how do I convince my manager I'm professional

How Do I Convince My Manager I’m a Professional?

“Why does my manager care if I go directly to his boss with an idea? Good ideas are good ideas, right?”

“Customers don’t need all that formality. They’re chill. Why can’t I just show up and give them an update?”

“When the CEO ran into me in the hallway and asked “What’s going on?” I told him. Now my manager is “coaching” me to be more strategic in what I choose to share.

“I can’t help it if I get fired up, it means I care!”

“WTF I’m killing myself here, and now my boss tells me I’m not ready for the next level until I have better ‘executive presence.’ ”

Great results are more than half the battle. But professionalism matters too. Every day, I hear from high-performers frustrated that their results do not seem to be enough for their boss.  The tragedy is, it’s likely small stuff that’s distracting you both from what matters most.

Six Ways to Convince Your Manager You’re a Professional

Here are six easy(ish) ways to show up more professionally.

1. Get a Grip on Your Emotions

You’re fired up. You’re angry. You can’t believe Joe missed the deadline, or Cindy talked to a customer that way… again.  YES! That means you care. YES! that means you know what must be done.  But even if you see executives flying off the handle, it doesn’t mean you should too. Keep the passion, lose the drama.  Take a step back to breathe and consider the most effective words and tone before communicating.

2. Focus on What Matters Most

When you try to do everything, it’s hard to do the most important things well. If you want to be taken more seriously, pick a few strategic priorities that will make the biggest impact and build a strong plan to execute elegantly on those things first. Be sure that you spend time every day working on those priorities.

3. Build Some White Space Into Your Calendar

When you over-book your calendar, you’re more likely to find yourself racing late into meetings, disheveled and under-prepared. Try leaving yourself a few minutes between appointments so you have time to gather your thoughts, connect with key stakeholders before the meeting starts, and consider how you can bring the most value to the table. A little white space will also help you resist the urge to multi-task with your phone under the table while “no one is looking.” (BTW–someone is always looking.)

4. Streamline Your Communication

Before speaking, consider your audience. When the CEO “casually” asks, “How’s it going?” be ready to tell her something substantial. When your boss asks for an update, don’t come in spewing all the details; bring a bulleted list of what you’ve done and what you need. Our free MIT huddle planner works well for this. Consider who you’re speaking to and how your communication can serve them well.

5. Develop Upwards Empathy

Before you write your boss off as a witch, consider the pressure she’s under and how you can help. Professionalism requires perspective.

6.  Stop Talking Trash

You don’t have to convince me, I’m sure you’ve got some peers that would be better off being “promoted to customer.” AND, nobody likes a whiner. Take the high road at work when it comes to talking ABOUT folks. It’s not as fun, but much more classy.

Your turn. What’s your best advice for managers looking to show up more professionally?

See also: our Fast Company Article– 10 Common Excuses That Silently Damage Manager’s Careers.

Leadership Retreat Idea: Speed Mentoring to Build Trust and Connection

Leadership Retreat Idea: Speed Mentoring To Build Trust and Connection

Are you looking for a meaningful activity to build trust and connection at your next leadership retreat? Do you have high-potential employees who need greater exposure? This easy-to-facilitate exercise can go a long way in jump-starting connection and conversation.

An Easy Leadership Retreat Idea: Speed Mentoring

The larger and more spread out my team became in my executive roles at Verizon, the more I valued the time to get my managers off-site for a quick leadership retreat—even if it was just a day at the Holiday Inn down the street. A leadership retreat provides a great opportunity to align on your team vision, and to have the UGLY conversations that matter so much, but are hard to have in the midst of the day-to-day fray.

Although the exercises I linked to above were staples in my leadership retreat bag of tricks, the one I’m sharing with you today is arguably one of my favorites for deepening relationships.

This was a variation on my “bring-a-friend” staff meetings, where each of my direct reports would bring a “friend,” ( a high-potential employee) from their team to join our staff meeting, to give them exposure to the strategic thinking and decision making processes that happened at the executive level.

In this case, we brought our next tier of succession planning candidates in to join my executive team and me for the afternoon of our retreat to hold “speed mentoring sessions.”

The Design

We set up small tables around the room, and each of the leaders manned a station and the mentees flowed through spending 10 minutes at each station. The mentees controlled the conversations, and each took on a different flavor.

Although none of us had any experience with “speed dating” we were intrigued by the concept of short, focused interactions to look for areas of common interest.

Each participant was asked to come prepared with any ideas and questions they had for the leaders on the team. The “mentees-for-the-day” were in complete control of the conversations and could use the time however they wished.

The Questions

I was intrigued at how deep the conversations went in just 10 minutes. Each mentee took a different approach. Nearly all conversations sparked a dialogue that continued way past the leadership retreat.

