critical thinking: 5 ways to increase your team's capacity to think

Critical Thinking: 5 Ways to Build Your Team’s Capacity to Think

“Karin, TRUST me. I would LOVE to delegate more of these decisions and loosen up the reigns, but then I go out into the field and find all this crap. I just don’t think we have the critical thinking skills we need for success.”

Have you ever said those words?

Yeah, me too.

Can you imagine the freedom in knowing that your team will use the same (or better) “common sense” as you when the going gets tough?

I love this simple definition of critical thinking.

Critical thinking is not a matter of accumulating information. A person with a good memory and who knows a lot of facts is not necessarily good at critical thinking. A critical thinker is able to deduce consequences from what he knows, and he knows how to make use of information to solve problems, and to seek relevant sources of information to inform himself.

So how do you build THAT?

5 Ways to Build Your Team’s Capacity to Think

Critical thinking is not a gene. Yes, it comes more naturally to some, but it is teachable (much of the time). Here are a few ways to get started.

1.  STOP being the hero.

It’s hard. Who doesn’t love being superman? Particularly when you know EXACTLY what to do. It’s even harder if your boss is a superman too and you’re their go-to guy.

There’s a certain rush from jumping in and doing what must be done at exactly the right time. And it can’t hurt, right? The worst you’re going to get after your superman intervention is a THANK YOU and a developmental discussion six months from now, saying you need to build a bench.

But here’s what we hear offline. “She’s great. But she’s a do-er. I’d put her in my lifeboat any time. But her team is weak.”

Great leaders don’t have weak teams.

Great leaders take the time to slow down just enough even during times of crises, to bring others along and help them rise to the occasion.

Great leaders aren’t heroes, they’re hero farmers. 

2. Connect What to Why (more often than you think is practical or necessary.)

Yes, you can overload your team with TMI (too much information), but the truth is I’ve NEVER heard a manager complain that their boss overexplained “why.”  It’s impossible to have great critical thinking if you’re not connected to the big picture (including key challenges).  If you want your team to exercise better judgment, give them a fighting chance with a bit more transparency.

3. Expose them to Messy Discussions.

It’s tempting to think we must have it all figured out before wasting our team’s time. But if you’re really working to build leadership capacity, it’s also important to sometimes bring your folks in BEFORE you have a clue. Let them see you wrestle in the muck and talk out loud. “We could do this … but there’s that and that to consider … and also the other thing.”

4. Hold “Bring a Friend” Staff Meetings.

An easy way to do #3 is through “Bring a Friend” staff meetings. Once in a while, invite your direct reports to bring one of their high-potential employees along to your staff meeting. Of course, avoid anything super sensitive, but be as transparent as possible. Every time I’ve done this, we’ve had employees leaving the meeting saying, “I had no idea how complicated this is,” and “Wow, that sure gave me a different perspective.”

5. Ask Strategic Questions (and encourage them to go research the answers.)

  • Why have your results improved so substantially?
  • What was different in August (or whenever you saw a change in pattern)?
  • What evidence do you have that this strategy is working?
  • How does this compare to your competition?
  • What’s changed since implementing this program?
  • How do you know it’s working?
  • What are the employees saying about the change, how do you know?
  • How do you know this is sustainable?
  • What would a pilot teach us?

Your turn. What are your best practices for building critical thinking capacity?

mistakes to avoid in your town hall meetingSee Also: 6 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Town Hall Meetings 

How to Help Your HR Team Be More Strategic

17 Questions to Help Grow Confidence in Children

19 Questions to Grow Confidence in Children

Questions are a remarkable way to grow confidence in children. Great questions work because they cause children to stop and think. To reflect. To pause and consider what’s going on in their lives and in the world around them. Kids are natural questioners. So why not tap into that curiosity as you work to help build their confidence and leadership skills?

Today we answer the very important question, how can we grow confidence in children, with more questions. Questions you can ask to help your children continue to grow toward becoming remarkable leaders and human beings.

19 Powerful Questions to Grow Confidence in Children

Framed well—powerful, open-ended questions can help children gain a better understanding of their skills and abilities as well as to consider the contribution they’re already making in the world. Here are a few of the favorites we’ve used over the years in raising our own children and in work with other youth.

Asking any one of these questions can be the start of a great conversation. And of course, it gives you a remarkable opportunity to listen well. Nothing builds confidence faster than truly being heard.

Questions to Help Children Tap into Their Strengths

1. Would you please draw a picture of something you do very well?

2. What are some of the nicest things your friends say about you?

Okay, this one’s old school Mister Rogers, but it’s a keeper.

