Got Influence? An Easy Way to Show Up Stronger

Got Influence? An Easy Way to Show Up Stronger

Are you looking to improve your influence? So was Brad.

“Brad” was a solid manager with stagnated results. He was great at constructive feedback and holding his team accountable, but recognition did not come naturally to him.  “Why should I say thank you to someone for just doing their job?”  He was frustrated with his team’s apathetic approach, and his inability to influence it, which only made him less inclined to celebrate the good stuff. As you can imagine his team began to feel like they “couldn’t do anything right,” which led to a downward spiral of more apathy and frustration.

We asked him to just add one new influence behavior to his daily routine–notice people on his team doing something right and tell them.

Everything else could stay the same. He committed to conducting five informal recognition moments a day, which meant that he had to go out of his way to find the good things that were happening, say something about them, and to measure them.

He put five rubber bands in his left pocket, and each time he observed (and affirmed) a positive behavior, he could move one rubber band to the right pocket. The goal was to finish with all the rubber bands in the right pocket by the end of the day.

That one simple change made a huge impact on his influence and results. His team began to do more of the behaviors he was encouraging, and he had less negative behaviors to criticize, reversing the spiral.

One simple change. Executed and measured well, made the difference.

How To Develop One New Leadership Influence Habit in the New Year

You can live on old habits for a while, but the future depends on investing in finding and building some new ones with (and for) your customers. Or your family. Or yourself. The most powerful insight is that you can do it with intent. You can decide that you want some new habits, and then go get them. -Seth Godin

 

If you’re like many leaders we work with, you’ve got a long list of good intentions–habits and behaviors that you know could make you a stronger leader if you did them consistently. But it’s hard. Old habits are hard to break, and you’re busy. It’s easier to just keep leading the old way.

At what cost?

What would happen if you picked JUST ONE of those behaviors and made it a habit?

Perhaps for you, it’s…

  • Calling five detractor customers each day to understand what went wrong
  • Reading to your child 20 minutes each day
  • Blocking one hour each day of white space on your calendar to think and plan strategically
  • A proactive, organized approach to updating your boss each week
  • A 15-minute walk at lunchtime
  • Holding a meaningful 10-minute huddle with your team each day
  • Meeting with each direct report for 30 minutes each week

The Approach

  • Pick one behavior you know that if you performed it consistently would help your team.
  • Set a specific goal. Determine EXACTLY what will you do and how will you measure it.
  • Measure the times you do the behavior each day.
  • Repeat each day for one month.
  • Assess the impact–after one month look at the impact on both results and relationships.

Don’t worry about tackling your whole list of ways to be a better leader… just pick one new behavior and work on it consistently, every day, until it becomes a habit.

YOUR TURN: What could you do with five rubber bands in your pocket?

 

 

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

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

Let’s Grow Leaders Q&A

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

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

Dear Karin & David:

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

Dear Healthcare Leader:

Creating change from within an organization is often challenging.

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

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

How do you change culture norms?

The short answer here is often: slowly.

Particularly if you’re not leading the entire organization.

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

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

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

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

How do you challenge and covert mindsets to change?

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

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

  1. Answer the Question

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

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

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

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

  1. Make Them Partners

People don’t argue with their own input.

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

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

  1. Demonstrate Success

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

  1. Leverage Leaders

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

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

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

  1. Make Real Change Happen More Easily

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

  1. Make It the Norm

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

  1. Share the Score

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

  1. Celebrate Success

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

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

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

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

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


Creative Commons Photo by Mattanalogue

Most Popular Leadership Advice: Let's Grow Leaders Top 10 Posts of 2017

Most Popular Leadership Advice of 2017: Top 10 Posts

We’re excited to bring your our most popular leadership advice of 2017. It’s always so much fun and interesting to see which of the year’s posts and topics resonate most with our Let’s Grow Leaders community. Here’s what you liked and shared the most as measured by page views.

We want to write on topics that will be most helpful for you! If you have a topic you’d like us to address in the New Year, please drop us a note at info@letsgrowleaders.com or leave a comment and will see what we can do to work it into our editorial calendar.

Bonus: Most Popular Leadership Advice from Let’s Grow Leaders

Of the 927 posts published to date on Let’s Grow Leaders, there are two that continue to draw in substantial traffic every day as top leadership advice and ranked in the top three for this year.