Here a few they came up with:

  • “What’s my ‘brand’ with you?”
  • Why wouldn’t you promote me?
  • What’s the biggest mistake you ever made?
  • What makes you fail?
  • What are you working on developmentally?
  • Did you ever take a job that was a bad fit? What did you do?
  • What characteristics are you looking for in a leader?
  • How do you think I am doing?
  • Just what makes you so passionate about leadership development?

The Feedback

The feedback we received was amazing. I was worried that the time was too short, or that the feedback from so many people in a short time frame would be overwhelming. Participants agreed that it was “intense” but would do it again with exactly t same design.

  • “It was helpful to see the patterns and consistency in the feedback.”
  • “I could tell everyone was being really candid and had my best interest at heart.”
  • “I liked that we could control the questions and decide where we wanted to take the conversation with each person.”
  • “It was great to see so many different perspectives on the same question.”

The conversations continued later that day, on a break or walking to dinner. Can you mentor in 10 minutes? Of course not. Can you spark a connection worth exploring further? You sure can.

I’d love to hear your best practices for your leadership retreats and leadership training. Drop me a line at karin.hurt@letsgrowleaders.com or comment here.

You can also check out our FREE book group facilitator’s guide to our book Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results– Without Losing Your Soul.  (Lots of our clients use Winning Well as pre-reading for their leadership retreat.)

imposter sydrome: 8 Ways to Overcome Self-Doubt

Imposter Syndrome: 4 Ways to Defeat Self-Doubt

Do you ever feel like you’re just a bit under-qualified for your current role? Are you constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop? Do you lie awake at night, thinking of ways to cover up your weaknesses so no one will notice? If so, you’re not alone. The Imposter Syndrome is real — and most of us get there more than we’d like to admit.

I know I do.

I felt the sting of imposter syndrome just as my speaking career was gaining traction. A speaking bureau called to book a keynote.

“They want you to talk about trust and communication.”

“Perfect. Who’s the audience.”

“The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.”

My mind whirled into a frenetic imposter syndrome spiral.

“Oh, crap. I wonder if they know I’ve been divorced? What credibility do I have on trust and communication? Do I tell the bureau? Do I tell the client? This will never work. I’m just like the people THEY’RE trying to help. Who am I to teach them?”

I called my best friend, who did exactly what best friends are supposed to do in such circumstances. She laughed. “Are you kidding me? This is EXACTLY why you’re qualified to speak to them. Go tell them your story.”

And I did. And we went on a remarkable journey together.

Sometimes what scares us the most about ourselves, the parts that we wish we could hide away so no one could see, are actually an ironic source of strength and human connection.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome

Impostor syndrome describes that feeling of strong self-doubt that you’re a fake, that your success is due more to luck or your ability to fool people than it is due to your work, and it often comes along with the fear of being found out.

If you let it, impostor syndrome will tie you in knots, ruin your confidence, and undermine your ability to lead your people and achieve your goals—not to mention screw up your life in many other ways.

The brutal truth is that you can’t be the leader you need to be when you’re tied up in knots like that. You’ll try to overcompensate, or you’ll stay silent when you should speak. Either one will kill your credibility and end your influence. There are several tools you can use to overcome this self-sabotage. Here are just a few:

Honor Your Past and Your Present

A mentor shared “It’s a good thing to remember where you come from, but it’s a foolish thing to think you’re still there.”

His point is that your experiences in childhood and earlier life can serve you, help you make good decisions, give you an appreciation for people from all walks of life, and keep you from being judgmental. It would be foolish to leave that treasure behind. But, it would be equally foolhardy not to acknowledge today’s circumstances. That’s intellectually dishonest and dishonors the people who have put their trust in you today.

Remember that, “You’re always too something for someone.”

These wise words come from 1999 world champion of public speaking and motivational speaker Craig Valentine. “You’re always too something for someone” gets at the absurdity of it all because once you start looking for inadequacy, you’ll always find a reason you don’t belong.

Laugh at Your Doubts

When my friend first started to laugh, I was hurt. How could she laugh at my pain and confusion? But I soon realized the irony of the situation was classically funny. And in truth lies humor, and in humor, connection. It’s hard to judge yourself when you’re laughing at the ruins.

Leverage Your People

One of the most effective tools for dealing with impostor syndrome is simply to focus on the team you serve. They don’t really care where you came from, how you got here, whether you have a big house, small car, good hair, bad hair, or anything else. What they do care about is how you can help them succeed today. It’s nearly impossible to trip over your own insecurities when you focus on serving others.

You are not an imposter. You are you. And we need you. What would happen if you could ditch the fear? Take the risk? Tell the truth? And win well?

