Excited vs. Excitable: The Real Secret to Executive Presence

The situation would have sent any leader who cared running for aspirin. I asked Mark, the Senior VP, “Are you okay? Are you stressed? What needs to happen next?” Mark responded, “Karin, I don’t get stressed. There’s no use in that. But as it turns out I’m a stress carrier.”

In humor lies the truth.

Mark had mastered executive presence. Mark had excited but not excitable nailed. Deeply passionate about the cause, nothing rattled him. He’d taken on each new scene as if he’d seen it a thousand times before. His actions were values-based, consistent, deliberate and timely. And yet he knew that his calm words didn’t always have a calming effect on his team. In fact sometimes, the more calm he appeared, the wilder his VPs became– as if to make up for his lack of excitable.

Stress was still rolling down hill, even though Mark had tried to stop it.

Excited Energizes, Excitable Freaks People Out

In almost every company I work with, I’ve noticed a consistent pattern– things are remarkably calmer on the executive “floor.” (Thank goodness, not always a real floor these days.)

The stakes are higher, the decisions graver, these folks have farther to fall, and yet when the going gets tough (for the execs who get it) the volume doesn’t amplify.

In full disclosure, I didn’t learn this early in my career. For a long time I believed my excitable nature proved I cared. I confused stress with passion. Fired up is a long way from freaked out. Know the difference in yourself, and in those you lead.

Your team longs for calm in you and in them. Don’t stop with you.

How to Encourage Excited vs. Excitable

So how do you grow leaders who emulate calm, in the midst of a frantic context?

1. Acknowledge Reality

More than anything your team needs to know you get it. Otherwise they think your head is in the sand. When you calmly state the issue and the implications, I promise that your team will breathe a sigh of relief. They’ll move from trying to prove that the fire is real, to trying to figure out how to extinguish it.

2. Stay Consistently True to Your Values

Great leaders stay true to their values when the going gets tough. If “customer service is #1” has been your rallying cry and you start short-cutting when budget (or boss) pressures loom, your team will be confused at best. Don’t change course. Instead ask, how do MAINTAIN OUR COMMITMENT to a great customer experience with these new parameters?

3. Encourage Wacky Solutions

Chances are that someone is sitting on an idea that is so crazy it might just work. Give them an opportunity to share. Then help them calm down, ask great questions, and consider how they could best execute.

4. Use Failure as Learning

When the going gets tough, our  tolerance for failing decreases, and in many well-intentioned leaders, disappears. Ironically, it’s in the toughest times that we need it most. The 18th failure is much harder than the second. Help your team stay calm and keep learning.

5. Stay Real

When the going gets really tough, your team wants the truth. Share what you can and help them to make informed decisions.

Leaders who win well are excited, but not excitable. They have a strong vision and a strong sense of where they are headed. They expect disruption and leverage chaos as an opportunity to engage creative solutions.

Stay excited. Resist excitable–for you and those who care enough to follow your lead.

I want to be a mentor

6 Secrets to a Successful Mentoring Program

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

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

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

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

Great mentors are rarely monogamous.

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

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

As a culture, we’re not mentoring well.

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

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

What Matters Most

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

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

What To Do When You’re Really Stuck

I received this email from subscriber (modified enough for anonymity). Let’s call him Guy.

Would you be up to offer a little free advice to beat down manager? I have been in some type of leadership position for over a decade now. Two years ago I took over as manager of the noted, “ really tough crowd” in our company. A slight understatement, but–I was up for the challenge.

In discussions with my boss, she informed me that I needed to win my team over and that I did not have their respect. I have never had anyone tell me anything like that with either of the previous teams that I oversaw. Dazed and confused, I moved forward.

I have worked beside them and did the same jobs that they were doing, and bought them breakfast or donuts when I held early morning meetings. I’ve taken some of them to lunch to get to know them. I championed for their needs for extra fabric, materials, and machines, and got them the resources they needed.

I have stood before them and asked them to tell me what they needed me to do to work better for them and make their work lives better–very few responses but at least a couple of them offered.

Today I was lambasted by my boss because of one individual who easily gets her feelings hurt when she is required to do more than she believes she should be doing. The epitome of, “ I’ll do what I want to.” Each time I have tried a new approach, and ease into conversations with this individual. I now have all but stopped trying to work with her. I only get in trouble when I do.