5 Secrets to Great Skip Level Meetings (April 2014)
Done well, skip level meetings can inspire, engage, motivate and inform the skipper, skipee, and even the skipped. On the other hand, poorly run skip level meetings inadvertently bring on diaper genie feedback and diminish trust. Read more

leadership in kidsChildren’s Books on Leadership: Questions to Inspire Young Thinking (November 2012)

Which children’s books are the most helpful in teaching leadership to kids? I posed this question in my online leadership communities, as well as to parents, and a children’s librarian. The suggestions came pouring in. So many of us have fond memories of reading as a child and of reading with our own children. Thank you to all who shared your stories of the stories you love and the meanings they hold. Read more 

Most Popular Leadership Advice of 2017 on Let’s Grow Leaders

10. What the Best Leaders Know About Disengaged Employees (March)employee engagement
In this post, I share one of my signature keynote stories and the importance of “strapping on your skates” and making a genuine connection with the human beings you’re leading.

9. How To Get Noticed as a Leader–Before You’ve Led a Team (August)
Practical ways to demonstrate your leadership, before you take on a formal role. How to Get Noticed as a Leader– Before You’ve Led a Team

leading for results8. 3 Behaviors That Will Convince Your Boss You’re a Rock Star (July)
In this post, we cover a few of the behaviors we work on in our R.E.A.L. professionalism training.  3 Behaviors That Will Convince Your Boss Think You’re a Rock Star

7. 4 Powerful Ways to Get Helpful Feedback From Your Peers (October)
Here we work with our “Channel Challengers” concept that we address in many of our programs– with specific ways to solicit helpful feedback in a way that you can hear it.  4 Powerful Ways to Get Helpful Feedback From Your Peers

6. One Awful (But Common Leadership Practice and What to Do Instead One awful but common leadership practice and what to do instead(November)
David explains the downsides of the common leadership practice “Don’t bring me a problem without a solution” and offers concrete ways to help your team think more critically One Awful (But Common) Leadership Practice and What to Do Instead

5. How to Motivate Your Team When You’re Exhausted (July)
Here we share our technique of “looking down the mountain” and gaining confidence and motivation from past successes. How to Motivate Yourself When You’re Exhausted

4. 3 Simple Secrets to Running a Remarkable Meeting  (August) 
In this post, we share three of our Winning Well meeting management techniques that we frequently work on in our Winning Well programs.  3 Simple Secrets to Running a Remarkable Meeting

3. One Reason Your Employees are Rolling Their Eyes (March)
It’s sad when managers work to recognize employees, and all they do is roll their eyes. Learn how to avoid some of the most common recognition mistakes.One Reason Your Employees are Rolling Their Eyes

2.Stop This Terrible Habit You Don’t Even Know You Have (January)
Here I confess one of my biggest personal leadership challenges and why it can be so destructive.  Stop This Terrible Habit You Don’t Even Know You Have

Let’s Grow Leaders #1 Post of 2017

Mind the MIT Let's Grow Leaders1. 8 Techniques to Help Your Middle Managers Cultivate Their Sweet Spot in Your Organization

On paper, your middle managers are in your organization’s sweet spot. They’re the conduits between your strategic vision and the teams who implement that vision. In reality, however, your middle managers are in a tough place. They’re under increasing pressure–from above to improve results and from below to cultivate deeper relationships with their teams.

Results and relationships can be complementary; in developing relationships, managers can improve their teams’ results. But in practice, too many managers fall into an either/or mindset. They either drive hard for results and railroad their people, or they focus on team building and miss the numbers. Either way, they wind up feeling isolated, frustrated and overwhelmed. They find themselves working longer hours, caught in a vicious cycle between “being nice” to their teams to prop up morale and running everyone into the ground to win at all costs.

(Read more) 8 Techniques to Help Your Middle Managers Cultivate Their Sweet Spot in Your Organization

We were also delighted to be featured in the Training Industry’s top 10 articles of 2017

Shocking Truth About Santas Leadership

The Shocking Truth About Santa’s Leadership

Year after year, I’ve watched the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer television special and cringed at Santa’s leadership and the atrocious leadership displayed by nearly every adult character.

  • Donner rejects his son.
  • Santa ignores Rudolph’s obvious leaping skills because of his nose.
  • The workshop foreman ridicules Harvey (the elf who wants to be a dentist).