5 Secrets of Utility Player

6 Secrets of a Utility Player: How to Hire For Indispensable

It’s easy to hire for rock stars—the folks with the exact niche skills you need in the marketplace. But don’t underestimate the value of a true utility player for long-term success.

How (and Why) to Find, Hire (and Promote) a Utility Player

My boss came back from the succession planning discussion with the executive team. “Oh, it’s all good, you’re a utility player.” As a young Gen Xer, I didn’t love the sound of that. Utility player sounds so, well, utilitarian (practical, functional, serviceable). I was young in my career, I wanted to be seen as an up-and-coming rock star, not an easily tradeable unsung hero.

Six months later there was a massive reorganization and a layoff. My hands shook as my boss handed me the new org chart. Our entire department was missing. And then he smiled. “I have two words for you: utility player. You’re fine. Here’s what’s next (a promotion).”

I get it now. Utility players provide you with the flexibility to embrace change fast without a ruckus. It’s why Inc. recommends that startups hire the utility player first.  

Makes sense. I’ve had several new start-up clients call for help because their original team of founders/specialists just didn’t have the skills to lead as they scaled.

6 Indispensable Utility Player Competencies

Of course, you’ve got to hire specialists for certain roles. But when hiring leaders, don’t underestimate the flexibility you’ll get from a few of these key skills.

  1. They love the Game (and by the game, I mean your business.)
    They understand and are energized by the big picture vision. They’re gung-ho and ready to go with the twists and turns. They don’t play games to get ahead. They stay focused on the bigger mission.
  2. They Build Strong, Trusting  Relationships (up, down and sideways)
    Rock stars sometimes alienate their boss and peers and REALLY tick off their direct reports.  Utility players know that other human beings are their lifeline to success. They’re inclusive. They invest in a wide network of go-to relationships up, down and sideways.
  3. They are Curious, Eager Learners
    They don’t know it all, but they sure try to learn as much as they can. They embrace new situations with curiosity and confident humility as they work to understand what’s really happening and how they can help.
  4. They Work Hard
    They dig in harder and longer than most. They care about quality and doing it right.
  5. They’re Resilient
    Although they’re attached and really care about their current mission, when the direction shifts they can cope with that too (okay, they might go into the bathroom and scream first- give them a minute and they’ll come around.)
  6. They Tell the Truth
    They’re willing to have the tough conversations that make the business and the people better. They ditch the Diaper Genie™ and own the U.G.L.Y. in a way that builds trust and maintains relationships.

Your turn. What have you found to be the most indispensable competencies of utility players?

You may also enjoy our recent post: Interviewing: How to Hire For Winning Well Competencies (interview questions to help you hire the best)

leadership competencies: how to hold a great interview

How to Interview For Winning Leadership Competencies

You’re working hard to build a Winning Well culture. You’ve identified your MIT leadership competencies and are working to cultivate and encourage the right behaviors. How you staff your key leadership roles matters more now than ever.

How will you identify the very best candidates for reinforcing your Winning Well culture?  How will you identify the candidates who really exhibit Winning Well leadership competencies, versus those who just talk a good game?

Be sure you’re asking strategic questions that require candidates to share how they’ve actually demonstrated the leadership competencies you’re selecting for.

Here a few strategic, behavior-based interview questions based on eight key behaviors we build in our Winning Well training programs. and keynote speeches.

We encourage you to weave a few of them into your next interview.

Winning Well Leadership Interview Guide

RESULTS

how to help your middle managers find their sweet spot

Tell me about a time when you had way too much to do—how did you decide what was most important? How did you prioritize? What was the outcome?

Describe three ways you work to communicate and reinforce expectations on your team.

Tell me about at a time you helped turn around a serious performance issue. What was your approach? What was the outcome?

play the game don't game the score

What metrics do you use to measure your success in your current role? How do you keep your team focused on achieving those outcomes?

What do you see as the most critical behaviors in this new position? How would you go about reinforcing them?

Can you tell me about a time a supervisor wanted you to focus on something you knew wasn’t a priority for your customer, your team, or the company? How did you handle it? What was the outcome?

RELATIONSHIPS

Describe the best team you ever worked on. What was your role in making it a success?

When you are working on a strategic project in your current job, how do you go about identifying the relevant stakeholders? How do you get them involved?

Can you tell me about a time you joined a new team and how you built trust with your new teammates?

trust the trenches

Tell me about a project where you successfully delegated some important tasks. How did you decide what to delegate and to whom?

How do you help your team recover from setbacks?

Can you share a time where one of your team members had a new perspective and how you were able to incorporate it into your work?

CONFIDENCE

what makes you a rock star in your role? What makes you a rock star in your current role? How would you leverage those strengths in this new position?