So, tell how you would proceed. I am at my wit’s end. I am giving up. It became painfully obvious to me when I began this email seeking advice from an unfamiliar, outside source.

Most of us have hit a wall like that.  We all have times in our careers where we feel stuck, lack confidence, or wonder why no one sees things our way.

If you’ve ever felt even a third of what Guy’s feeling, it’s easy to have similar sentiments like “Maybe I should just give up.”

When it gets that bad, the co-author of our upcoming book, David Dye, and I encourage you to start with three words.

“How Can I…”

With those three words you:

  • Return focus to your own power and ability to act
  • Tap into the energy of your prefrontal cortex–the part of your brain that problem-solves and plans
  • Vastly increase the odds of finding a solution
  • Take responsibility and ownership for the one thing you can control–yourself.

Let’s try some “How can I?” questions with Guy’s scene.

  • How can I better understand this employee’s resistance?
  • How can I get more input and feedback from my team?
  • How can I set clearer expectations?
  • How can I build deeper trust with my boss?

or maybe even…

  • How can I find a job that doesn’t make me so frustrated?

When you ask “How can I?” you might honestly respond with “I don’t know.” That’s okay. Try David’s bonus question,  “What might I do if I did know?”

Now watch what happens. It’s amazing how you can generate ideas when you give yourself permission.

Sometimes you’ll realize that you don’t have the information you need in order to craft solutions. Then the question becomes, “How can I get the information?”

Stuck sucks. But you can and will get through it. Start with the simple question, “How do I?” Then move to an even more powerful question, “How do we?”

Looking to get your team unstuck? Call me for a free consultation. 443-750-1249.

What To Do When You're Really Stuck

I received this email from subscriber (modified enough for anonymity). Let’s call him Guy.

Would you be up to offer a little free advice to beat down manager? I have been in some type of leadership position for over a decade now. Two years ago I took over as manager of the noted, “ really tough crowd” in our company. A slight understatement, but–I was up for the challenge.

In discussions with my boss, she informed me that I needed to win my team over and that I did not have their respect. I have never had anyone tell me anything like that with either of the previous teams that I oversaw. Dazed and confused, I moved forward.

I have worked beside them and did the same jobs that they were doing, and bought them breakfast or donuts when I held early morning meetings. I’ve taken some of them to lunch to get to know them. I championed for their needs for extra fabric, materials, and machines, and got them the resources they needed.

I have stood before them and asked them to tell me what they needed me to do to work better for them and make their work lives better–very few responses but at least a couple of them offered.

Today I was lambasted by my boss because of one individual who easily gets her feelings hurt when she is required to do more than she believes she should be doing. The epitome of, “ I’ll do what I want to.” Each time I have tried a new approach, and ease into conversations with this individual. I now have all but stopped trying to work with her. I only get in trouble when I do.

So, tell how you would proceed. I am at my wit’s end. I am giving up. It became painfully obvious to me when I began this email seeking advice from an unfamiliar, outside source.

Most of us have hit a wall like that.  We all have times in our careers where we feel stuck, lack confidence, or wonder why no one sees things our way.

If you’ve ever felt even a third of what Guy’s feeling, it’s easy to have similar sentiments like “Maybe I should just give up.”

When it gets that bad, the co-author of our upcoming book, David Dye, and I encourage you to start with three words.

“How Can I…”

With those three words you:

  • Return focus to your own power and ability to act
  • Tap into the energy of your prefrontal cortex–the part of your brain that problem-solves and plans
  • Vastly increase the odds of finding a solution
  • Take responsibility and ownership for the one thing you can control–yourself.

Let’s try some “How can I?” questions with Guy’s scene.

  • How can I better understand this employee’s resistance?
  • How can I get more input and feedback from my team?
  • How can I set clearer expectations?
  • How can I build deeper trust with my boss?

or maybe even…

  • How can I find a job that doesn’t make me so frustrated?

When you ask “How can I?” you might honestly respond with “I don’t know.” That’s okay. Try David’s bonus question,  “What might I do if I did know?”

Now watch what happens. It’s amazing how you can generate ideas when you give yourself permission.

Sometimes you’ll realize that you don’t have the information you need in order to craft solutions. Then the question becomes, “How can I get the information?”

Stuck sucks. But you can and will get through it. Start with the simple question, “How do I?” Then move to an even more powerful question, “How do we?”