The workplace culture at the north pole stinks! It’s a great example of what we call “trickle down intimidation.” The leaders take their cues from how things are done at the top. Santa’s leadership leads to dysfunction at every level.

Fortunately, Santa must have found an early copy of the Winning Well Confidence-Competence model in his stocking. By the end of the show, he sees and encourages Rudolph’s true strength, competence, and talent. Christmas is saved.

Do you build on your team’s talents, strengths, and competence or do you waste time, energy, and capacity focused on irrelevant “weaknesses”? Let Santa be your guide.

SANTA THE INEPT LEADER

Santa, the inept leader
Had a special flying deer,
But if you can believe it
Santa wouldn’t let him near.
All of the black-nosed reindeer
They did all of Santa’s work
He never valued Rudolph
In fact he was quite a jerk.
Then one foggy Christmas eve,
Santa came to see.
Strengths are what you really need,
Weakness is a waste to heed.
Then how the Reindeer loved him
As they flew around and beamed.
Santa, the strength-based leader
Built a real productive team…

Happy holidays!

Your Turn

How do you avoid Santa’s leadership problem and stay focused on the strengths and talents your people bring to work, rather than obsessing about the characteristics they don’t have (that also don’t matter)?

how do I build a team of inspired followers?

How to Build a Team of Inspired Followers

How DO YOU build a team of inspired followers?

Early in my career, I had a GREAT boss, Gary, who had hand-selected and developed a team of rock star leaders. It’s arguably the best corporate team I’ve ever worked on. I’m not sure how he pulled this off, but nearly every member of the team was a  Box 9 succession planning candidate. He was all about developing our leadership and visioning skills, and spent many hours with us debriefing our strategies and making plans.

At one point he told us our team was “an experiment.” He claimed he “was in cahoots with HR” (you’ve got to add his deep Southern accent when you say this for full effect) to build an “All-Star Team” and then challenge them to truly collaborate and see what was possible.

Gary tragically passed away years ago, so I can’t verify whether the “experiment” was real. But whatever he did worked. It was not without turmoil, but at the end of the day, we developed a deep respect for one another, blew away results, most of us ended up in senior-level roles in a few years.

AND THEN: He Challenged Us to Be Inspired Followers

I’ll never forget the day the union went on strike. Gary pulled his cahoot experiment team into a conference room and warned us:

Here’s the deal. Each of you are going to spend the foreseeable future doing union jobs, climbing poles, driving forklifts, answering phones. Sometimes these situations can become dangerous–the union is not happy. There are a lot of smart people who have been working for months on how we should respond to this. We can’t explain it all.  So for now, I don’t want you to be leaders. Until this strike is over,  we don’t need your vision, we need you to step up and be the very best inspired followers you can be.

You can learn a lot about leadership when you concentrate on improving your following skills.

My friend, a retired Baltimore City Battalion chief goes to a similar place whenever we talk about growing leaders.

Karin, yes, we need great leaders. But when the building is on fire or the drug raid is underway, you don’t need 12 great leaders. You need one solid leader and 11 highly skilled followers executing the plan.

Five Critical Follower Behaviors to Train, Develop and Encourage Inspired Followers

Following is an undervalued competency. We seldom train or recruit for it. 

And yet, there is huge ROI in training key following and collaboration skills.

If you’re an individual contributor looking to rock your role, or you’re a manager working to get your A team to A+, work to build and reinforce these five critical behaviors.

  1. Holding Tough Conversations: Oh, it’s hard to have a tough conversation when you’re the boss, but exponentially harder when you have no power. Equip your team with the same skills you develop in your managers for giving and receiving effective feedback. I.N.S.P.I.R.E. great communication up, down and sideways.
  2. Thinking Critically: The last thing you want your followers doing is following your stupid mistakes. Train your team how to evaluate nuanced circumstances, ask the right questions, and make the right call.
  3. Managing Time:  Your team is a whirlwind of urgent requests from you, from your customers, and a bunch of crap you may not even fully understand. Help them identify the MIT (Most Important Thing) priorities and behaviors and build a system for managing their day.
  4. Connecting What to Why: We teach this to leaders all the time. But it works even better when you can get the whole team thinking this way. Why are we asking our customers to do this? Why am I performing this task this way? Why are we doing this thing no wants to do? Building a deeper connection between what your team is doing it to the deeper why.
  5. Building Trusted Peer Relationships: In a stack-ranked world, with limited resources creating trusted peer relationships is a fine art. Your team needs tools and practice–and support from you to reach out and build relationships even with the most frustrating folks in other departments.

