5 Surprising Reasons Your Ideas Aren't Being Heard

Have you ever felt this way? You’ve got great ideas. You care deeply. AND you’re frustrated. Why is no one picking up what you’re putting down? Don’t give up. Take a careful look at your idea in the context of your other behaviors and interaction with the team.

Five Surprising Reasons Your Ideas Aren’t Being Heard

1. You’re Under-Invested

If you want your idea to gain traction–start with talking about what you’re doing to help.

“Here’s what I’ve already done to get us started.”

“Here are five ways I can help.”

“Here are some additional resources I can contribute.”

2. You’ve got a Track Record of Great Ideas–For Everyone Else

You’re all ideas–no action. No one wants to listen to the guy creating a lot of extra work for THEM to implement. Build a strong reputation of contributing to other people’s ideas first.

3. You’re Apologizing For Your Idea

Sounds crazy, right? And yet it happens all the time. “This is probably a dumb idea…” “I’m sorry but…”

4. You’re Too Gung Ho

What? Did Karin Hurt the “gung ho” queen just say that? Why, yes I did. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by being overly emotional or so passionate people wonder what you put in your oatmeal that morning.

5. You’ve Under-Invested in Peer Relationships

Boy did I have to learn this one the hard way. In my early career, I had a few ideas that I know were just brilliant die on the vine. How do I know they were good? A few years later when I’d built strong trusting relationships sideways, I tried something almost identical again, and people were lining up to help. If you want folks to come along, work hard to get along. Invest in prioritizing your peers and the next time you look around there will be more people by your side ready to listen.

Of course, the side benefit here is that if the whole gang’s all in, your boss will be much more eager to listen.

Your ideas matter–positioning them takes practice, but it’s worth it.

Bill Treasuer

The Starting Point of Good Leadership (Bill Treasurer)

Winning Well Connection

We first met Bill when he was publishing his first book– and I interviewed him to help share his message. Since then, we keep finding ourselves in the same leadership conversations and communities, and always enjoy connecting to share best practices. I love the way Bill taps into his own leadership experiences and stories to communicate the importance of confident humility.

The Starting Point of Good Leadership

Years ago I was coaching a young leader who was under a lot of self-imposed pressure. His dad was the second-generation owner of a $500-million-dollar construction company, and he had tapped his son as the eventual heir to the kingdom. But his son felt entirely unready for such an awesome responsibility. How would the company keep selling big projects to keep people working? How would he lead senior staff members, all of whom had more knowledge and experience than he? How would he, in short, live into his father’s footprints?

Complicating the matter was all the advice the young leader was getting. Everyone had a vested interest in having him succeed, so they were going out of their way to let him know what moves he should take. Though grateful, he was overwhelmed. “Bill,” he said, “I want to be a good leader, I really do. But people expect me to be tough, driven, and decisive, yet patient, friendly, and caring. I’m confused. Where do I start?”

You don’t have to be a CEO’s heir apparent to struggle with the same question. Leaders get a lot of mixed messages about what’s most important to followers. As a leader, you’re expected to be bold and calculated, passionate and reasonable, rational and emotional, driven and patient, principled and flexible, competitive and cooperative, strategic and tactical, and yes, confident and humble. Faced with all of these conflicting factors, is it any wonder new leaders scratch their heads and wonder, Where on earth do I start?

My advice to new leaders is this: if you want to be a good leader, start by being a good person. Leadership is an inside job. Before you can lead people outwardly, you have to lead yourself inwardly. Leadership starts with internal goodness, in other words, integrity. Goodness is not some pie-in-the-sky philosophical concept. It’s not some prudish, goody-two-shoes standard of stilted perfection. Goodness is practical. When you’re good, people trust you. They know you won’t cheat them, or violate their confidences, or mistreat them. They know you’ll consider their interests, listen deeply and share generously, and be respectful. They know you’ll never stop striving to do the next right thing.