Looking to get your team unstuck? Call me for a free consultation. 443-750-1249.

giving employees another chance

Jack, Jill and a Slippery Hill

Antoine was an accomplished millennial retail sales professional  considered “a bit rough around the edges.”

His no-BS approach created a natural bond with entrepreneurs and mom and pop companies, that left some managers scratching their heads. But, heck it worked.

Antoine was maxing out his compensation and winning the big recognition trips year after year, but he wanted more.

He went back to school at night and got his degree. He waited until he was selling more from the store than his counterparts in the business channel, and then applied for a job with the business sales manager.

Rejected. He applied again. Rejected.

His mentor, Jill, encouraged him to shave his scraggly goatee and begin wearing suits to work. He applied again. This time he didn’t even get an interview–just a call from HR saying he “wasn’t quite ready.”

So Jill called up the Jack, the hiring manager, and described an ideal candidate she’d like to refer to him. Jill described everything about Antoine without using his name. Jack salivated and asked for the resume ASAP, after all Jack didn’t want to risk losing a candidate like that.

Jill sent over Antoine’s resume.

Embarrased, Jack gave Antoine a chance in a junior role–a level down from the position to which Antoine had applied. Within six months he was promoted, and began teaching his new peers his secrets to success.

“Job fit” is more complex than it looks. Discrimination comes in many forms.

Do you have an Antoine who deserves a chance?

For whom could you be a Jill?

digging deeper

What I Learned From Marshall Goldsmith: A Simple and Effective Technique

When Marshall Goldsmith sent me his new book, Triggers, I read it cover to cover on my flight to Vegas. Great read. But what makes a good book a great book is when it leads you to action. This one did.

The Power of Daily Questions

It’s so simple. Goldsmith recommends asking yourself a few “easy” questions each day. Of course, I say easy because they should be straightforward. But we all know gut-check questions are some of the most difficult in the world.

He shares:

For years I’ve followed a nightly follow-up routine that I call Daily Questions, in which I have someone call me wherever I am in the world and listen while I answer a specific set of questions that I have written for myself. Every day. For the longest time there were thirteen questions, many focused on my physical well-being, because if you don’t have your health . . well, you know the rest. The first question was always “How happy was I today?” (because that’s important to me), followed by questions like:

How meaningful was my day?
How much do I weigh?
Did I say or do something nice for Lydia?

And so on. The nightly specter of honestly answering these questions kept me focused on my goal of being a happier and healthier individual. For more than a decade it was the one constant of self-regulated discipline in my otherwise chaotic 180-days-a year-on-the-road life. (I’m not boasting that I do this test; I’m confessing how much discipline I lack.)

For those who are stumped on where to start, he draws on research of behaviors that lead to employee engagement and comes up with six key questions.

  • Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
  • Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?
  • Did I do my best to find meaning today?
  • Did I do my best to be happy today?
  • Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
  • Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?

What you’ll notice is the recurring theme is “do my best.” Yes, its subjective. You could cheat. But if no one else is looking…

My Big 5

Picking the questions is easy and hard. I have about 100 things I SHOULD be doing every day, but that’s not the point. The point is to focus on what Covey would call the “big rocks” not the pebbles.

It also occurred to me that these questions will need to change with the seasons. For me this summer is really heavy into content development. I have a book due to a publisher and an online course that we’re neck-deep in curriculum development. I need to be writing and developing content every day. In other seasons, it will be more about delivery and the questions will change.

Here are mine:

  • Did I write something meaningful that will help managers lead more effectively?
  • Did I actively work on growing my speaking and consulting business?
  • Did I add value to husband’s and sons’ day?
  • Did I connect with my father today (This is really important because my mom died recently. He lives close and it’s a blessing to have him so integrated in our lives)?
  • Did I exercise?

As the clock ticks away, it’s surprising how motivating knowing I’ll have to answer to myself will be.

Simple and effective.

5 Ways to Ignite Your Summer Leadership Fitness

If you’re like me, you think more about getting fit when the days start to require less clothes. What if you also used summertime as a time to pay a bit more attention to your leadership fitness? Similar strategies apply. In fact, they work all year round (I put that in for my many Aussie subscribers in the midst of Winter).

5 Ways To Ignite Your Leadership Fitness

Go Anaerobic

The best way to learn is to get your heart rate going. Bigger challenges require extra effort. If your job’s starting to feel a bit like a Sunday stroll, it’s time to pick up the pace. Take on a special assignment. Dig deeper. Exhausting your mental leadership reserves is a great way to build new muscle.

