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.

rocket light bulb

7 Questions You Should Ask When You Launch a New Project

I’m launching a new project that will significantly propel the LGL mission of growing leaders with the confidence and humility to make a deeper impact on the world. It’s a strong team, and I found us organically asking one another questions to frame our mission and set us up for success. There was no checklist, but I thought, “Wow, wouldn’t it be helpful for others in such scenes if there were?”

And so today, I offer 7 questions to ask before you launch any significant project.

7 Questions You Should Ask Before You Launch a New Project

1. Why is this project vital?

Why are we doing this?  Why now? Who will benefit and what do they most need? How much will it cost and why is it worth the investment?

2. What does success look like?

How will we measure our success? What are the process measures that will let us know we are on track?

3. Who else must we include?

Who do we need to be successful? Who are key stakeholders who should be brought in early?

4. How will we communicate?

We’re actually using some cool collaboration systems, including Hall, Gather Content and Cage.

5. How does this project integrate with other work underway?

In my work at Verizon this was always one we had to consider well. It’s worth going slow to go fast in this phase to ensure there’s no redundancy or worse, competing efforts.

6. What can we learn from others who’ve done similar work?

Again, it’s worth taking the time to benefit from other people’s key learnings. Breakthroughs are almost always improvements of work that has come before. Be sure you know what that is.

7. Who will do what by when?

Too many project teams jump right into the action planning. Asking the first six questions first will help to ensure you plan is effective.

So, Karin, what’s the project? Ahh, that leads to the bonus question, “When do you announce your plans?” Stay tuned.

5 Big Mistakes Managers Make When Developing Their People

Let’s be real. The biggest mistake managers make when developing their people is that they don’t spend enough time doing it. Or, even worse, aren’t spending any time at all. The fact that you’re reading this indicates that you care, and are trying.

Even imperfect development beats what many employees telling me they’re getting–nada.

The only way to achieve exponentially greater results is to get every member of your team functioning on more cylinders, as individuals and as a team.

Good managers spend at least 10-20% of their time developing their people.

Be sure you’re investing your time well by avoiding these common traps.

5 Mistakes Managers Make When Developing Their People

1. Forget they’re still learning too

There’s a weird imaginary threshold I see too many managers cross. They creep into “I’ve got this, and now my job is to teach it to you” land.  Almost every manager goes there at some point in their career, and many get stuck in it’s delusional abyss. The only way to be an effective leader is to scurry back to reality as fast as you can. Leadership is never handled. See also, 60 Reasons Leaders Stop Learning.

I’ve learned the hard way that our teams see our flaws and mistakes better than we do. Even if they love you, there are at least 17 reasons they don’t want to lead like you.

Be sure the learning and listening is a two-way street.

2. Invest only in the “high potentials”

“I don’t have time to develop everyone, so I’ll really invest in the top 5%, maybe even 10%,” is the cry I’ve heard many times. I’m all for giving extra effort the box 9s, goodness knows I’m grateful for every ounce of extra effort folks poured into me as I climbed the ladder. BUT, imagine the possibilities when you tap into the majority of your team, building on everyone’s strengths, and helping them to see themselves as more than “also-rans”?

3. Focus on individual development but don’t develop the team

A team of super stars who don’t know how to work as a team, can’t win. The egos get in the way, and conflict sucks the life out of all productivity, and prohibits real creative breakthroughs that involve integrated thinking.

I once worked for an executive who painstaking recruited the very best players in every discipline, and then got us in a room and announced his plan. Our bonuses (a large percentage of our salary, usually stack ranked) would all be exactly the same, based on our performance in his experimental organization. He’d received permission from HR to try it. If we blew it out of the park, he’d get money added to the pool. If we sucked, he’d give it back. Either way, we’d all be paid the same percentage.