Tell me about a time you had to make a tough decision with limited information. What was the situation? How did you approach it?

What are your favorite techniques for building confidence and competence in your team members?

ditch the diaper drama #WinningWellTell me about a time you had a really tough conversation with an employee. How did you approach it? What was the outcome?

Describe a decision you made that was unpopular and you how implemented it.  What was the situation? Who was involved? What did you do? What was the outcome?

Can you share a time when you seriously disagreed with your boss and were convinced you were right? How did you address it? What was the outcome?

HUMILITY

Own the UglyWhat’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made at work? How did you recover?

Describe a time a project you were leading did not turn out as you had hoped.  What was the situation? Who was involved? What did you do? What was the outcome?

What is the most difficult apology you’ve ever had to make at work? What made it challenging? How did you do it?

What tools and techniques do you use to get feedback from your team?

How would you describe your conflict style? Tell me about a time that you had a significant conflict at work where that style served you well. Tell me about a time when that style got in the way.

Who are your most important stakeholders in your current role? How do you go about getting feedback from them?

Some other innovative interview questions that help uncover leadership competencies

Inc. 9 Interview Questions You Need to Be Asking

LinkedIn: Hiring For Trust: 9 Interview Questions

Fast Company: 7 Interview Questions for Measuring Emotional Intelligence

Your Turn

What are some of your favorite interview questions to ensure you have leaders that are committed to Winning Well?

my peers are lazy: how do I stay motivated?

My Peers Are Lazy: How Do I Stay Motivated?

So often we talk with clients or teams who are frustrated because their peers are lazy. Perhaps you’ve been there. What advice would you give to someone dealing with a slacker co-worker? 

Dear Karin and David,

How do I stay motivated when my peers are lazy? I’m working twice as hard as them and I’m sick of picking up the slack. My boss doesn’t seem to notice.

Signed,

Tired and Frustrated #AskingForAFriend

If Your Peers are Lazy: A Few Dos and Dont’s

Dear Tired and Frustrated,

We’ve both been there, and you have a right to be frustrated. Keep in mind that these peers are temporary, but your track record is forever. Don’t let the #$#%@#%@# slackers tank your hard work. Here are a few do’s and don’ts to consider.

  1. DO keep rocking your role.
    Stay focused on your MITs (most important things) to serve your customers and the business. Stay creative. Chances are your boss is picking up a lot more than you know. Performance management conversations happen behind closed doors. I wish we could tell you how many performance issues we’ve dealt with that we longed to share with the high-performers we knew were frustrated, but couldn’t. Be sure you keep building your brand with a strong track record of results and collaborative relationships.
  2. DON’T gossip or whine about the scene.
    Whatever you do, don’t let their bad behaviors turn you into a jerk. Take the high road, and count on karma. 
  3. DO ask your boss how you can help.
    Resist the temptation to start with the words,  “I know we’ve got a lazy team…,” if it’s true, she already knows. Use this as an opportunity to become go-to support. With a team of slackers, she can use all the help she can get and will be grateful for your support (and a grateful boss can never hurt).
  4. DON’T become a victim. 
    You don’t have to do their work. Stay focused on your deliverables and nail them. If your co-worker consistently drops the ball, let him experience a few of the consequences. Do your best to foster a culture of accountability.
  5. DO build a network of support.
    Seek out folks with similar ambition and work ethic to support and challenge you. Find a mentor. Seek out peers on other teams. Take on a leadership role in a professional association.  Genuine connections are lighter fluid on the fire of motivation. Find people who get you and you admire and find ways to spend more time together.
  6. DO speak the truth.
    (Or as we often say: “Ditch the Diaper Genie“) When a team member breaks a promise or doesn’t deliver on their commitment to you, it’s often useful to have a healthy conversation about it. Start by observing the behavior. e.g. “I noticed that the report you said you’d get me isn’t in my email.” Note the consequences: “We can’t take care of the customer without that information.” Then invite them into the conversation: “What’s happening there? When can you have it to me?” Sometimes just the act of personalizing work and connecting what you need to why you need it can help slackers pick up their pace.

Who wants to play? What advice would you give Tired and Frustrated?

 

Have a leadership or management question? Send it here and we’ll do our best to share our perspective.

 

How to make real change happen when you're not ceo

How to Make Real Change Happen When You’re Not CEO

Let’s Grow Leaders Q&A

In a recent post we invited you to send us your biggest leadership challenge. We received a great question from a healthcare leader in the United Kingdom. It’s a question we hear all the time from audience members and workshop participants around the world about how to make real change happen when you’re not in charge.

(Please, continue to send in your questions and leadership challenges – yours may be the next one featured here).