Your goodness is the single most important determinant of whether followers will trust your leadership, and trust is crucial to good leadership. When people trust you, they’ll work harder on your behalf, they’ll have a higher tolerance for your idiosyncrasies, they’ll be loyal to you, and, most importantly, they’ll act with integrity too. Trust begets trust, and when you act with goodness it becomes an invitation for others to act with theirs, mutually strengthening the trust between you.

The good news is, when you focus on developing and strengthening your character, when you commit yourself to leading in a principled and honest way, and when you make serving others your primary leadership aim, you are exemplifying very essence of what my friends Karin Hurt and David Dye mean by the title of their essential leadership book, Winning Well. As a leader, you win well when your inner goodness informs all your leadership actions and decisions. You’re truly winning well as a leader when the best of you brings out the best in others. You want to be a good leader? Then start by being good.

Click on the image for more information about Bill’s book.

Winning Well Reflection

When confronted with the overwhelming number of leadership examples, much less the amount of advice, you’ll encounter, it can feel overwhelming. That’s why we so appreciate Bill’s straightforward reminder that all leadership begins with you. Be a good human being who people can trust. That is the foundation of Winning Well – and all the influence you’ll ever have.

A Fresh, Fast, and Fun Way to Focus Your Team

If you’re like most managers, you’re neck deep in performance agreements, stretch goals, and the dance between managing your boss’s expectations and warning your team not to sandbag. How you spend January can make the difference between a breakthrough and mediocre 2017.

Too many managers take the goals handed to them, wring their hands for a day or so, and then pull the team together to figure out how the heck they’re going to accomplish all THAT and still “Do their day job.” That approach will get the job done, but it’s unlikely to unleash breakthrough innovation or a head-turning year.

A Fresh, Fast, and Fun Way to Focus Your Team (or Yourself)

One of the most important questions you can ask your team (or yourself) is “What will it take to make 2017 the very best year of your career?” In my exec role at Verizon, this was always one of my favorite questions. It’s amazing how few people start their year thinking that way.

We now build that question into the strategic planning work we do with teams. Here’s one easy DIY exercise you can do to help focus your team (or yourself).

The End of Year Letter

Ask each member of your team to write you a letter, as if it were January 2018.  This can be done in email, or the old fashioned way. Just be sure you save it, so you can review at midyear and again this time next year.

It’s helpful to give them a few prompts. Here are some to get you started.

Dear __________ (insert your name here, if they report to you; if you are doing this for yourself use your bosses’ name).

2017 was the very best year of my career.

From there, pick some sentence starters as prompts for them to complete.

We totally changed the game by ____________.

The most important thing we accomplished was ___________.

Everyone is looking to us to understand how we ___________

I (we) got so much better at ______________.

Our customers are delighted because_______________.

I really improved my working relationships with __________ by___________.

Feel free to make up your own. You don’t need to pick many. The point is to ask your team members to reflect individually about what an extraordinary year would look like and then to identify specific behaviors and actions to help them get there.

I encourage you to proactively write a similar letter to your boss, and to ask them to pull it out mid year. It’s amazing how motivating this can be.

Let Us Help You Jump Start Your Team in the New Year

In our strategic Winning Well workshops and off-sites we always include exercises to get past the “Ugh, how can we get all this done?” mindset to identifying what matters most, isolating key priorities and behaviors.

9 Ways to Strengthen Your Personal Brand

If you Google you, do you like who shows up?

Do you feel like you’ve got a powerful message to share, but without the right positioning, find yourself talking to the metaphorical mute button?

Are you having trouble outgrowing an outdated reputation at work?

Or maybe you’re just looking to get a better seat at the table.

9 Ways to Strengthen Your Winning Well Brand

If your brand could use a power boost, take a step back and give your brand a Winning Well refresh using these nine approaches.

Results

1- Rock your Role
If you’re not knocking your current job out of the park, start there–even if you’re looking for something else. There’s nothing better you can do to enhance your brand than having a long track record of success. 

2- Mind the MIT (Most Important Thing)
Pick something extraordinary to accomplish and prioritize getting it right. If there are 27 metrics on your balanced scorecard, trust me, they are not all created equal. Pick one or two that matter most and be known as the guy or gal that cracked the code. 