Be Consistent

How many times have you seen someone go to a leadership training, come back all fired up, and then go right back to their old habits a few days later? Pick one or two leadership behaviors you want to improve, and practice them consistently every day. This could be something as simple as “I’m going to ask more strategic questions to get my team thinking.” Or, “I’m going to wait until others have had a chance to speak in meetings until I chime in.”

Endure the Heavy Lifting

I’ve never met anyone who loves push-ups. They’re low on the list of intrinsic satisfiers. But they’re damn effective. Becoming a better leader is hard work. Maybe for you that’s finally having that difficult conversation with that arrogant co-worker. Or perhaps, it’s sitting down and having that important conversation with the guy you your team that would be better served (and of service) in a different role.

Include Cross Training

The best way to expand your skills is to do something new. Consider a rotational assignment or go shadow a peer in a different department. Don’t forget to stretch.

Train in Intervals

You can’t be anaerobic all the time. Work hard on your leadership, and then give yourself opportunities to rest and reflect. When you take time to consider what’s working and what to improve, the next go will be a bit stronger.

On a Double Dutch Tight Rope: Your New Boss and You

Over my career, I’ve underestimated the need to adapt well to a new boss more than once. Trust me, it’s harder to recover… but doable.

Working for a new boss often feels like a tight rope. If you’ve got a new boss, you may be experiencing that nauseous feeling that comes from walking a fine line. That’s good. You need to be paying attention.

My best advice for teams and new bosses? Try switching up the metaphor. View the tight rope as a Double Dutch jump rope instead, and you’ll be a lot more productive, successful, and save yourself a heck of a lot of time.

False Security

If you’re the welcoming committee, it’s easy to assume that life will continue as usual. After all, you’re making progress and your old boss was happy. Of course she put in a good word. (Even if she did, it’s likely not enough.) Here’s how to  take it up a level–to find a higher gear.

If you’re the new boss you likely feel the same way. You’ve seen this movie before in a different theater. You know what works, and after all, they brought you here for a reason… this team needs help.

The biggest problem I see with folks welcoming the new boss is that they believe they’re the ones with the well-cadenced jump rope and it’s the boss should adapt. They’ve got this and can’t wait to show ’em how good they are.

The biggest mistake I see new bosses make is ignoring that the intact cadence has value, and slowing down enough to notice the magic.

So here’s my advice for jump-ropers on both sides of the cadence.

Consider your next boss-team switch-a-roo like hopping into a jump rope game already in play. You’ve got to watch a few turns before rushing in, otherwise you’re going to get smacked in the face.

A Few Guidelines

Pay attention to how others are interfacing, and what seems to excite her or drive him crazy. Learn from the mistakes of others.

When jumping into a spinning scene, stop and notice. Who’s in control? Are there subtle moves causing even the best players to trip?

Ask questions. Not tons of “How do I do this ?” questions, but strategic questions like “How can I be most helpful?’ “What’s the best way to communicate with you?” “How do you like your coffee?” (Just kidding.)

Understand the Need for Data  This is where I see many style conflicts get most into trouble. Trying to win an analytical boss (or team) over with an emotional argument will make you lose credibility—fast. Similarly, overwhelming a big picture thinker with a ream of spreadsheets may leave them with the impression you’re “Just not that strategic.”

Some additional thoughts that will help

How to PERSUADE your boss (goes both ways) 

The DARN method:  How to give your boss bad news (could go both ways, but many bosses struggle with this) 

And of course there’s my book: Overcoming an Imperfect Boss: A Practical Guide to Building a Better Relationship With Your Boss You can read the latest review by Jane Anderson here.

And the keynote, Becoming the Boss You Wish You Had.

Call me. I can help. 443-750-1249.

4 Ways to Leverage Social Media to Enhance Your Career

This is a guest post by LGL Community member Scott Huntington.

Although many companies caution workers about using social media, utilizing sites like Twitter and LinkedIn can go a long way in positioning you within your own company and as a leader in your industry.  Obviously you need to be smart about how you use social media. Never lambast your company or post anything inappropriate.

1. Share Expertise

A good example of using LinkedIn to develop online leadership is the profile of Keith Springer, president and founder of Springer Financial Advisors. Springer publishes tips on stocks, what is currently going on in the market and his personal reasons for the ways he invests. This not only keeps his co-workers up to date, but also offers advice for others in his niche.