Dear Karin & David:

I’m an innovation team leader in healthcare and we’re tasked with delivering a new model of care. It has met with some resistance – change is quite challenging in some parts of our industry and I don’t have the power to enforce these changes. How do you challenge and convert mindsets to change? How do you change cultural norms? How do you make real change happen when you’re not the CEO?

Dear Healthcare Leader:

Creating change from within an organization is often challenging.

It can be frustrating when the benefit of a new way seems so obvious to you, but is not obvious to others. Most human beings are “wired” to keep doing what they did yesterday because it costs less energy and is safe (after all, what they did yesterday got them safely to today, so why change?).

You ask two questions. I will take them in reverse order:

How do you change culture norms?

The short answer here is often: slowly.

Particularly if you’re not leading the entire organization.

Both Karin and I have made significant changes in internal cultures, but the work starts with the culture you build within your own team.

When people who interact with your innovation team come out of those interactions saying “Wow – that is an awesome group of people doing amazing work. I want to be treated like that, treat others like that, achieve results like that, and be a part of something fantastic!” – then your culture will start to spread.

We call this a “cultural oasis.” You create a culture within the team for which you are responsible. You may have to coach them to remain positive and to stay focused on results and relationships when others in the organization don’t understand them or minimize their work.

Summary: Changing a culture from the inside takes time and starts with the culture you create within your team.

How do you challenge and covert mindsets to change?

From your description, it sounds like you’re hoping others will accept the changes your innovation team is proposing. If that is your goal, I invite you to think differently about “challenging and converting” mindsets. People almost never change their mind because they were challenged.

The good news is that there are several ways you can make it more likely for change to be adopted:

  1. Answer the Question

When we’re asked to change, every human being has one overriding question: “Why should I?”

So answer their question. Before proposing a specific change, take the time to connect-the-dots: What about the current situation isn’t working? How will this change improve their life? Their patients’ lives?

When people buy-in to the “why” moving on to the “what” is much easier.

Know your audience here: one person might care more about that data and research while another is more concerned about the institution’s reputation and a third might be more focused on how changes will affect people.

  1. Make Them Partners

People don’t argue with their own input.

After you’ve shared the problem you hope to solve or the results you want to achieve, ask your peers for their ideas about how to make it work. Acknowledge the limitations and competing priorities they face. Ask “How do you think we can do this AND meet your objectives? What might that look like?”

As they share, find ways to incorporate their ideas. Now you’re all implementing a shared solution, not just something you’ve put on them.

  1. Demonstrate Success

Related to connecting what-to-why: Can you pilot the change in one area to demonstrate how desirable it would be for others? Can you find people in that test-case who can be ambassadors for the change with their colleagues and talk about what it’s doing for them and their patients?

  1. Leverage Leaders

Lateral change is easier to accomplish if your supervisor is supportive and reinforces the message. You may have to ask for exactly what you need. e.g.: “I’m hearing regularly from colleagues that these other initiatives are higher priority. Can you clarify for all of us the order of implementation?”

If your supervisor isn’t supportive, take the time to connect your initiative to their goals. What keeps them up at night? What goals do they need to achieve to be successful? Demonstrate how your changes will help them achieve their goals. Then enlist their aid with colleagues.

Here is an article that discusses these conversations with your supervisor or colleagues in more depth: PERSUADE Model

  1. Make Real Change Happen More Easily

People often resist change because they don’t know how to do it. We are more likely to adopt small behaviors than large ones. To make real change happen, ask yourself: Is there a way to focus on one or two fundamental behaviors and then build from there?

  1. Make It the Norm

The brain takes two shortcuts to figure out what to do: the environment and what other people are doing. What in your physical environment can make the change the default action? Consistently keep the new way of doing things in front of people. Tell the stories about how different people are implementing. They should see it every day so that it becomes the assumed “this is how we do things.”

  1. Share the Score

Find a meaningful way to publicly track progress. It may be a scorecard, a weekly video, or stories from patients. When people look at a score that tells them they’re 70% successful, but their colleagues are 92% successful, they often work to close the gap.

  1. Celebrate Success

Acknowledge people who are doing it well, tell the stories of how it’s working for colleagues and patients. Be specific about what people are doing and why it is important. Celebrate in ways that are meaningful to the people you’re acknowledging. This can help win over some of the reluctant people.

Those are a few thoughts to get you started. If I were in your shoes I would start with a conversation with my supervisor about goals and how these changes are supported.

Remember: it takes time to to make real change happen from within an organization. It is also a fantastic way to build your leadership, influence, and credibility.

We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment and share: How do you create meaningful change with your peers and colleagues?

(And don’t forget – we’d love to hear your biggest leadership challenge!)


Creative Commons Photo by Mattanalogue

How to differentiate your performance

5 Ways to Differentiate Your Performance and Stand Out

Working to differentiate your performance can be a real challenge.