3- Focus on the Game (Not the Score)
Don’t go around talking about metrics and stack ranks (even if you’re on top). Identify the key behaviors that will change the game, and focus yourself and your team on executing on those consistently. You build a brand by playing the game, not by measurement and commentary. 

Relationships

4- People before Projects
Of course projects are important (see above) but results without relationships leave people burned out, frustrated, and unlikely to give you their best effort. Take the time to establish genuine connection with the people you work with. Yes, you have time, because it will save you time downstream, not to mention building a reputation that will attract “A players” to want to work with you the next time, which of course, makes everything easier.

5- Prioritize Peers
Most managers understand the importance of supporting their team and making their boss look good. But to build a brand that lasts– have your peers backs (see 8 reasons your peers rate you low on your 360 feedback assessment) and go out of your way to make their lives easier. Trust me. I wish I learned this one sooner. Your boss may want you at the top of the stack rank, but your bosses boss wants a team of people working together to accomplish the bigger picture. A high tide rises all boats. Do what you can to be helpful.

Confidence

6- Take a Stand
When I first started writing my blog, the folks at Verizon got a little twitchy. And, I had no intention of leaving my day job at that point. I just wanted to help spread the word that you can get results without losing your soul, and yes, you can blend the bottom line with the human spirit. I loved my work at Verizon (and received the highest performance reviews during this time) AND I had something larger to say. I thank God every day that I had the courage to speak up and was open to next steps.

7. Expand your Expertise 
If you want to build your brand, get very, very good at something important. When everyone tells you, “You’re the best!”–that’s a great sign… keep learning and work harder. AND work on broadening your knowledge. I started at becoming the best HR expect I could be… and then made a career out of leading teams where I was not the expert in the field. I learned so much. It pays to be a “utility player” with deep knowledge in at least one arena.

Humility

8- Channel Challengers
One of the best ways to improve your brand is to know what people are saying behind your back. Ask for feedback. Say thank you. Work to improve. If you want to be the best possible version of you, surround yourself with people you respect who will tell you the truth.

9- Own the Ugly
Here’s a secret. When you screw up… your team already knows. If you want to foster respect and build a trusted Winning Well brand, admit your mistakes and make it right.

There are no shortcuts to a Winning Well brand. It’s showing up consistently day after day oriented in confident humility with a laser focus on results AND relationships.

Frontline Festival: Leaders Share Business Communication Tips

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is all about communication tips. Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors! Next month’s Frontline Festival is all about having fun with your team.  Submit your ideas here!

Often when the word “communication” is brought up, we think of what we are going to say. Listening is a form of communication too, and almost everyone can listen more. This post by Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire Collaborative Services describes the times that you might need to really listen.  Follow Mary Jo.

Chip Bell of the Chip Bell Group suggests that we improve business communications by having the same business hours as Amazon.  That means always being accessible except when you physically cannot (like you are on a flight or in the middle of keynote).  Otherwise, make it super easy for your customers to reach you.  How many websites do you access that fail to provide a direct phone number but instead require you to fill out a dang form to communicate with the owner of the site?  Connection should always trump self-serving (i.e. building a database) marketing. Follow Chip.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited gives us five ways to fight communication overloadFollow Beth.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership suggests we read this if the thought of giving a speech makes you break out in a cold sweat or feel like you’re going to throw up.  Follow Wally.

When the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded, there was an in-depth investigation to determine the cause. One of the top three reasons cited for the accident was a breakdown in communications among the involved project workers. Michelle Cubas, CPCC, ACC, of Positive Potentials, LLC invites us to consider how communications unravel in offices and between departments when strangers are involved that did not work together like the Challenger team. Follow Michelle.

Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.
~ Plato

Eric Dingler of EricDingler.com  sees two big mistakes in business communications and both cost nothing to fix.  He suggests to first change our email signatures.  People don’t need a hyperlink to our email address or even social media profiles–they need to go to our websites where all that information (and more!) is available. Second, keep our email inboxes at zero.  It’s bad form to not get around to replying to someone because “It got lost in your never-ending flood of emails.” Either respond, or move it to a task list, scheduling a time to deal with it.  Follow Eric.