We fought like brothers and sisters, but we figured it out. We nailed it. In fact, 20 years later, we’re still amazing friends (I even dated one of the guys a decade later, see also: Never Date the Guy Who Hates HR — just kidding, haven’t written that post… yet;-)

4. Ignore their unique gifts and strengths

It’s easy to develop leaders in our own image, but what if they see the world in an entirely different way? What if they never say a word? Go deeper. Get to know them. In every MBA class I teach, I’m blown away by the men and women who I worried about at the beginning. Go there.

5. Underestimate their capability to grow horizontally as well as vertically.

Everyone wants to move up, and it’s easy to focus on promoting your best and the brightest in your discipline. The truth is, people choose a path early on and it’s often a crap shoot, or overly influenced someone else’s advice. Give people opportunities to draw on new skills, test them in wacky environments, and see how they grow. My career was built on doing things I knew nothing about, and so was my Dad’s. I bet there could be more of us out there if only given the chance.

Developing your people is so important, be sure your work gets the return on investment you deserve.

See Also: A Brilliant Mentoring Match Takes Hearts and Smarts. 

tract small companies

4 Ways Smaller Companies Can Attract Great Talent

There are four main reasons my MBA students give me for wanting to work for the big guys versus a smaller company: prestige, salary/benefits, room for upward mobility, and security. Tough factors for the small guys to compete with for sure. Interesting, those conversations have been juxtaposed with interviews I’ve been doing this week for a mid-sized client, as we’re looking to take their social media strategy to the next level.

Guess who’s applying? Rock stars from the big guys, yup, even MBAs.

When I ask these candidates, “Why would you consider leaving ______ (insert prestigious, high-paying, great benefits, relatively secure company name here)?” the answer is they want a place where they can move faster (less bureaucracy) and be more creative. They want to work for folks who have a strong vision, but are wide open to new ideas (ahh, the sweet smell of confident humility as a competitive weapon).

Of course smaller doesn’t always equate to faster, more creative, or a culture of confident humility, but in this case that’s the value proposition. And it’s working. Score one for the underdogs. 

4 Ways Smaller Companies Can Attract Great Talent

1. Create a Clear Value Proposition

Most smaller companies work this backward, reactively trying to piece together a competitive offer, or packaging their recruiting story so it looks good on paper. To truly attract and retain the best talent in your industry, you’ll need a deliberate plan.

Start with your vision: What’s most important to your ideal candidates? What do you want to be known for as an employer? Then do realistic assessment of your current state. Nothing’s worse than telling candidates you’re fast and creative, if you’re slow and stodgy. The only way to develop a genuine and lasting value proposition is to have a realistic understanding of your gaps.

2. Sell Your Why

Simon Sinek’s golden circle isn’t just about leadership and marketing, it’s vital in the talent wars. The best and brightest are looking for a “why” that matters. Be sure you can articulate yours.

3. Engage Your Team

The 360 interview process is working great for my client because the candidates get to talk to a lot of fired up people. If your team’s fired up, get them involved to help interview. If they’re remote, video interviews are a great option. Plus, your team will bring different perspectives and be a good gauge of cultural fit. Of course, if your team’s not fired up, you’ve got bigger issues. Call me, I can help.

4. Rock Social Media

Go hang out where the talent is. Most of the folks you really want are not looking on job boards. Showing up strong is an easy way to attract the attention of great people who might not otherwise be looking.

Does your human capital strategy need a tune-up? Give me a call for a free consultation, 443-750-1249.

5 Ways to Ensure Your Voice is Heard

In the Q&A after my keynote the other day, a woman (ironically after refusing to use my microphone) asked, “You know that part where you talk about Professor Lupin and facing your fears? What if your biggest fear is that you won’t be heard… how do you make that feel ridiculous?”

We chatted for a moment about really considering what “the worst thing that could happen” was in this scenario. And what would happen if she didn’t speak up at all, which would ensure her fear had come true.  And then she said, “But what if they use the same idea when someone else says it?”

I then I understood that her question was less about fear and more of a “How do I?” question (see also David Dye’s “Leaders Are You Answering the Wrong Question?”).