 2. Establish Authority

Another important aspect of utilizing the online world to establish authority is lending credibility to your posts or blog writing. While you may have multiple degrees in your field and years of experience, it’s still important to cite reliable studies from trusted sources, such as universities and well-known research firms. Make sure you add a bit more information to any topic you cover so that people understand you aren’t just regurgitating information, but you truly understand the topic.

If you are really ambitious, write a short book on the subject you know best. You’ll earn quite a lot of respect from your employees and your peers.

3. Get Off the Computer and Into the Real World

Although you can make connections online, you should also be attending events in your industry. As you meet people at conferences, speeches you give or even social gatherings, share what you do and ask them to connect with you online. These in-person connections are much more likely to read, share and promote your content than those who’ve never actually met you.

4. Utilize the Right Platforms

While online leadership is about utilizing online social media platforms, which platforms you choose can be just as important as how many followers you have. If your business focuses on technology, you can connect with like-minded people on Google+ and LinkedIn, but Pinterest probably isn’t going to bring you a lot of traffic. Study who is using each type of platform, analyze which social sites your competitors are on and start adding your voice to the mix to gain the online leadership skills necessary in today’s global marketplace.

If you liked this, you may also enjoy Scott’s previous LGL post. How to Be a Manager When Your Employees Are Older Than You.

5 Benefits to Working With People Who Drive You Crazy

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

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

5 Benefits to Working With People Who Drive You Crazy

1. Humility

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

2. Complementary Skill Sets

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

3. Their Network

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

4. Creative Tension

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

5. Improved Skills

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

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

what to do when your team is downsized

5 Things to Do When Your Team is Downsized

I’ve never met a manager who felt they had more headcount than they needed. In fact, the number one answer I get when I ask managers what they need most is “More people!” And yet most of us have been on the receiving end of the conversation saying “We’re going to need to figure out how to do more with less.” In fact, there was one dark period of my career that I received that call every quarter for 2 years. By the end of that run, I had half the team and more customers. The wacky part was, results kept improving.

5 Things to Do When Your Team is Downsized

As painful as downsizing is, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s possible to keep results going up, while your team size is going down. It requires a positive outlook, innovative thinking, and most importantly trust and support.

1.Keep Your Cool

Don’t let your team see you cry or whatever your equivalent of a tantrum is. Don’t vent to your team or blame “them (those above you, or HR)” for being clueless to how hard you’re already working. Get it out of your system off line and show up strong. Your team needs to feel confident that you’ve got a path forward, not get more unrattled as you lose your footing.

2. Help Your People Find Jobs

If the headcount being cut are not vacancies but real human beings, put them first. Do whatever you can to help them land well. Besides being the right thing to do for the impacted employees, it will go a long way in building trust and loyalty with those who remain.

3. Eliminate Less Necessary Work

Before you tell me “Nothing we’re doing is unnecessary,” get your team together and ask (and then don’t let them tell you that either). Look under every rock for time spent on seldom reviewed reports or redundant processes. You can’t do the same work with fewer people for long without causing people to tip over, or sacrifice quality. Get serious about what can go.

4. Strategize Failure

If you can’t find enough work to eliminate, know that some balls are likely to drop (or at least be picked up on the second bounce). Don’t pretend that every goal is equally important, help your team to prioritize. Be sure they know that if they have to screw-up something, which of their goals is less critical.

5. Go Outside Your Team for Support

You’re probably thinking, “Karin, now you’re really talking crazy, if we’re pressed, so is everyone else.” I bet they are. But I also know that in every organization, there is always redundant work going on. Instead of viewing other teams as the competition, or keeping staff at an arms distance to get them out of your hair, look for opportunities to partner. Could you pool functions and create a shared services group? Could you lend resources back and forth during peak times? Have the confidence to know it can be done, and the humility to ask for help.

Downsizing is never easy. I also know that of all the times I thought we’d been cut too far to survive, we someone how did, and in many cases thrived. Leadership is often about doing what feels impossible.

5 Ways to Help a Decision Maker Decide

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

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

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

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

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

5 Ways to Help a Decision Maker Decide

1. Ask More Questions

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

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

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

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

3. Make it Reversible

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

4. Include Others

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

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

5. Don’t Give Up

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

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