David Dye of Trailblaze says “The single best business communication tool I can recommend is to check for understanding. Communication is a loop – there should always be a send and receive. Don’t just ask ‘Do you have questions?’ Say, ‘Let’s make sure we’re on the same page’ and listen to their version to ensure it’s the same as what you think you said.” Follow David.

Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture reminds us that one of the biggest opportunities leaders have in business communications is to link projects, goals, and tasks to strategy and then communicate that strategy, refine that strategy, and help team members link their goals and tasks to that strategy. Follow Chris.

David Grossman of The Grossman Group David says that asking questions and listening are critical. Before you can understand a business problem or achieve a goal, you have to understand what the situation is., and questions are the best way to come at a problem. Follow David.

We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.
~ Epictetus

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement advises that making communication explicit creates a process that is less likely to result in problems that stem from communication failures. Follow John.

Lisa Kohn from Thoughtful Leaders Blog encourages us to do our best to learn and understand the needs and perspectives of the person we’re communicating with, and be very clear what your intentions are for the communication, because misunderstanding happen to everyone. Follow Lisa.

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference  reminds us that organizational leaders must communicate with teams by embracing the teacher-professor mindset. It’s a truly effective way to embrace, engage, and activate the next generation.  Follow Jon  

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates encourages us not to be THAT person–the one who sends flaming emails. Follow Shelley

The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.
~ Peter Drucker

Writer Riya Sander observes that from power dynamics to scheduling to competition for promotions and perks, there is a certain amount of conflict that is difficult to avoid in the modern workplace. She feels leadership development is about becoming a great group leader who gets the best work from a group of stars by using coaching skills to encourage an atmosphere of collective problem-solving and cooperative achievement.  Follow Riya

William Steiner of Executive Coaching Concepts  gives three communication tips: Listen well and listen 80% of the time, asking clarifying questions; find time to meet others in person to really build a relationship; surprise and delight others with a handwritten thank you note. Follow William.

Linda Fisher Thornton of Leading in Context suggests that we talk about what matters: things people find difficult to deal with, tough questions and areas where leadership needs to improve.  Follow Linda.

Bad human communication leaves us less room to grow.
~ Rowan Williams

Reminder: Next month’s Frontline Festival is all about having fun with your team.  Submit your ideas here!

 

Frontline Festival April 2016: Leaders share what Winning Well means to them

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival celebrates the launch of Winning Well and is all about leaders sharing what winning well means to them.Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

Want to learn more about Winning Well? You can download the first few chapters for free here. Has Winning Well improved your leadership? Help us spread the word by writing an Amazon review.

Next month, we are looking for your best insights on professional development for leaders…what do you to to keep filling your pool of knowledge? Submit your contribution here by May 13!

Now, on to this month’s contributions:

According to Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire Collaborative Services  using logic is fine, but winning well leaders also use your intuition. This post describes some ways to develop it. Follow Mary Jo.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited suggests that sometimes, winning well leaders must do just ONE thing to make a day better. Follow Beth.

Michelle Cubas, CPCC, ACC, of Positive Potentials, LLC shares, “Winning Well for me is about being in touch with my values. That guides the metric I want to use. Winning feels good. Winning is not a measure of success unless it is by one’s own definition. Also, we must measure the cost of the win to get to the “achievement,” real and perceived. Follow Michelle.

Good management is not motivating, its cultivating an environment that releases internal motivations.
~ Winning Well

Ariana Friedlander of Rosabella Consulting shares that crowdfunding is not about raising money, it is about raising believers.  No one succeeds in isolation, and these 10 lessons learned from crowdfunding are relevant to for any winning well leader that seeks to create win-win-win arrangements for their team. Follow Ariana.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement shares that what matters is not your stated respect for people but your revealed respect for people based on your actions. This post provides actions you can take to demonstrate respect for all employees, a trait of those who win well. Follow John.