Eager eyes awaited my response. Apparently she wasn’t the only one facing that challenge.

5 Ways to Ensure Your Voice is Heard:  The VOICE approach

First, when someone offers you a mic, take it. If someone else has to repeat what you say, you’ve already lost some impact. Sometimes the mic is metaphorical (like pulling your chair up to the table if you’re sitting on the sidelines). Here are a few other additional tips.

VVisualize

Visualize what you are going to say and how you’re going to say it. Include it all–the eye contact, the sitting up tall with an open stance, strong projection and confident tone. Visualize their receptive response. It’s much easier to feel confident when you’ve practiced.

O- Organize 

Organize your thoughts in advance. Make an outline if needed. Consider the key points that will support your point of view. Know your opening sentence, so you won’t be tempted to start with a pre-apology (e.g. “This may be a bad idea, but…”)

I- Inquire

If possible do your homework in advance and be aware of other’s opinions on the topic. If you’re responding spontaneously, then ask for feedback. (e.g. “How do you think idea could impact our project?”)

C- Consider

Listen carefully to the opinions and ideas of others. Thank them and respond appropriately, building on and integrating their ideas if possible.

E- Energize

Stay energetic in your delivery. It’s hard to ignore someone is genuinely passionate about their point of view.

Most importantly, be sure you believe what you have to say. If you’re unsure, your audience will be equally skeptical.

Leadership credo Spring 2015

The Power of a Change of Venue

It’s tricky for all of us. I’m teaching the only leadership course these accounting students will take as part of their masters programs. The class runs from 5-10 PM after most have worked all day in their internships, and we’re crammed into a room too small for the big moving around that is critical under such conditions.

All but a handful are on visas from China. This is their final semester, and most who are not finding a job, face a fast-ticking clock that matters.

A good number name public speaking as their greatest fear, and of course it’s a leadership class, and it’s me, and it’s five hours…everybody needs to talk.

Which brings us to tonight, where each student was asked to present their leadership credo (if you want to try this click here, or heck, let me come help you 😉

Now, this is a Karin Hurt classic. It never fails. Until tonight, or so I thought.

The Power of a Change of Venue

It was time to present the credos–the student’s “This I believe” on leadership. Each student sat straight up in their seats. I could see glimpses, so I was optimistic of effort, but nearly everyone had their credo turned face down on the desk.  I invited volunteers to share their credo. I was met with crickets. Then two brave souls came forth with rock star quality presentations— followed by (you guessed it)–more crickets. The class looked at me with big, longing eyes waiting for me to move on. I offered a prize for the creativity folks most admired–not helpful.

Perhaps it was the tenacity to not let this fail, or the panic I felt realizing that this exercise should fill an hour and “We can’t be done in two minutes!”–but, I regrouped.

“I can see you’ve got great stuff by the glimpses I caught as you entered the room. I also see most of you don’t feel comfortable sharing in a crowd.

Let’s go into the hallway.” 45 students formed two circles and I quickly arranged a “speed dating” kind of sharing.

The energy level went up about 10 times, and I quickly realized my previously shy students had something important to say.

One minute in, it was clear, we were disturbing the surrounding classes.

I interrupted. “That’s the spirit! But, now ironically, we’re too loud.” Would anyone object to going outside? (It was sunny but a bit chilly.)

And off we went. You would have thought I had started serving cocktails. Bystanders  were staring as they walked by to see what we were up to.

They shared and admired and celebrated their leadership teachable point of views.

As we returned inside, I shared my “teachable moment.”

“My leadership was failing. I tried to get you to follow and you refused. I had to take a step back and regroup and change the approach (and in this case the venue). If no one’s following, blaming it on your followers may feel good, but it won’t work. If you’re really blowing it, step back and try again.”

And then the magic happened. The class selected one of their quietest members as their “winner” for creativity and content. And then, classmates who had never participated started sharing their credos. The rest of the evening went a whole lot quicker. Ahhh the remarkable power of #confidenthumility.