3.  What makes you special?

4. Let’s make a list of 10 things you are really good at. Which of these make you most proud and why?

Questions to Help Cultivate Awareness and Compassion

5. How did you help someone today?

6. I’m so happy about how you help our family. What do you think are some of the biggest ways you help?

7. What do you think that person is feeling right now?

8. When they’re aware they’ve hurt someone: How can you apologize?

Questions to Help Children Overcome Setbacks

Almost any kind of “how can you?” question works well here.

9. How can you be most helpful in this situation?

10. What else could you try?

Nothing builds confidence faster than tapping into past success.

11. Have you ever had something like this happen before? What did you do then to fix the problem?

12. When they make a mistake and spill or break something, rather than freak out, ask: And now what do you do?

Questions to Encourage Children to Try Something New

13. What worries you most about _________?

14. Remember when you were so scared to try _________? And now it’s ________ (one of your favorite things to do, places to go…)

15. Remember when mommy/daddy did ______? I was super scared too. What do you think were some of the ways I helped myself to become braver?

16. When facing an overwhelming problem: What is the smallest thing you can do to solve this? (eg: Pick up a single sock. Take out a sheet of paper. Once that is done, ask again: Now what is the smallest thing can do?)

Questions to Help Children Take a Stand

17. What is one problem in your community that more than ten people you know want to solve? What could you do in the next week to help make that better?

18. Why does that make you so angry? What do you think you could say to help your friends understand how you feel?

Super Secret Bonus Question

When asking these questions your kid might respond with an “I don’t know.” That’s when the super secret bonus question comes in.

19. Let’s pretend you did know. What would you do then?

Sometimes kids (and grown-ups too) get stuck when asked for solutions. They’re afraid to sound stupid or that it might not be the “right” answer. By moving the conversation into the imagination, it helps them tap into their natural creativity and makes it safe to explore options, rather than having to be “right.”

Your Turn

What is one of your favorite questions to help grow confidence and leadership in children?

Other Topics Related to Growing Confidence in Children

Have you seen our new Children’s Leadership Book? Click here to learn more.

Ten Tips on How to Build Confidence in Kids (Working Mother)

9 Secrets of Confident Kids (Parents)

How Being a Parent Improves your Leadership Competency

Children’s Books on Leadership: Questions to Inspire Young Thinking

Be the Leader 52 Tips

52 Tips to Be the Leader You Want Your Boss to Be

Be the Leader You Want Your Boss to Be

You’ve got this. You care, you want results, and as a leader you’re committed to Winning Well. But life gets busy and complicated. Sometimes you just need a quick reminder to get you back on track. Here they are: 52 tips to be the leader you want your boss to be.

1 Remember why you choose to lead: prioritize people and purpose above power, prestige, or pennies.

2 When stuck or overwhelmed: Ask “How can I…?”

3 Solve problems before they occur with clear expectations. Mind the MIT (Most Important Thing)

4 Know your addictions: Are you prone to do it all yourself, people-pleasing, using fear and using people to get things done, or playing games to keep yourself safe?

5 Land in the “And” – It’s not an either/or choice. In every circumstance choose to show up with confidence and humility. Choose to focus on results and relationships.

6 Remember that everyone you lead is a volunteer – even when they’re paid they have a choice about how they show up. You get to influence the choice they make.

7 What matters to them should matter to you.

8 End every meeting by asking: “Who will do what, by when, and how will we know it is done?”

9 Apologize when you screw up, break your word, or hurt someone.

10 When leading peers, be clear whether you’re speaking as their leader or as their colleague.

11 When delegating, create a mutual face-to-face appointment on both calendars where you will receive the project. This ensures delegated tasks don’t fall through the cracks.

12 Hold everyone accountable. It tells your high-performers that you value them. When you let performance or behavior slide, you’re telling everyone you don’t care.

13 Terminating someone for cause is compassion for them and an investment in your team. Be the leader that cares enough to let them go.

14 Connect every “what” to a meaningful “why”.

15 Value people’s time – treat it with respect and expect results from everyone.

16 You can’t lead if you’re always exhausted. Take care of yourself.

17 You’re the drummer of the band. Be the leader who keeps the beat for your team with consistent expectations.

18 You won’t have all the answers and shouldn’t solve problems on your own. Share them with your team. Ask “How can we…?” and let the team take it.