Paula Kiger of Big Green Pen points out that we can’t “win well” if we are constrained to the feeling that we must “train within the rules”. It is only by accepting the inevitability of exceptions and being willing to take risks that we can grow and thrive professionally. Follow Paula.

It isn’t what you think or say, it’s what you do that communicates trust.
~ Winning Well

Scott Mabry of Soul to Work offers a slightly different twist on winning well. Success can be measured in many different ways. Sometimes winning is giving our best to the situation we are dealt even if the results don’t land in our favor.  Follow Scott.

Robyn McLeod of Thoughtful Leaders Blog  presents “Are you venting or complaining?” where she shares that when venting is handled correctly, it can be a healthy and productive part of creating an effective team environment, and how to vent effectively.  Follow Robyn.

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference offers a unique view that we need to shift out of our winning obsession. Winning has lopped off purpose for profit, market share, or votes. When we focus on creating instead, our mindset shifts to collaboration, betterment, and the right mix of richness and purpose. Are you ready to start a revolution of creating well? Follow Jon.

Remember, you give your team a chance to follow you when you clearly connect their work to meaning, purpose and shared values.
~ Winning Well

Michelle Pallas of MichellePallas.com  points out that winning well leaders don’t act on every piece of adviceFollow Michelle.

Skip Prichard of Leadership Insights says if you want results and sustainable success, this is your guide. Karin Hurt and David Dye share leadership without losing your soul. Don’t choose between humility and results – you can have both. Follow Skip.

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates recommends that winning well leaders sometimes stop taking action.  Follow Shelley

Dr. Artika Tyner of the Planting People. Growing Justice Institute reminds us that Winning Well begins with building a shared vision. This determines where your team is headed and serves as a guide for achieving your goals. Follow Artika.

Bonus:

The Winning Well message is being shared all over! Here are links to several videos and podcasts. We appreciate every opportunity to share this important message!

When Working Hard Isn’t Working (Leadership Freak)

What do you mean, I’m a fraud? (Fast Leader)

A Guide to Getting Results without Losing Your Soul (Leadership Insights)

Growing Leaders (School for Startups)

David Dye on Experience Pros

For more, visit Winning Well on the web.

The Winning Well Tour! Let us bring the Winning Well tour to you! Contact me at karin.hurt@letsgrowleaders.com  or 443-750-1249 to talk about a customized Winning Well keynote or workshop just right or your team or organization.

10 Ways to Overcome Negativity at Work

Jane confided, “I feel like an enthusiastic puppy with all kinds of ideas and possibilities, but when I go to share them, there’s always someone who stomps on my tail.” John chimed in, “I know exactly what she means, everyone around here is just so negative. I’m beginning to wonder why I bother.” Perhaps you’ve felt that way too. It can be tough to stay motivated in a negative workplace.

“Just think of any negativity that comes at you as a raindrop falling in the ocean of your bliss.” -Maharishi Mahesh Yogi