3 Ways to Avoid the Slippery Slope of Inconsistency

Kendra is late because she was at the hospital with her sick child and barely got home to take a shower… got it. Every now and then managers must make exceptions, no doubt. But now, John is late too, and you feel bad saying something to him, since you just let Kendra off the hook. Before you know it, late is the new black… to work, to meetings, and the envelope is being pushed in other arenas as well.

Or, you’re a Sales Director implementing a new customer information system. Your rock star, Janice, refuses to use it, and you figure it’s no big deal. You don’t want to push her buttons, and she’s got a system that works, so you leave her alone about the requirement. The challenge is everyone wants to be like her (particularly the new guys who need the system the most). Pretty soon, no one’s using the investment and all the incremental sales you baked into the business case are a pipe dream.

3 Ways to Avoid the Slippery Slope of Inconsistency

When people REALLY need an exception, they need an exception. But, most of the time they yearn for consistency. Here are three ways to show up as a human and stay true to your vision.

Explain Your Leadership Viewpoint

Try something like this: “I believe in situational leadership and doing the right thing for people in trying situations. I can’t always disclose WHY I’m chosing to make an exception, but please know that if I do, there’s a private matter at hand that we’re working through. Other than that, I’ll be working to be as consistent as possible. I trust that you will understand that so I can maintain the same flexibility when you have an extreme situation. In order to make this work, I need everyone staying true to our game plan.”

Know Consistency is Valued

In every company I work with I hear a consistent theme in focus groups:  “I wish our managers had tougher and more consistent standards. We’d be so much better if they consistently reinforced the requirements.” I hear that 10 times more than “My manager is too hard on us.”

Chances are everyone is rooting for you to take a stand.  Be human, but often the most fair and reasonable answer is to say “No” to deviant behavior.

Invite Your “A Players” to Be Role Models Not Exceptions

Your “A Players” feel they deserve special treatment. Give it to them. Invite them to help you solve the bigger problem, not stay on the outskirts. If you doubt this can be done, call me. The biggest turnarounds have always involved getting the prima donnas to help for the greater good.

Once your team is headed down a slippery slope, it’s darn impossible to get them moving uphill. Your team is yearning for leadership, parameters and consistency, with the occassional human exception. Approach these situations with the confidence that your vision is important, and the humility to know when their situation warrants an exception.

Do you need help preparing for an important turnaround? Call me for a free consultation. 443-750-1249.

The Surprising Way to Encourage Disengagement

Within three years, Mike had gone from an excited, creative new hire full of passion, energy and ideas, to a guy with one foot out the door with disengagement like carbon monoxide: invisible and impossible to smell. Here is his story.

My first year, my ideas and alternative views were “refreshing.” I was quickly viewed as a rising star and invited to the right meetings. I was pleased to be rewarded with the coveted “exceeds expectations” rating. I was constantly looking for ways to improve our processes and make the company better. The next year, I guess I got a little too comfortable with sharing my opinions. In hindsight, I could have positioned them better, but I was saying what needed to be said. And every time I left a meeting the level above (except my boss) would thank me for speaking the truth. I just cared so much about our cause and was attached to our vision.

I received a “developing rating” that year.  That’s when I knew I was going to have to leave, but I wanted it to be on my own terms. I decided the only way to survive was to just stop caring. And that’s what I did. I buried my passion and I went along, even if I knew a better approach. And that year, I was once again given the rating of “exceeds expectations.” I “exceeded expectations” by caring less, offering less, and doing less.”

Mike’s boss made a point to chime in on the appraisal with a comment: “It’s nice to have you back.”

Mike is convinced his secret was subtle, but I doubt it. I imagine other box 9 candidates with great ideas vicariously got the “settle down” message and stiffled their enthusiasm as they polished their resumes.

It’s easy to think of engagement as everyone singing along with a merry smile.

Dig deeper. Your most engaged players may be the naysayers. They may need some polish, but be careful not to rub off their passion and value in the process.