the root cause of what went wrong the last time. Chances are not everything went wrong. It’s much easier to improve when you know what you’re fixing.

3. Outline What’s Different About the Scene

They may think they’ve seen this movie before, but the truth is, last time was different in many ways. Take the time to explore how today is different from yesterday, or this guy’s different from that guy.

4. Celebrate the Learning

Help them consider all they’ve learned from the last time.

5. Help them Prepare an Approach

The best way to create a winning this time, is to fully prepare. Help them create a strong strategy and approach.

How To Respect People You Disdain

You care deeply about breakthrough results. This guy’s a jerk. No no, not just annoying, a poster-child good blocker. You’ve got stories.

Be careful. Two disrespects don’t build respect.

In full disclosure,  I don’t have this mastered. The worst moments of my career have come from the times I let the one or two really nasty, disrespectful (I’m tempted to say “evil”) human beings get underneath my skin and bring out the worst in me.

I’m learning to respect myself enough to seek to find something to respect in even the most ridiculous human beings. The process is important. When I look hard enough it’s often amazing what good or reason is lurking beneath the surface.

5 Ways to Respect People You Disdain

“If we lose love and respect for one another, this is how we finally die.” -Maya Angelou

1. Hang Around Them

“Really Karin, are you crazy? What about the wisdom of being the sum of the people you spend your time with?” Okay, okay, don’t EXCLUSIVELY hang around them, and don’t let their nasty ways rub off. But there’s something to be said for propinquity. Investing time in the relationship may surface an additional understanding.

2. Take the Balcony View

I love the wisdom of William Ury shares in The Power of a Positive No to extract yourself from the emotions of the situation and consider a more objective view.

The balcony is a detached state of mind you can access anytime you chose. Imagine yourself for a moment as an actor on a stage about to speak your line– your no. Now picture yourself up on a balcony overlooking the stage, a place where you can see the scene clearly from afar. The balcony is a place of perspective, calm and clarity.

The balcony is a great place to look for reasons to respect.

3. Stop Dissing them Behind Their Back

It’s impossible to feel genuine respect, or even treat people with respect, if you’re talking poorly about them to yourself or others.

4. Engage Real Conversation

Encourage them to share their opinions and really listen to what they have to say. Try having a conversation with the sole intension of really hearing them (rather than responding with your views). Look them in the eye. It’s amazing how often that will encourage them to respond in kind.

5. Seek Out Positive Views

Look for people who do respect this individual and find out why. There may just be more to him or her than you’ve seen so far.

Respect brings out desirable qualities in ourselves and others.

Respects begets respect.

Let’s keep trying.

Does it Matter if They Like You?

Conventional managerial wisdom says, “It doesn’t matter if they like you, as long as they respect you.” I can also hear the echo of countless bosses and mentors over the years, “You’re not here to be liked.” “If you worry about whether they like you, they won’t respect you.” I get the sentiment and, as with anything else, it’s a matter of degree. But, I’ve never seen these as opposing characteristics. Why can’t a leader be respected AND liked? Demanding and likeable?

Frankly, I’m all for being likable, and I’ve finally found the research to back it up.

In their Harvard Business Review article, Competent Jerks, Loveable Fools, and the Formation of Social Networks. Casciaro and Lobo shared their extensive research across a wide array of industries which found that although managers SAY they prefer to work with competent over likeable people, in reality, they actually seek out and work with people they like, even when they’re less competent.

We found that if someone is strongly disliked, it’s almost irrelevant whether or not she is competent; people won’t want to work with her anyway. By contrast if someone is liked, his colleagues will seek out every little bit of competency he has to offer.

Of course the best player is the “loveable star” who is both competent and likeable.

A recent Wall Street Journal article cites another study which found that being likeable matters.

Likable people are more apt to be hired, get help at work, get useful information from others and have mistakes forgiven. A study of 133 managers last year by researchers at the University of Massachusetts found that if an auditor is likable and gives a well-organized argument, managers tend to comply with his suggestions, even if they disagree and the auditor lacks supporting evidence.

How to Foster Professional Likeability

1. Don’t be a jerk, even if you’re competent.

2. Make a point to get to know the human beings you work with.  It’s easier to like someone you know.

3. Listen more, talk less.

4. Create opportunities for your team to connect and learn more about one another.

5. Capitalize on your likeable team members. Have them help bridge and build relationships for those competent players with a more jerky edge.

6. Lower your jerky tolerance threshold. Resist the urge to let your competent players get away with bad behaviors.

Why Costumes Work at Work

As luck would have it, this Halloween finds me in my home office. It hits on a Friday which typically means writing and development… no keynotes, no consulting gigs, no teaching the MBAs… sadly no reason to wear a costume.  In fact the next few Halloweens are on weekends– great for kids, terrible for dressing up as your favorite leadership message (yes, that’s me on the left).