19 Cultivate confidence by asking “What would a confident leader do here?” Then do it.

20 Ask for, and expect the truth. Don’t shoot the messenger.

21 Promote wisely. The most important decision you make is whom you will trust with power and authority.

22 When you don’t agree with a decision, own it anyway. Empower your team by asking “How can we?”

23 Be clear about who owns the decision before you ask for ideas.

24 You can’t ‘do your best’ at everything. Know your MIT (Most Important Thing.)

25 Check for understanding. Don’t ask “Any questions?” and assume they get it.

26 Choose to be effective rather than ‘right.’

27 Things will go wrong – sometimes badly. Don’t blame. Ask, “How can we fix this?”

28 Ask your team “How can I help?” and listen to what they need that only you can provide.

29 When asked for answers, don’t rush to help. First, ask questions that promote critical thinking and problem-solving.

30 Every meeting should achieve results and build relationships.

31 Meetings: invite the least number of people to make the best decision.

32 Meetings: choose only one discussion at a time: Where will we go? or How will we get there?

33 Meetings: begin by clarifying how the decision will be made. Will you make it? Will the team vote? Or by consensus?

34 Learn and leverage your team member’s strengths. Don’t waste time or energy on weaknesses unless it’s limiting the use of their strength.

35 Find superstars by hiring for the strengths displayed by your top performers.

36 When interviewing, avoid hypothetical questions. Ask: “Tell me about a time when…” they demonstrated a key competency.

37 People are different. Value, embrace, and incorporate the strengths in those differences.

38 Ask “How can I help?” when you know things are going well.

39 Release energy with specific, meaningful, and relevant encouragement.

40 Know where your team needs to go. Focus on the steps to get there, not on the obstacles.

41 Put people before projects. The project will end, but the people will still be there. Invest and collaborate.

42 To influence your supervisor, know what keeps their leader up at night.

43 People need to hear you say “You can do this.”

44 Want innovation? Make it safe for people to have ideas that don’t work.

45 Address performance issues by observing the behavior, ask about it, confirm the desired behavior. (See the INSPIRE model for more.)

46 Foster collaboration and end needless bickering by establishing clear expectations, priorities, and how everyone interacts to achieve these results.

47 Play the game, don’t game the score. What are the key behaviors that drive results. Your customer doesn’t care what you get on your internal scorecard.

48 A blunt axe can’t cut down a tree. Invest in your skills and health.

49 It’s not about you – people’s behavior is about them. Help things make sense to them.

50 Remote and virtual teams are still people. Treat them as such.

51 Use performance reviews to develop strengths and limit liabilities. Everything else is a waste of time.

52 Grow your leadership and impact by connecting to your team, to a community outside your job, and to mentors.

Your Turn

We’d love to hear from you. What would one vital leadership tip you add to help others be the leader they want their boss to be?

Project Management: How to Hold the Best Accountability Conversations

Project Management: How to Hold the Best Accountability Conversations

Project management isn’t for the faint of heart. You’re pressured from above to produce results and from below to cultivate relationships with your project teams. And in between, you’ve got scope creep, stakeholder politics, and vaguely supported contingency plans. You can become an expert at managing these and other core project management challenges. But to do so, there is one skill you’ll need to master.

FOR EVERY $1 BILLION INVESTED in the

United States, $122 million is wasted due to poor project performance.

–Project Management Institute 

The Biggest Project Management Challenge


Projects may fail for many reasons. But projects that have failed all have one thing in common: accountability has been replaced by finger-pointing.

You can learn to support people to take responsibility for their roles in a project’s outcome. Through short, strategic accountability conversations, you can teach people to do what they’ve agreed to do, ask for help when they need it, and dig in to contribute at their highest possible levels.

When you have accountability conversations consistently, your projects will meet schedule, budget, and quality goals more often.

An appropriate feedback conversation is a short, specific talk that (1) draws attention to the issue; (2) facilitates mutual discussion; and (3) inspires and confirms commitment to new behavior.

 The I.N.S.P.I.R.E. Model For Project Management Accountability Conversations

To begin and guide such a conversation, you can use the I.N.S.P.I.R.E. Accountability Tool from our best-selling book Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul:

Effective Communication Karin Hurt and David DyeI- INITIATE

Initiate the conversation in a respectful manner. Traditional feedback models often start with the person giving the feedback asking for permission. For example, you might ask a colleague, “Can we talk about what happened with this deliverable?” Feedback is best received when you’ve been welcomed to provide it.

Sometimes, though, the conversation isn’t optional. You may need to be more direct. Even in those instances, you can still establish respect. For example, you might say, “I need to talk with you today. Is this a convenient time or would you prefer this afternoon?” Initiate accountability conversations as close to the moment of concern as possible. Don’t wait three days to address an unkept agreement or heated conversation. Take care of the issue at the first opportunity.

N- NOTICE

Share your concern or observation.

  • “I’ve noticed that you agreed to a deliverable beyond this project’s____.”
  • “I’ve noticed that your conversations with IT have gotten more ____.”
  • “I’ve noticed that you haven’t weighed in on the contingency plan I ____.”