10 Ways to Overcome Negativity at Work

  1. Make a list of what you like most about your job. Share it with others. Ask them what they like most about their jobs.
  2. Ask people why they work. In a negative environment, the answer may seem obvious—“For the paycheck, stupid”—but take it a step further. Do they work to support their sick mom? To pay back student loans? To save for their children’s education? Because they enjoy helping customers? Reconnecting to the purpose of work can help make the smaller annoyances less frustrating.
  3. Call out negativity. When you see negative thinking or actions, talk to the person privately to call it out, particularly if other leaders are involved. When negative attitudes and talk are all around, it’s tempting to ignore it. Raise the bar and change the conversation.
  4. Rise above the drama. Refuse to get sucked into the rumors and gossip. Respond to your team’s concerns with transparency and candor. Be the one who people know they can trust for a straight answer.
  5. Find kindred spirits. Not everyone is negative, although it can feel that way at times. Look around and find other folks trying to change the scene for the better. There is strength in numbers. Look outside your organization as well.
  6. Create an “envelope of excellence” or cultural oasis. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed trying to fix the overall culture. Start with your own team and do what you can to make it feel better to come to work.
  7. Find reasons to celebrate. With all the negativity, it’s easy to overlook the good. Go out of your way to recognize and celebrate small wins. Substitute weak phrases like “No problem” with more enthusiastic words like “I’d be happy to.”
  8. See barriers as a challenge. Encourage your team to embrace the problems they see as opportunities and challenges to learn and grow. Recap learning along the way to help them feel a sense of positive momentum even during the most challenging times.
  9. Laugh more. I had one colleague who would respond to the company’s most ridiculous political nonsense by reminding the team, “It’s all comedy.” Step back and recognize how ridiculous some behavior is. You’ll create a healthy distance from which to respond more appropriately.
  10. Hold deeper developmental conversations. In periods of uncertainty, people yearn for a sense of control and connection. Take your developmental conversations to the next level. Ask your team and your peers about their hopes and dreams, what motivates them, and what scares them. Show up as a real human being caring about other real human beings.

Don’t let the naysayers win. Be the positive spark that ignites possibilities in others.

Winning Well Pre-Order Bonus

Winning Well-3DFor every copy of Winning Well that you pre-order, David Dye and I will send you a free custom-signed bookplate with your requested message.

Simply order Winning Well from your favorite bookstore (eg Amazon) or CEO Reads for bulk orders, then go to www.WinningWellBook.com. Click on THE BOOK, then on CUSTOMIZE YOUR BOOK, and submit your message in the form. When the book ships, we’ll send you a custom, hand-signed, adhesive bookplate that you can put inside the front cover.

Even better, there is no limit to the number of bookplates you may get. Get an affordable, customized resource for yourself and for all the managers in your life!

 

Image credit:

Copyright: alphaspirit / 123RF Stock Photo

skip level meetings

The Best Secret To Managing Up

Have you ever been in a scene like this? Your team is working hard. Results are solid. But nobody seems to notice. Or worse, any skip level visits turn out so poorly, you begin to dread the very thought of a well-intentioned executive stopping by to talk with your team.

An important part of Winning Well is helping your team showcase their results.

Here’s my favorite approach.

This video is part of my Results That Last program. To take a peek inside the first few sessions (for free), click here.  I also have live versions of my Results that Last Program. Please contact me for more information about the best approach for your company.

Why Job Descriptions are a Dying Art

A client called. “Karin, I’m going to send you the job description for the new role we designed, but ignore all the HR mumbo jumbo. Just concentrate on the competencies and see if they seem right to you based on the strategy we’ve been working on.”

Game on. We were going to have the conversation that was most worth having: How do we find the right person with the aptitude for this vital job? The 25% this, 37% that of traditional job descriptions was a crap shoot at best. We needed a thinker who would work with us to be as creative as possible and build this role into more than we ever imagined.

Planning out roles and functions is vital. Pricing jobs for fair market value makes sense. But when job descriptions serve to confine, or “swim lanes” become too narrow, you’re headed into dangerous waters.

I remembered the time the union fought so hard to prevent “service reps” from doing higher paid “customer rep” work, and kept a careful watch–telling both groups to be careful not to do too much outside their “role.” Once the lawyers got involved, the higher job was eliminated, and the career path disappeared, and really great people were disappointed, and stopped trying. I was devastated to see good people with hopes of moving up crushed by the instruction to do less, because some artificial boundaries said that would help. It didn’t. It never does.

It’s not just in union jobs. Recently, I failed to convince one of my MBA students in the power of thinking beyond her current low level ” job description.” She sings opera on the side and was asked if she would like to sing at her company gala (with external players). She said only if she were paid for the gig since this is “not in her job description.”

She had a big opportunity to get noticed and to differentiate herself. She didn’t sing as a matter of principle.

As a musician myself, I get it at some level. But, I’ll also never forget the time we were  in the middle of a touching measure of a huge rehearsal and the conductor put down the baton between beats, because it was time for a union break.