Your next weekday (Halloween) chance is Monday, October 31st 2016, although I’ve found excuses to dress up at all times of the year. But for the traditionalists in our tribe, you have plenty of time to prepare. Go for it. I’d love to see your plans. Of course, if you dressed up today, send me a pic.  I’ll add it to the post.

Why Costumes Work at Work

  • Costumes are a great way to reinforce key messages. Try dressing up as your favorite objective, priority or customer complaint.
  • Costumes are silly, and silly is fun. We all need that.
  • Fun makes us real. Real creates connections. Connections inspire awesome customer experiences.
  • Teams long for a leader to show they are vulnerable. Nothing says “exposed” like a silly hair do.
  • Risk taking is an important leadership competency. It’s a bit gutsy to ask your team to follow you into a costume. Maybe it will make the next risk easier to take.
  • When done as a team… silly creates lasting team experiences which draw the team together. “Remember the time she had us all…?”(They may complain, but I guarantee the guy who resisted the most has a picture of that day in his office.)
  • It says fun is good. Let’s make more.

Whenever you have a chance to lighten the mood, create connection, and reinforce the message, go for it. If you missed it this year, make a plan (don’t wait for Halloween)…and please share your story.

6 Ways to Create More Joy at Work

Great leaders are joy inducers. Not the giddy kind of joy, but deep-seeded joy that comes from inspired and meaningful contribution. Inspiring joy is a pragmatic pursuit. I’ve yet to encounter a truly joyful poor performer.

Last week, I asked all my social media circles to identify three things they liked most about their job. There was a deep feeling of passion and joy throughout the comments. It’s not to late to contribute. The themes were remarkably consistent and a useful guide for leaders looking to inspire greater joy and higher performance on their teams.

6 Ways to Create More Joy at Work

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”

Rabindranath Tagore

For a more joyous, engaged and high-performing team look for ways to maximize these six aspects of the job design and interaction.

1.Meaningful Work

People long to contribute to an important cause that’s aligned with their values. Help your team understand the bigger impact they are making on the world. They’re not selling smartphones–they’re enabling connection, providing safety in emergencies, and simplifying people’s lives. They’re not just cleaning bathrooms–they’re creating a clean environment that reduces the spread of disease. Helping employees find the right job that fits with who they are and what they value matters, even if that means leaving your organization. A vital aspect of leadership is aligning people where they can make the biggest contribution.

2. Good People

People want to work with good human beings. Take the time to hire class acts who will treat others with dignity and respect. Provide opportunities for your team to truly get to know, and enjoy one another, as people.

3. Helping Others

People want to feel useful. Almost any job can be designed so that helping others is part of the role.

4. Learning

People want to learn new things. Learning is energizing and provides a sense of forward momentum. Be sure you’re adding enough stretch to the mix to challenge your team to grow.

5. Freedom

People want to be treated like grown-ups and given the freedom to bring their own ideas and creativity to the scene. Look for opportunities to step back and let them decide how to best approach the goal.

6. Mastering a Craft

People want to feel confident and competent in their work. Find opportunities to support mastery and enhance professional standing.

Well-designed work creates joyful teams. Joyful teams spread optimism. Optimism changes the game.

How to Encourage the Lazy and Disengaged

How can you encourage the lazy and disengaged? The short answer… roller skates, or their metaphorical equivalent. Stay with me as we flashback in time.

I was arguably the most disengaged and “lazy” sorority pledge at Wake Forest University. I had rushed because I was warned that nearly all social life on campus centered around the Greek system. I had never viewed myself as a “sorority girl.” I was more of the studious, madrigal-singing type. But there I was skipping “mandatory” events that felt to me like a colossal waste of time and blowing off the requirement to interview every “sister” about her favorite foods and secret fantasies. When my advanced biology class started to crush my brain, I was on the verge of quitting.

Brig, the President. pulled me aside. I felt instant relief.  Ahh, I wasn’t going to have to quit. I was going to get kicked out, even better.

“Karin, you seem athletic. Do you know how to roller skate?”  I laughed. My friend Sabine would visit from Germany every summer and we strapped on roller skates most days until dusk swirling, racing and making up shows.

“Actually, I do,” I confessed.

“Great, we need someone to do the roller skate leg of the relay around the quad for the Greek games (think high energy, silly, yet serious olympics).”

“Oh, I’d love to, but I didn’t bring my skates to school.” Off the hook again.

“Oh, I’ll find you some skates.”

“Well, I’d have to try them out and I’m so busy studying for this biology exam,” even I knew how ridiculous that sounded as the words spewed out. Clearly I was still trying to get voted off the island.

Brig persisted, “What time are you done studying tonight?”

“Midnight.” (Yeah, I really was being that jerky.)