S- SPECIFIC SUPPORT

Provide specific, supporting evidence you can see.

  • “We agreed that all additional requests from the client would be discussed before being agreed to. That discussion did not____ .”
  • “In your last two conversations with IT, you were shouting by the end of the____ .”
  • “I asked for your feedback or approval within two weeks, but I haven’t received a response from____. ”

P- PROBE

After you present the situation, the other person needs a chance to talk. Ask a question in a neutral, curious tone to allow her to share

any relevant information. Generally, “What happened?” is adequate and allows the person to share information or to own the situation.

  • “What happened with that agreement?”
  • “What happened on those calls?”
  • “What happened that you haven’t responded?”

Occasionally there will be an understandable reason for the poor performance. For example, the person may be struggling with family issues. If this is the case, ask what support they need to regroup and get back on track.

I- INVITE SOLUTIONS

Once the other person has had a chance to share his thoughts, invite him to solve the issue. Start with a review of the expectations, then ask for his thoughts on how to resolve the problem. If he can’t come up with an effective solution, you can provide specific suggestions on how the situation could be handled.

  • “The success of this project hinges on our ability to deliver on schedule and within budget. We can’t do that if we get overextended. I suggest you revisit your agreement with the client and explain that we can only add this deliverable if we receive additional resources to do so—making it crystal clear that we are committed to this project providing the highest quality outcome for them.”
  • “I recommend that you ask yourself what your colleague in IT is actually trying to communicate to you. Consider if you may be overly defensive in how you’re responding. How might your conversations be different if you extended the benefit of the doubt?”
  • “It’s critical that we develop a plan to mitigate this project’s risks. Your perspective is important to that process. I need you to weigh_____. ”

Sometimes you may discover that people simply need more training about how to manage their emotions, energy, and time effectively.

R- REVIEW

Ask one or two open-ended questions to check for understanding and one closed-ended question to secure commitment.

  • “What concerns do you have about this approach?”
  • “How would your results be better if you did that every time?”
  • “Can I count on your commitment?”

Ask the contributor to review her specific commitment: “To ensure I’ve communicated effectively, can you please recap what you will do?”

E- ENFORCE

Enforce the behavior and why it’s important while reinforcing your confidence that the person can do this.

  • “I’ll look forward to hearing about how the client wants to move forward to resource this new____.”
  • “I’ll check back with you on your next three calls and listen for you extending the benefit of the doubt to your colleague. This project needs your relationship with IT to be healthy and productive.”
  • “I’ll look forward to seeing your feedback to the contingency plan I suggested within the next three____. ”

You might conclude with:

  • “I appreciate your taking the time to make this____. ”
  • “I have every confidence that you can do____.”
  • “Thank you for your time and____. ”

According to a recent study in the Harvard Business Review, 92% percent of people agree that if delivered appropriately, negative feedback is effective at PMI EMEA Congress 2018 Karin Hurt and David Dyeimproving performance. When behavior doesn’t change, it’s often because the feedback is too vague, or the conversation goes so long that the other person forgets what he needs to do. Work to I.N.S.P.I.R.E. specific behavior change and deepen accountability through managing the art of tough conversations.

Are you headed to the Project Management Institute’s EMEA Congress in Berlin? So are we. We’d love to have you join us in our session.

For more information on our keynote programs  and Project Management PDU training, contact us at info@letsgrowleaders.com

 

collaboration - can we trust you

Collaboration – Can We Really Trust You?

It’s easy to talk about collaboration. It’s much harder to do it.

After visiting one of our clients in Guatemala City, Karin, Sebastian, and I traveled to Antigua, Guatemala where my daughter owns a clothing design business. She took us to Hobbitengango, a Tolkein-inspired Hobbit-like village set in the mountains overlooking a beautiful Guatemalan valley whose motto is “Disconnect to reconnect.”collaboration - building trust

There, we met Dan, one of the visionaries and architects behind the solar and wind-powered village (where you can stay overnight in a Hobbit house and enjoy fantastic food.) Dan is passionate about Guatemala’s natural resources. He works to fight deforestation, regrow Guatemala’s forests, and clean up trash in the countryside.

He shared some of the challenges he encountered creating what has become a popular tourist destination.

When he started out, Dan encountered a man who was illegally harvesting lumber. He called the authorities. They caught the man and asked if Dan wanted to press charges.

Instead, Dan offered the man a job: planting trees.

“He needed to make a living and support his family. He can’t do that from jail,” Dan said. “Now he’s able to provide and he’s repairing some of the damage he did to the forest.”