Most examples are not this dramatic, and often not articulated. But in almost every company I work in I see signs of the “it’s not my job virus” gaining momentum… and the “A Players” are shooting themselves in the foot while the mediocre get by just fine.

Why Job Descriptions are Old School

I can’t claim to fully understand every circumstance, and I know there are grave situations where good people are being exploited. I’m not talking about that. What I do know is the hundreds, at this point likely thousands, of people I’ve met over the years in reasonable paying jobs, whose fear of working outside their job description absolutely damaged their careers and sabotaged their long-term earnings.

And it’s even more critical now.

We’re in a knowledge and technology economy when even lower level jobs change faster than HR can keep up.

Your job description is the skeleton–the unimaginative view of minimal requirements. Many will stop there and stay put. And that’s a tragedy.

The game changers will understand this limited view, and know that the real work is to think past the basics and add value that changes the game. In most cases the money will follow. If not, know there are plenty of companies hungry to hire people willing to change the game.

The Call to HR

Of course you need job descriptions. It’s just time to get more creative. Imagine the possibilities if every job description had the 75% skeleton as it exists today, and then 25% encouraging innovation and additional contribution?

  • Continuously seeks new ways to enhance the customer experience and shares them with peers
  • Collaborates across departments for innovative solutions to improve quality and reduce costs
  • Builds a deep bench of talent through recruiting, mentoring and organic employee development

Let’s Discuss

The old Field of Dreams idea of “build it and they will come” sometimes fails as a short-term solution. But I’ve never seen a genuine effort of a competent person giving a little more than expected over time fail.

I’m wide-open to real dialogue here. Let’s talk about this important issue.

Gather while ye may

On the Meaning of Life

This week has been hard here. We’ve lost my Mom who was vibrant to the end, at a slower pace than predicted–with a painful ending no one should have to endure. Some of my Mom’s last words to me were “I just wish all this pain and suffering could help you write a really good blog post.” She was kidding of course, but what the heck.

And because life rhymes, while all this was going on, I was invited to participate in a project gathering points of view on the meaning of life. It’s an amazing line-up of powerful perspectives.

It’s quite an undertaking, and I’m still working on my contribution. 

I also know that our true testament of what we value is how we choose to live. Our daily actions prove what matters to us.

Reflecting on what matters–matters–because it provides us with a daily gut check as to whether we’re living that way.

What I saw as my Mom got sicker, was that what she valued and believed became crystal clear. With a morphine bag and from a hospice bed, I watched her repeatedly worry about the welfare of other people and improving the situations in their lives. Coaching the kid visiting from her church to pursue his musical talents, instead of hanging out with that crowd; wondering if all the flowers folks had sent could be re-used for the mother daughter luncheon she was still planning although she could not attend; apologizing because she wouldn’t be able to help watch Sebastian when I travelled.

And so as a tribute to my mom, Jean Kohlenstein, this Mother’s day, I share at least part of what I know gave her life meaning.

moms adviceShowing up strong and doing something every day to add value (and doing it with class).

Other things that gave her life meaning: her 50 year marriage, her children and grandchildren, friends, church, art, poetry, knitting, humor, cookies, baseball…

Who else wants to play? How would you sum up your perspective on the meaning of life?

Leading Sprinkles People

A guest post from Chip Bell, author of Sprinkles.

I must admit it. I’m a sucker for valentines. I smile when I get one from a friend or loved one. But, I swoon when one comes unexpectedly from a total unlikely source. It always reminds me of getting a valentine in the fifth grade from the cute redhead on the back row. I did not know she knew I even existed. When I opened it and turned to look at her, she winked and smiled. I melted on the spot!! But, I am getting way ahead of myself.

Creating a Customer-Focused Culture

I had a mid-afternoon keynote in Alexandria, VA and strolled down the street from my hotel to find lunch at a local restaurant. The place where I settled was quiet, comfortable and with an interesting menu. But, mostly I noticed the upbeat attitude of everyone in the place.

I had finished my lunch and the waitress brought me my check…and, a valentine signed, “Susan.” When I opened it and turned to look at her, she winked and smiled.