“But I exceeded all my objectives. Why am I not rating ‘leading?”

It’s a frustrating conversation no matter which side of the desk you’re on. The truth is, in most companies, meeting or exceeding your objectives is not enough to stand out. In a stack-ranked world, you’ve got to make a bigger strategic impact.

5 Ways to Differentiate Your Performance and Stand Out

Whether you’re looking for ways to take your own performance to the next level, or to help a frustrated team member differentiate their performance, here are a few proven strategies to make  2018 your best year ever.

1. Know what matters most.

Have you ever noticed it’s not necessarily the times in your career that you worked the longest or hardest that got the most positive attention? Sure sometimes there’s a correlation, but chances are it’s more a matter of finding that sweet spot where your skills and talents matched a strategic business need and pointing all your energy in that direction. You’ve got at least 37 priorities on your plate, you can’t exceed expectations on all of them. Talk to your manager,  know what matters most, and be sure you nail that.

Ask:

“What’s the most important thing I (or my team) needs to accomplish to really impact the business this year?”

Or, I know everything on this scorecard is important, but if I had to fail at something, which of these metrics matters the least, and what do you want me to really blow out of the water?

Or even, “Imagine we’re sitting here this time next year, and you’re blown away by my (my team’s) performance… what would I (we) have accomplished?”

2. Fix something broken.

What’s not working that’s driving everyone crazy? What process could be made more efficient? What can you do to improve the customer experience (not just once) but systematically? How can you make work more efficient not just for you, but for your peers as well? Find something broken and fix it.

3. Build a clear cadence of communication.

Be the guy that makes everyone’s lives easier through a clear cadence of communication up, down and sideways. Treat everyone’s time as a precious resource. Hold meetings that people actually want to attend. Come buttoned up to one-on-ones with your manager, with a clear agenda (this tool will help).

4. Strengthen strategic peer relationships.

Great work never happens in a vacuum. Invest time in building strategic peer relationships where you truly understand, and help one another to achieve, your interdependent objectives. Nothing frustrates senior managers more than dysfunctional turf wars that distract people from doing the right thing for the business and for your customers. Your competition is not the department down the hall, it’s mediocrity.

5. Invest in your own development.

I once had a mentor who said, “Some people have 10 years of experience and other folks have 1 year of experience 10 times.”  Even if you’re not changing roles, be sure you’re constantly learning and growing. Have a clear development plan that stretches you and helps you contribute more to the business each year.

If you want to truly differentiate your contribution–go beyond what’s necessary for today, and work to make a broader impact for your customers, for the business, and for those around you.

Your turn. What’s your best advice for building a year of truly differentiated performance?

See Also our Fast Company Article: 10 Common Excuses that Silently Damage Manager’s Careers

how to get feedback from your peers

Four Powerful Ways to Get Helpful Feedback From Your Peers

I’m sure you ask your boss for feedback. And, I imagine you’re checking in with your direct reports regularly on how you’re doing. If you’re like many managers we work with, you may be less inclined to seek out and get feedback from your peers.

Why? Let’s face it, your peers are not always the friendliest source. In some companies, peers can feel more like “competitors” for resources, a position in the stack rank, or bonus funding. And it’s just possible peers in other departments are the folks most ticking you off: the finance guy who doesn’t see the value in funding your project; or the woman in IT who always has 10 reasons why what you want can’t be done.

Four Ways to Get Helpful Feedback From Your Peers

Your peers see how you act under stress and behind closed doors in ways you might not show your boss or your team. Like the time I regretfully let the F-bomb fly at a peer (#NotRecommendedWinningWellBehavior).

Are you seen as a team player? Do you share resources or just look out for your own team and objectives? How do you act when things don’t go your way? Chances are your peers have a pretty good sense of how you act when “no one is looking.” See also Eight Reasons Your Peers Rate You Low on Your 360 Assessment  

Here are four ways to get more helpful feedback from your peers.

  1. Make It About More Than You

    Like it or not, sometimes your peers may also see YOU as a competitor and question your motives for seeking out feedback. Your request for insight is more compelling when you ground it in a desire to improve the business or the customer experience.  “What do you think I could do differently to create an even better experience for our customers?” “I really care about our team effectiveness, what specifically do you think I could do to help our team collaborate better?” “This project is on such a tight deadline, what specifically can I do to make our work processes more efficient?”

  2. Model it

    Want great feedback from your peers? Start by being a great feedback giver. Be the guy who your peers can count on to tell them the real deal. Be generous with your specific and timely praise, and develop trust so that they are interested in what else you have to say. It will be that much easier when you turn around and ask, “And how do you think I could be more impactful?”