Dan shared another incident where a car drove off the road and into a neighboring farmer’s field where it did a lot of damage. As soon as he heard about the damage, Dan went to see what had happened.

When he arrived at the field, a woman “rushed out of her house, waving a machete, and yelling, saying I destroyed her fields and don’t care about anyone.”

Dan explained that another motorist had caused the damage. He had also already called his soil construction expert to repair her field. In addition, he would build a fence for her property at his expense to prevent future problems.

“She seemed surprised that I didn’t fight back, that I didn’t want to argue.”

Dan smiled, then said, “Why make enemies when you can make friends?”

Why make enemies when you can make friends?

Land in the And

We meet many leaders who talk about the value of collaboration, who want their people working together, and who get frustrated when their colleagues won’t cooperate (which often means “why won’t you see things my way?”)

It caught our attention is that, as a leader, Dan wasn’t just “being nice” in building the relationships with his neighbor and the illegal logger. He was focused on achieving his business results: reversing damage to the forest and building a viable visitor attraction. He does it by building collaborative, results-focused relationships.

This is the heart of Winning Well: your ability to “land in the and” – to focus on both results and relationships, to show up with confidence and humility.

Collaboration – Can We Trust You?

Real collaboration isn’t easy because it requires you to put people before projects and truly invest in the other person’s success. How can you help your colleague achieve their results while they help you with yours?

If you’re in a cutthroat work environment and true collaboration is rare, this might feel incredibly vulnerable and perhaps even naïve.

In these situations, don’t sacrifice your project for the sake of building collaboration. Find small ways to invest in other people, to build trust, and create mutual wins. If someone is toxic and destructive, focus your energy with others.

It will take time.

Dan gained a great team member when he offered the illegal logger a job. His relationship with the farmer, however, didn’t turn into a collaborative success. He greets her and she nods. “But,” says Dan, “She’s not an enemy.”

Your Turn

Collaboration requires trust and investment in other’s success. Leave us a comment and share: How do you build collaborative results-focused relationships at work?

5 ways to drive results through fear and intimidation

5 Ways to Drive Results Through Fear and Intimidation

You’re on the fast track. You don’t need sustained results, you need quick wins. Results matter. You’ve got a review coming up. With a few simple tactics, you can get your organization performing in no time. You’ll be promoted and someone else can deal with the fallout. Just follow these tips for leading with fear and intimidation.

5 Ways to Drive Results Through Fear and Intimidation

1. Prey on their Insecurity

Employees are inherently lazy. They can work harder, they just need the proper motivation. Threaten their jobs (this is easier in a bad economy). Announce a downsizing, but don’t give any details. That will keep them on their toes.

2. Create Competition

It’s all about the stack rank. Don’t reward behaviors, reward results. When employees help others, take them aside and explain the consequences (see #1).

3. Expand Hours

It’s only common sense. The more they work, the more they will get done. Cancel vacations. Create weekend projects. Sunday mornings are a great time for emergency conference calls.

4. Raise Your Voice

Fear creates adrenaline. It’s better than Red Bull. Raise your voice. This works best when you single out an employee in front of their peers. Yell at one, get everyone moving. You must time it carefully. Keep your calm demeanor when managing up. This will help dispel any potential concerns about your style.

5. Hold Daily Check-Ins

Empowerment is the invention of academicians and sappy bloggers. For fast results, micromanage. Hold daily check-ins with each employee. Never be satisfied. I find it best to practice exacerbated facial expressions on my way to work (a little cosmetic mirror works just fine). If you can’t master the facials, try deep sighs.

Happy April Fools Day from Let’s Grow Leaders. If any of this sounded familiar, attractive (and especially if it ticked you off, please subscribe by entering your email address. We have a growing community of interactive leaders sharing their leadership ideas. Or better yet, take a look at our book, Winning Well. 

Footnote: Concerned that my International followers would think me insane, I learned that many countries celebrate similar practical joking days in the Spring, April Fools Day Traditions Around the World.

how to dramatically improve team communication

How to Dramatically Improve Your Team Communication

The best way to improve your team communication is to talk about it. Most team frustration stems from expectation violations, not just about what we’re communicating, but how. It’s always inspiring to see a team carve out some time, shut the door, and have a reflective, candid conversation about how communication is helping and hindering progress.

Here’s a Winning Well team communication check-list we use with our clients and in our virtual leadership programs.  You can download a FREE formatted of the tool here. Team Communication Check-in.

Winning Well Team Communication Check-in

We encourage you to use this tool with your team and let us know what you learn and what you do next.

Confidence

  • We encourage one another to “Ditch the Diaper Genie” and celebrate when we speak with respectful candor.
  • We solicit and encourage new ideas.
  • I feel encouraged to stand up for my point of view.