The consultant inside me demanded I learn a bit more about the restaurant manager whose leadership no doubt contributed to her ingenuity and warmth. Now, I fully realize folks can be creative and friendly without the permission of some boss. I also know leaders can contribute to the capacity and commitment of frontline employees to deliver innovative service, not just good service. Good service is like a tasty cupcake; innovative service is like a great cupcake with sprinkles! Susan added sprinkles.

I cornered the manager-owner, Jim and asked if I could buy him a cup of coffee for ten minutes of his time. “Sure,” he said, “the place is in good hands with all my people.” I told him about the valentine and smile (the wink I considered just between Susan and me).

“That Susan is always coming up with whimsical ways to surprise our guests,” he told me. I was not chalking it up to just her personality. “What do you do to support your employees in helping them deliver surprising service?”

“First,” he said as he began his leadership lessons, “I don’t think of them as employees but as fellow-owners, partners you might say. That means the respect and consideration you would give a friend, especially a friend you depend on like I depend on them. People come here because we have great food. But, we want them to tell their friends. And, it is things like your Sandy valentine that makes them tell other people. They need the freedom to try silly things. One of our employees brought in leftover gourmet desserts from a family reunion so our guests would have a free dessert for a day.”

“Do you worry about them giving away the shop?” I probed. “For instance, it they got free desserts there would be no need to buy the dessert on your menu.” He smiled. “They make smart decisions when they are intimately familiar with our P&L. Everyone here knows what comes in, what goes out, and what everything costs. Remember, they are like owners. And, if we have a nice profit, they get free ballgame tickets or a case of wine or a night with their family in a nearby hotel. But, mainly, they get a kick out of watching people like you smile when something like a valentine comes with your check. That is the kind of people we try to hire.”

Leadership is about instilling pride, inspiring greatness, and supporting innovation. As I was getting up to leave, he offered one last lesson: “Take great care of your partners, they will take care of your guests, and your guests will take care of your growth and profits! And, the coffee is on me!”

The Powerful Side Effect of High Standards

My friend, Regina, says that she considers a kid’s book report a win if only one person ends up crying. I remember the wailing and gnashing of teeth I put my parents through in the early years. And last night was one of those nights at the Hurt household. My husband, a firefighter, was on an overnight shift, so it was just me, Sebastian, a bucket of Swedish Fish and the promise of a very long night.

I imagine most parents are familiar with the “I didn’t start early enough, and now we need to go to the Walgreens for supplies, stay up half the night and get up early in the a.m., finish just in time to get to school with wet hair and no breakfast kind of loving feeling.”

What makes these nights so hard is that the parent holds the standards.

“Nope, that’s not what the rubric says. We have to follow the guidelines or you’ll lose points.”

“I know it’s late, but your handwriting is getting really sloppy. I’m sorry, but you’re going to have to re-write that part.”

Cue the tears.

“Okay, you’ve done all the basics, now how are we going to make this really stand out?”

“But Mom…”

It be much easier to just get through the basics. After all, it’s JUST a book report.

The Powerful Side Effect

And then there’s the side effect. On the ride to school this morning, Sebastian was glowing. “I think this is the best report I’ve ever done.” “I’m sure this is going to be the very best one.” “I can’t imagine I won’t get an A.” “I can’t wait to show my teacher.” And my personal favorite, “Mom, you know you did a really good job too.” 😉

Pride. Confidence. Energy.

Too often I see managers back off their standards, letting their team just get by. After all it’s only a ______.

That’s not leadership.

Tough standards, gentle inspiration.

When you’re tempted to buy into “This is impossible,” consider the side effect.

See also The Power of Great Expectations

7 Ways to Outsmart the Competition: The Series

This is the final post in the series of 7 ways to outsmart the competition. Links below. I’m considering turning this into a keynote. What do you think?

1. Get there early

2. Be an explainer

3. Pay attention to your own game.

4. Help your team get smarter

5. Be easy to follow

6.Ignore them 

7. And today’s: Hold a higher standard