  3. Get Specific

    “Do you have any feedback for me?” Is likely to be met with a generic “No, man, you’re doing great,” response. This might feel good, but is not all that useful. Instead try, “What is one behavior I could change that would make me more impactful on this project?” Or, “I’m really working on improving my communication skills, can you give me one suggestion to help me improve my communication with you?”

    Once they give you one idea, then you can always say, “Great! Thank you. What else?”  Or you can take it one step further and conduct a  DIY 360.

  4. Respond

    If they’re right, act on it. And if you think it’s B.S., ask a few more folks for their perspective. The best way to get more feedback is to accept it graciously. Even if you don’t agree, always say thank you.

    See also: How Do I get my peers to trust me?  

Your turn. What are your best tips for soliciting feedback from peers?

Three Connections That Energize Every Great Leader

Three Connections That Energize Every Great Leader

Let’s face it, leadership is hard. Every great leader faces this reality.

You give it everything you have, but sometimes, it feels like it’s just not enough. When that happens though, here’s what you have to tell yourself…

You’re not alone.

Or, I should say…you don’t have to be.

When I was in San Francisco to deliver a keynote, I visited the famous California Redwoods. Standing beside the tallest living things on the planet was astounding.

Some them are thousands of years old. I saw the tallest tree–tall as a 36 story building with a trunk that would take ten or twelve people to encircle. Wow!

When I returned to my hotel that night, I went online to learn more about these trees. Specifically, I wanted to know about their roots. The roots I had seen were shallow and short.

What I found surprised me.

I expected the redwoods to have deep root systems, but they don’t. Their roots only go down five or six feet…but they extend outward 100 feet. In fact, the roots of nearby trees entangle, connect, and even fuse with one another. Together, the trees anchor one another through thousands of years of storms, wind, and floods.

Think about that for a moment–the tallest living things on earth don’t get tall by themselves.

They do it together.

As a leader, your trajectory and success – especially when things get tough – depend on your connections. There are three connections I’ve found that energize every great leader.

Connection #1: Your Team

Of course, you are there to serve your team.

But a funny thing happens when you do this. You will find your team also serves you. You don’t have to problem-solve on your own. You can rely on them.

Where you need to grow, they’ll challenge you. When your team trusts you, they’ll do amazing work with you. When you lead well, your team makes you stronger.

You can bring the tough questions to them and they’ll problem solve with you. They’ll hold you accountable. Karin and I have both had team members confront us when we weren’t leading up to our own standards.

Connection #2: A Community of Peers

Leadership is challenging work. It’s not easy and it doesn’t always feel good. It can be difficult, but extremely rewarding to find a good group of colleagues who will encourage you and help you problem-solve. If you’re looking for this kind of leadership community, consider our International Leadership Cohort of people just like you who are committed achieving breakthrough results – without losing their soul.

In addition to mutual encouragement and problem-solving, you also benefit from time spent with people outside the “bubble” of your organization. You’ll see your own situations with fresh eyes and better perspective.

Connection #3: A Mentor or Coach

Who is helping you get better?
Many leaders have a series of mentors and coaches over their lifetime…but it’s your responsibility to find them.

Recently, I saw an aspiring great leader sit back on a social media forum and post something like, “Hey, I really wish you’d mentor me!” It was a generic comment that felt needy and as if he were a victim, powerless to help himself.

Most mentors won’t respond to that sort of energy. You want to find people who are farther down the road, who are doing what you want to do or have the kind of influence you want to have, and then approach them with a specific and actionable request.

You might say, “I’ve noticed you are very effective at cross-departmental relationships and problem-solving. I’ve been challenged in this area and have some specific questions I think you could help with. Would you be willing to mentor me in this? You’ll find that I take your suggestions seriously and put them into practice as soon as possible.”

Accept their answer. If they say yes and have a particular way they want to work, go with it, and follow through. If they say no, honor that too. The chemistry must be there for mentoring relationships to work.

There are also times you’ll want to rely on a coach. Coaches can provide targeted, objective feedback and skill-training to shorten your learning curve and help you make rapid progress with your leadership challenges.

Your Turn

Remember, just like redwoods, a great leader gets to be great based on the strength of their connections to their team, to a community of colleagues, and with mentors and coaches.

Where do you need to connect?

Leave us a comment and share how you stay connected to your team, a community of leaders, and mentors & coaches who help you grow.

how to next your next interview

How to Nail Your Next Interview–Honing Your Story

Even if you’re the right candidate for the right job, if you don’t have your story together in your interview, the job’s going to the other guy.

In fact, I’ve sat through too many panel interviews over the years with my heart breaking because I knew the RIGHT guy was telling the WRONG story…or the RIGHT story in the wrong way.

And the “committee” chose the bozo instead.