Humility

  • We “Own the U.G.L.Y.” and schedule time to talk about what’s not working and how we can improve.
  • We have a proactive strategy for soliciting “full-circle.” feedback up, down and sideways.
  • I admit when I’m wrong.

 Results

  • We clearly communicate our expectations of one another and frequently Check for Understanding.
  • We hold one another accountable (and have I.N.S.P.I.R.E. conversations as needed).
  • I know what I need to do to succeed on this team and what the team needs to achieve to succeed in this organization.

 Relationships

  • Our meetings help us achieve results and build relationships.
  • We have clear, shared expectations regarding timely responses to emails, voice messages, and texts.
    • Email Timeframe: _______________
    • Voicemail Timeframe: _______________
    • Texts Timeframe: _______________
  • We respond to emails, calls, and texts in a timely manner.
  • On this team, I can say what I need to and I will be heard.

Your turn. What are your favorite ways to communicate about communication? What would you add to this tool?

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?

town hall meetings: 5 critical mistakes to avoid

Town Hall Meetings: 6 Mistakes to Avoid in Your Leadership Message

When done well, corporate town hall meetings are an inspiring way to get everyone on the same page, to communicate your MIT priorities, to hear what’s on the minds of the people closest to your customer, and to say thank you. We’re huge believers in great town hall meetings, motivational kickoffs, and bringing the team together for a creative ruckus.

And as keynote speakers, we are often truly honored to be included in these corporate events. It’s awesome to collaborate and hear the messaging and how the senior team is working to engage and connect with the team. It’s the best when we can all work together and align and integrate our ideas to have the greatest impact.

6 Critical Mistakes to Avoid in Your Town Hall Messaging

We’ve seen some amazing Winning Well communication from rock star leaders. And sadly, we’ve also experienced a few town hall meetings that, despite best intentions, turned into a colossal waste of time and expense.

What makes the difference?

No amount of theme-based snacks, creative SWAG, or even remarkable keynote speaking can make up for poor messaging from the senior leader. Be sure to avoid these six common, critical mistakes when forming your message in your town hall meetings.

1.Talking EBITDA* over What I Need From Ya

Of course, including a few slides on the state of the business is important. Your team wants that kind of transparency. But resist the urge to pontificate on all the details. Work to simplify the messaging and focus on the “so what?” What do you want them to do to move the needle? How can they make an impact on the bottom line? Be as specific as possible in terms of needed behaviors.

2. Winging It

“Oh I had some notes prepared, but you know what, I’m going to just throw these away and talk to you.” Every time we hear these words, we cringe.

We get what you’re trying to do here, and we love the sentiment. You’re looking to show up real and really connect. And yet, the CEOs who really pull this off well, aren’t actually winging it–they’re usually the ones with the MOST executive communication training and experience.

They know exactly what they want their audience to think, feel and do as a result of their message. They know what stories they might want to share and why. They may not know the exact words, but trust us, the folks that pull this off have a master plan.

3. Banning Interaction

It might seem paradoxical to hold a town hall meeting without a time for questions, but we’ve seen it happen. When you don’t engage with your people you look either insecure or arrogant. Insecure leaders don’t believe their own message. Arrogant leaders lack the confident humility to Channel Challengers.

4. Staging Q & A

Nearly as bad a mistake as no interaction is faked interaction.

Just like when preparing for skip-level meetings, we highly recommend you do your homework and consider the questions you’re most likely to be asked—and to consider your best answers so you’re not caught off guard.

What shouldn’t be rehearsed is the people asking the questions. If your direct reports are meeting with their teams to vet all the questions in advance, and telling folks what they can and cannot ask you, you’re completely defeating the purpose. We’ve seen this practice more than once. Bless their hearts, they’re just trying to prevent their teams from embarrassing themselves in front of you. But that’s not the point is it?

Take questions, be ready for the tough ones, and grow your influence by answering authentically.

5. Being Out of Touch

This a particularly cringe-worthy mistake. David has sat with entry-wage employees while a leader spoke to them about the difficulties of owning a sailboat in the Caribbean. Back in Karin’s corporate executive days, she sat with her team as her boss took the stage in a town hall that she had helped to arrange. She watched as her boss delivered the most out-of-touch message you can imagine:

Her team and many others in the audience had been in one of those “all hands on deck” seasons … as requested from senior leaders. No vacations. Lots of overtime. Crazy hours for all.

Then, from the microphone, they heard the leader say, “At the end of the day it’s all about work-life balance. Here are pictures of me and my kids over the last week. I’ve got to tell you, in the last decade, I’ve never missed a little league game.”