“Great, meet me on the quad at midnight. I’ll bring the skates. The race is at 3pm tomorrow.”

As I laced up the skates, she asked me how I was liking the sorority. I began to confess. As I skated and she ran beside me around the moonlit quad, I shared my fears of losing my academic scholarship if I didn’t pass biology, my resistance of the silly interviews, and my feelings that this just wasn’t for me.

Brig listened intently and asked questions. “Why did you join the sorority?  What requirements are making this seem impossible? Do you know why we require you to talk to each sister?”

She explained the “why” behind every ritual. And then we worked together to create a reduced schedule of obligations that I could commit to and keep my academic standing.

When she returned for homecoming a few years later I asked her if she remembered that night. “Of course I do,” she smiled. “Good leadership is never accidental.”

“How crazy is it that I ended up being President?”  I smiled.

Brig looked at me full of confidence and pride. “Karin, I knew one of two things was going to happen with you. You were going to quit, or you were going to be President someday. My vote was for President.”

What Do You Like Most About Your Job?

Ray had a long list of things that were wrong with his job. Most of us do. The most important work is never easy and sacrifice can sting.

But as I listened, I was struck by the stark contrast between what was wrong and the deep loyalty to stay that went way past trappings of salary or benefits.  So I shared that observation and asked the obvious question:

What do you like most about your job?

My initial question was met with a nervous laugh, a pause, and then…”lots of things.” Then more silence. We let it steep.

A few hours later I got an unsolicited email from him entitled, “A Random List of Things I Like About My Job.”

Some of the items on his list included:

  • All the good people
  • Meaningful and interesting work
  • A company you feel good about telling others about
  • Good people despite the craziness that can induce belly laughs
  • and concluded… “Did I mention all the good people?”

I couldn’t help but thinking how much happier the world would be if we each sat down to make such a list.

Which got me thinking about our LGL Community.

What Do You Like Most About Your Job?

“Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.” –Willie Nelson

So this Friday, may I suggest an LGL teambuilder?

What if we each picked the top three things we liked about our job and placed them in the comments? In fact, share with your team and your friends, and lets see how many comments we can collect. Then, I’ll create a word cloud and a content analysis of the themes that emerge.

Game on. Even if you’ve never commented before today is your day. Do it!

5 Reasons Teams Lose Confidence

Great leaders help teams visualize a winning future. They arm their team with the courage and audacity to remove roadblocks and galvanize people toward “impossible” feats.

Take John. John had been in tough situations before, but this time the cocktail of challenges was just too much. He needed more time, more resources, better systems, and the uncertainty of the restructure was distracting to everyone, including him. He confided, “I don’t think we can do this.”

I was sure he was right. Not because of the systems or the resources, or even the organizational chaos. But, if the leader lacks confidence, the team knows. It’s nearly impossible for a team to win when their leader loses faith.

5 Reasons Teams Lose Confidence

1.  A Doubting Leader

When the leader loses faith in their teams ability to perform–with these players, in these conditions, on this field–the team will sense it. Even if the words are encouraging, the underlying emotions speak louder. If you’re not sure you can win, find a way to get your own head there, or let someone else call the shots for a while. If you don’t believe it can be done, neither will they.

2. Under-Preparation

The team is tired, so the leader backs off on the training and preparation. They cut the team some slack when it comes to additional research or practice. The team feels initial relief, and thinks the coach is “nice,” but on game-day doubts they’re truly ready.

3. Discounted Wins

The team has wins, but every time the leader discounts it or fails to understand it. Success without understanding is hard to replicate.

4. Over-Direction

The leader is at the center of every move: calling the shots, holding a huddle, directing the moves. Teams feel lucky to have the leader, but question their own contribution to the matter.

5. Reliance on a Star Player

Players get hurt, move on, become hard to deal with. It’s dangerous when a team begins to attribute success to just one guy (or gal). The most confident teams believe in the team and its synergies. If the team starts to bet against themselves when one player is injured (or obnoxious), you’ve begun a downward spiral.
 

Great leaders build confident teams, who believe in the vision, the process and one another.

5 Ways to Encourage Your Team Toward "Yes You Can"

28 eyes looked at me skeptically. They were convinced the task I had outlined for their strategy session was beyond their reach. “Just too hard,” they explained. “I’m not that creative,” said another.

No time for second guessing. Sure this exercise had worked in other contexts, but I had never worked in this industry before. What if they were right? “Shut up,” I told my inner voice, rudely. Sometimes you’ve just got to be direct with that sucker or he’ll get the best of you.

On the outside, I was equally direct, but kinder. “Of course you can do this! I’ve never seen this approach fail (true statement). You’ve totally got this. Now let’s talk about where you’re stuck.”