It’s not just what you’ve done, but how you tell it that matters in a behavior-based interview. With a little preparation, you can avoid the common mistakes that prevent you from bringing all your Winning Well wisdom to the scene.

Common Mistakes in a Behavior-Based Interview

In a Behavioral Based Interview, candidates are asked to describe a situation, share what happened, and communicate the results. In other words, to share a story.

Behavior-based questions work well because they require candidates to draw on real experiences and communicate stories in an articulate way.

They can also backfire when great candidates bomb the interview because of lack of preparation.

Avoid These Interviewing Mistakes

  • Picking the wrong story. (Usually, the first one that comes to mind.)
  • Selecting a story with a bad ending (backing yourself into a corner, and wishing you told another story.)
  • Getting carried away in your story-telling, sharing too many details and going in circles.
  • Leaving out the detail, leaving too much to the imagination.
  • Forgetting to share the point of your story.
  • Sharing a story in which you did not have a central role (or in other words, sharing someone else’s success.)
  • Over-using the word “I” when you are describing an effort you led (remember to include the team.)
  • Continuing to use the same story with a different twist, leaving your interviewer to conclude you’ve only got one example of success.

How to Prepare for Success

  • Make a list of the competencies or skills most required for the job.
  • Go back through your work experiences, and find the best examples (stories) that showcase your skills in these areas. If you’re a spreadsheet guy or gal, go for it.
  • Develop a plan for which stories you plan to share.
  • Build out your stories to include brief context, specific actions, and results.
  • Practice telling them to a mentor or friend.

But wait–don’t wait until you need a job. Start now.

Some of the best interviewers (and leaders I know) keep journals of their best stories along the way to use when they need them–in interviews, mentoring, heck, who knows, maybe even a keynote someday. Capture the details while the story is fresh so it will be easier to recall when the time is right.

How to Get Noticed as a Leader– Before You've Led a Team

Last week “John” shared his “No Diaper Genie!” frustration in the middle of our high-potential leadership development program.

Yeah, I get that I’m here… and the company is investing in me and all that. But my boss keeps saying, “You’re not ready to be promoted, you’ve never led a team. I can’t recommend you for that particular promotion now, give it time”

but the truth is, my job is 18 times more complex than any front-line supervisor. I’m neck-deep in a complex organizational structure doing really strategic work and making an impact. How do I get noticed?”

Flashback to about 20 years ago, when I looked at my boss, Mary Ann, and said almost EXACTLY those same words. I had a masters degree and most of a Ph.D., I was gung ho working really long hours, thinking strategically, and contributing in any way that I could.

And she said the words I found remarkably frustrating and stupid at the time…

Karin, “What’s for you won’t miss you. We’ve got a lot of old-fashioned ways of thinking and being around here… but you’re bigger than all that. Stay the course. Show up as the leader you think the guys three levels up should be.”

And so I did. And as it turns out, Mary Ann was right. It didn’t miss me.

Five Ways to Get Noticed As a Leader Before You’ve Led a Team

Be so good it’s hard to notice. Here are five ways to make a leadership impact before you have a team.

  1. Master the art of the tough conversation.
    Be the guy that can give tough feedback to peers, project team members and even your boss in a way that makes them feel valued and grateful. People will then seek you out as a trusted advisor). Here’s a tool that can help INSPIRE feedback model for project managers For some additional inspiration, you can see part of my Managing the Art of the Tough Conversation keynote here.
  2. Rock your role.
    Yes, yes, you’ve heard this from me before (see related advice here).  But I can’t tell you how many people come to me each week frustrated that they’re not at the next level, and when I ask about their current performance they shrug that off because “they’re bored and ready for more.”  Not a chance. I would never promote you if you’re not showing up consistently as a high-performer, and neither should your boss.
  3. Be sure every meeting you attend is better because you were there.
    You can pull that off in a variety of ways: help keep the team on track by separating “Where are we going?” conversations “How will we get there?” discussions; help to clarify and summarize action items, “Who will do what by when and how will we know?” Invite softer spoken team members to offer their contributions.  See more ideas for running effective meetings here.
  4. Keep your boss informed of your strategic contribution.
    When done well, it’s not bragging. It’s useful– and when you’re adding more value, so are they. Here’s a free huddle planner to help you have more productive one-on-ones with your boss.
  5. Practice Two-level thinking.
    When faced with a difficult business problem or when you’re asked to do something that feels challenging think, “Why is this important to my boss’ boss?” If you can’t come up with a good answer, ask your immediate manager to help you think it through. Everyone wants to have team members who “get it” and want to make a more strategic impact on the business.

If you want to stand out as a leader, don’t wait until you have a formal title. Leading without authority is the best way to stand out “as a natural” and get noticed for what you bring to the scene.