Karin’s phone blew up. It was May,  the heart of little league season. She had a team of people who really cared about their kids and their sports, all of whom had missed a little league game that week. #NotHelpful

6. Bringing the Diaper Drama

Don’t wrap hard truth in layers of spin, manipulation, and evasive double-speak. We’ve watched leaders who didn’t trust their people enough to be honest with them lose all credibility as they avoided saying what needed to be said. If you have to reorganize to stay competitive, if a new initiative is going to require changes, or if everyone needs to improve their customer service by a quantum level, it’s time to Ditch the Diaper Drama. Think through the consequences of the change, have a plan in place, be compassionate, and speak the truth.

Your Turn

When you avoid these six mistakes, you’re on your way to town hall meetings that inspire your people to achieve results with specific behaviors and build more connected relationships with every team member. What are your secrets to successful corporate town hall meetings?

*Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization

motivate your team

Motivate Your Team – Avoid This Mistake

Early in my career, I made a critical mistake that’s very common, even when you’re a leader who cares and wants to motivate your team.

I discovered my mistake when Joanne handed me an envelope.

Inside was a single page. I unfolded the paper with its neat creases and found a letter, typed in three succinct paragraphs.

“David, thank you for the opportunity to volunteer, however, I would like to reevaluate my service…”

Ouch.

I was twenty-four years old and Joanne was one of several volunteers on a team I led. Together we served students in an after school program.

With words as clean and crisp as the onion skin she’d typed them on, Joanne told me that I was wasting her time.

But, she didn’t stop there. In those sparse paragraphs, she gave me a blueprint.

A blueprint that would transform my leadership, a key to release team members’ energy and motivation, and a secret weapon to attract top performers.

The blueprint will work for you too. With it, you have the foundation to motivate your team.

The Truth

If you truly want to motivate your team, understand that everyone is a volunteer. (Tweet This)

Every employee you lead, every director you report to, every colleague you work with.

Regardless of their pay, you can’t force people to work beyond the minimum. You can’t compel creativity. You can’t push problem-solving.

Your employees choose (often unconsciously) how they’ll show up each day, especially for the hard work. How much energy will they spend? Will they will find solutions and solve problems or ignore them? Wages and salary don’t directly motivate your team and affect these choices, but leadership, culture, clear goals, and their intrinsic motivation do.

The Trap

This is where many leaders fall into a trap.

It’s the same trap I’d fallen into and that Joanne highlighted in her letter.

You see, I believed that since everyone on the team was a literal volunteer, I should not set my expectations too high or hassle them about their performance. After all, I needed bodies to help, they weren’t being paid, and if I were hard on them, they’d leave, right?

As a manager, you might have found yourself reluctant to hold an employee accountable because you were worried that they’d leave. We’ve watched many leaders tolerate abusive employees and childish temper tantrums for fear they’d lose the person—who was always “too valuable to lose.”

Nonsense. That’s a trap.

When you let expectations slide, when you tolerate poor performance, when you allow abuse, you are telling everyone on your team that you don’t care.

Imagine a volunteer who contributes their time and energy, works diligently, and always strives to do their best, working alongside someone who is abusive or half-hearted in their efforts.

What will happen to your hard-working volunteer?

Answer: the same thing happens to a paid employee. They’ll lose heart, shut down, and possibly leave altogether.

And why not? You’ve told them you don’t care about them. Their work doesn’t matter. The mission isn’t important.

That’s the exact opposite of trying to motivate your team.

Joanne’s Blueprint to Motivate Your Team

In her simple, plain-spoken letter, Joanne shared some ideas I could use to set clear expectations for the volunteers and how those expectations would serve the children.

In short, we needed accountability.

If nothing changed, she explained, she would find better uses of her time.

Can your team find a better use of their time?

Or…are expectations clear, everyone holds each other accountable, and together you accomplish results beyond what any of you could do individually?

Your Turn

Joanne’s letter was a lesson in tough love. It didn’t feel good at the time.

But her message changed everything for me: She helped me understand that everyone’s a volunteer.

That everyone has a choice. That people’s time is precious. That it’s up to me to make their time on my team worthwhile.

When you don’t practice accountability, you devalue the mission, the work, and disrespect your staff.

When you hold people accountable for their work and behavior, you communicate that what they’re doing matters. You demonstrate respect and value for your mission, for your work, and for your employees. That’s a blueprint to motivate your team.

Leave us a comment and share: What does people-centered accountability look like for your team?

Project Manager Tools: An Easy Communication Tool

How to Run a Better Project: A Communication Tool For Project Managers

Whether you’re a PMI certified project manager working to spearhead several large-scale projects, or a manager balancing a critical project while still doing your day job, you know the importance of communication. 