Still skeptical, a few pairs of eyes softened. I could see the beam of possibility shining through.

I knew I needed to diffuse the scene, 14 doubters against one was too much. “When I get stuck like this, I often find it useful to take a walk,” I offered.  “If anyone wants to take a lap around this beautiful hotel to think, that’s just fine. If you’re ready to bounce your ideas off someone else it may be helpful to talk it through with your colleague. And, I’m going to be over here and would love to talk through this with anyone one-0n-one.”

A few took a walk.  Others paired up. I held a few consultations, where we explored what they were most afraid of.

When we regrouped, they nailed it. Not just in a hammer and nail sort of way. They nailed it with all the impact of an electric nail gun. In fact, that session was one of the most powerful I’ve ever seen.

5 Ways To Encourage Your Team Toward “Yes You Can”

1. Be Audaciously Confident

Be confident in the mission. Be confident in the team. Be confident in the power of discomfort. Don’t articulate your own self-doubt– that’s not humble, it’s destructive.

2. Divide and Encourage

It’s easier to stay stuck when you’re surrounded by stuckness. Chances are everyone’s not stuck in the same place or for the same reasons. Find a way to separate the naysayers.

3. Build on Past Success

Ask your team member to recall a time they’ve been successful in a similar situation. Start from a confident place. “I’m sure you’ve done well in similar situations in the past. Can you tell me about a time… what did you do… what made it successful?”

4. Scaffold

Be available. Ask provocative questions that lead them to success.

5. Help Them Identify What Scares Them

“What’s the worst thing that could happen here?” I asked one woman.

“I might get emotional,” she confided.

“Okay that’s understandable,” I said matter-of-factly, and continued. “Emotional in a bit verklempt type of choking up or a full on wailing and gnashing of teeth?”

She laughed, “Nah, it’ won’t be that bad.”

“We can handle that…”

She shared her story with the team. She wasn’t the one who cried. Message received.

Teams need encouragement to take little risks that feel big.

Little risks lead to brave steps which lead to bold work which lead to breakthrough results.

Encourage them. Please.

The world needs more brave doers.

5 Ways to Encourage Your Team Toward “Yes You Can”

28 eyes looked at me skeptically. They were convinced the task I had outlined for their strategy session was beyond their reach. “Just too hard,” they explained. “I’m not that creative,” said another.

No time for second guessing. Sure this exercise had worked in other contexts, but I had never worked in this industry before. What if they were right? “Shut up,” I told my inner voice, rudely. Sometimes you’ve just got to be direct with that sucker or he’ll get the best of you.

On the outside, I was equally direct, but kinder. “Of course you can do this! I’ve never seen this approach fail (true statement). You’ve totally got this. Now let’s talk about where you’re stuck.”

Still skeptical, a few pairs of eyes softened. I could see the beam of possibility shining through.

I knew I needed to diffuse the scene, 14 doubters against one was too much. “When I get stuck like this, I often find it useful to take a walk,” I offered.  “If anyone wants to take a lap around this beautiful hotel to think, that’s just fine. If you’re ready to bounce your ideas off someone else it may be helpful to talk it through with your colleague. And, I’m going to be over here and would love to talk through this with anyone one-0n-one.”

A few took a walk.  Others paired up. I held a few consultations, where we explored what they were most afraid of.

When we regrouped, they nailed it. Not just in a hammer and nail sort of way. They nailed it with all the impact of an electric nail gun. In fact, that session was one of the most powerful I’ve ever seen.

5 Ways To Encourage Your Team Toward “Yes You Can”

1. Be Audaciously Confident

Be confident in the mission. Be confident in the team. Be confident in the power of discomfort. Don’t articulate your own self-doubt– that’s not humble, it’s destructive.

2. Divide and Encourage

It’s easier to stay stuck when you’re surrounded by stuckness. Chances are everyone’s not stuck in the same place or for the same reasons. Find a way to separate the naysayers.

3. Build on Past Success

Ask your team member to recall a time they’ve been successful in a similar situation. Start from a confident place. “I’m sure you’ve done well in similar situations in the past. Can you tell me about a time… what did you do… what made it successful?”

4. Scaffold

Be available. Ask provocative questions that lead them to success.

5. Help Them Identify What Scares Them

“What’s the worst thing that could happen here?” I asked one woman.

“I might get emotional,” she confided.

“Okay that’s understandable,” I said matter-of-factly, and continued. “Emotional in a bit verklempt type of choking up or a full on wailing and gnashing of teeth?”

She laughed, “Nah, it’ won’t be that bad.”

“We can handle that…”

She shared her story with the team. She wasn’t the one who cried. Message received.

Teams need encouragement to take little risks that feel big.

Little risks lead to brave steps which lead to bold work which lead to breakthrough results.

Encourage them. Please.

The world needs more brave doers.