And yet, people typically don’t communicate well. Especially not about risk; about the myriad ways their best-laid plans could implode. And when their plans do implode, and negative emotions kick in? Their communication gets progressively worse.

What does this mean for you, as a project manager? It means that in your efforts to get a struggling project back on track, the deck is stacked against you. The very thing you need—open, fluid communication among your stakeholders—is likely to be the one thing you won’t get. Communication takes time to rebuild once it’s broken down. You know the schedule you’re always up against. You don’t have that kind of time.

57% OF PROJECTS FAIL DUE TO BREAKDOWNS IN COMMUNICATION. –IT Cortex

The best solution for you is to prevent your project from veering off track in the first place. To do that, you’ll need to consistently and ruthlessly seek out understanding of the risks your project faces.

An Easy Project Manager Communication Tool

A significant part of our work is supporting project leaders and teams to ‘own the ugly’ around what could prevent their teams from meeting project goals. Technology is progressing faster (and workplace culture is changing faster) than at any other point in human history. Your most important work as a project manager is to be aware of when you’re lagging behind, so you can take steps to immediately redirect and get your initiative’s efforts back on course.

To launch and guide candid, “ugly” conversations about the ways your project could be at risk, you can use the “Own the Ugly” Communication Tool inspired by our best-selling book Winning Well A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul:

Own the UglyU- What are we Underestimating?

Typically, the element of project management that’s most often underestimated is communication. You and your stakeholders understand the technical and operational risks to your project. You’ve taken steps to mitigate those risks. But you can understand risk and still underestimate the impact of failure on people.

When a project begins to veer off course—when deadlines are missed and deliverables don’t produce desired results — communication breaks down. Poor communication increases the risk of your project’s failure exponentially.

Consider, are you underestimating that?

Ask yourself how can you shore up your communication channels now, before your actual encounter with any of the dozens of elements that can take your project down. Where do you need to pay closer attention to how people talk to one another? The tone of your team’s day-to-day conversations is a good indicator of the strength of their relationships. People who are in strong relationships are more likely to keep communicating under pressure.

Create space for contributors to your project to dig in and identify exactly where communication will break down first—how, why, and between whom—if goals start to be missed. In having this conversation, you’ll learn a tremendous amount about your stakeholders. You’ll discover where they are already struggling to communicate effectively with one another and, possibly, with you.

G- What’s Got to Go?

As a project manager, you know better than anyone, to succeed, projects must be agile. Conditions change, and the things that you’re doing now may not make sense anymore.

Ask your team, “Which of our processes are more habit than value? What meetings are wasting your time? What’s simply gotta go for you to have the time, energy, and resources to focus on what matters most to this project’s desired outcomes?”

Ask these questions now. Be fierce about purging the policies and norms that are keeping your contributors in a holding pattern. Facilitating agility is more often about subtraction than addition.

L- Where are We Losing?

Mapping out a project management strategy and following through on your plans can be a monumental effort. But what happens when you and your contributors do everything ‘right’ and still fail to make strides in meeting your project’s initial goals?

Well, then it’s time for the gloves to come off—all the way off.

Ask, “Where are you under-performing despite your best efforts, and why? Who is doing it better, and how? And, most importantly, what systems and partnerships must evolve to support your effort?”

Leading projects within a rapidly shifting business environment isn’t easy. It’s hard. Be proactive in discovering why you’re not effective. Set yourself apart from other project teams that are waiting for change to happen to them, instead of because of them.

Y- Where are We Missing the Yes?

Beyond your project’s scope lies a universe of possibility. As project manager, you know this. That’s why you keep a sharp eye on scope creep. To meet your project’s budget, timeline, and promised outcomes, you must ensure promises don’t outstrip resources.

And yet. Is the mindset to prevent scope creep holding you back from effectively assessing creative options? Are there partnerships, research, or tangential efforts that, while not strictly within your project’s parameters, could deepen your team’s results?

Every now and then, remind yourself and your team that it’s okay to remove the blinders and explore counterintuitive options. Cultivate that curiosity. And, have the uncomfortable conversations about the ways curiosity isn’t cultivated within your project and the impact of that absence.

PMI EMEA Congress 2018 Karin Hurt and David Dye

Remember—you’re going to need innovative solutions should your project’s risks ever become reality.

Won’t you join us? Are you a Europe-based Project Manager? We would love to have you join us for our session at the PMI EMEA Congress in Berlin. Click here for more information.

Download this Project Article to Share with Your Project Manager Colleagues

Would you like a printable version of this article? Click here.

See Also: 6 Reasons Even the Best Project Managers Fail 

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)