This year, what will you do to build followership competence on your team?

6 Ways to Get the Information You Need to Make the Best Decision

6 Ways to Get the Information You Need to Make the Best Decisions

Mark stared at the floor, his jaw clenched in frustration. He wanted to make the best decisions, but…

I was sitting with a leader who had just crashed and burned. He’d made a decision that had cost him his reputation and maybe his job.

He looked up at me and with a quiet whisper, Mark asked, “Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

The sad part was that it didn’t have to happen this way. People in his organization knew it wasn’t a good call. He had everything available to ensure that he made the best decisions…

But he never heard their feedback.

He was known for an explosive temper, for belittling and shaming people who saw things differently than he did, and he only ever asked people to validate what he thought.

In short, he never knew how to Channel Challengers.

Many people in positions of power often sabotage themselves and create environments where no one will tell them the truth – often difficult truths about themselves.

If you want to achieve breakthrough results, however, you’ve got to make the best decisions possible. To do that you need to have as much relevant information as possible.

6 Ways to Get the Information You Need to Make the Best Decisions

Here are six ways to Channel Challengers and ensure you have the truth and get the feedback you need to make the best decisions:

  1. Ask for the Truth

Regularly encourage dialog in your team. Ask people to teach you one thing you didn’t know. Become a person known for caring what’s really going on. Does what you hear match what you see?

  1. Say Thank You

When someone shares a hard truth, especially about you, thank the person for having the courage, taking the time, and caring enough to share it with you.

  1. Respond

If you ask for input, take time to respond. Even if the ideas aren’t actionable, when you acknowledge that the ideas were heard and considered, you increase the likelihood of hearing more in the future.

  1. Never Ever Shoot the Messenger

If someone has the heart and courage to bring you a difficult truth, even if you vehemently disagree, bite your lip. If you attack them, they won’t bring you another concern.

  1. Find Your Truth-Tellers

There are people who understand their team, environment, or processes and are willing to voice their observations. Find these people, keep in regular communication, and let them know you value their observations.

  1. Look In the Mirror

If you suspect you are not hearing the truth from those around you, it is time to look in the mirror and examine how you are interacting with others. I would bet you are not doing one or more of the first four items on this list.

If you are struggling to see it, ask others for input, find a mentor, or consider a leadership coach.

Your Turn

It may take time, but if you consistently Channel Challengers by asking for the truth, showing gratitude for input, and responding to it, you will earn trust, gain credibility, and have the information you need to make the best decisions.

Leave us a comment and share: How do you ensure you hear the truth from your team and colleagues?

End-of-year meeting:How to host a great end of year meeting

End-of-Year Meeting: How to Make Yours Remarkable

In one way or another, your team has had an incredible year. Fill in the blank: It was incredibly ________(successful, challenging, stressful). Maybe it was all you hoped and planned for. Maybe you got thrown a whopper of a curve ball. Or maybe you can’t wait for the calendar to turn over and start again. Your team’s feeling it too. Don’t throw the opportunity out with the holiday wrappings. Carve out time to talk about what you learned in an end-of-year meeting.

It’s tempting to have a “no one talks about work” luncheon, do the secret Santa thing and have a few giggles. Or, to jump right into 2018 planning, “after all the past is behind us.” The best meetings build both results and relationships, and an end-of-year meeting done remarkably well sets the stage for thoughtful reflection and a more energized start to the new year.

How to Have a Remarkable End-of-Year Meeting

Make a CAREful plan and have your best end-of-year meeting ever.

C- Celebrate 

Celebrate both results and the human beings who achieved them.  Be sure your team knows the Most Important Things (MIT) they accomplished in terms of both results and building relationships. For example, it’s not just the 28% increase in efficiency, it’s also that they improved the contentious relationship with IT that made the collaboration possible.

If you’re doing formal recognition, resist the urge to just pick the top three by the numbers of a stack rank. Consider HOW the results were achieved. There’s nothing more demoralizing to a team than seeing their boss recognize some bozo who gamed and back-stabbed his way to the top. If there’s any chance your team will be texting one another “WTF” when an award is given, supplement your criteria to include behaviors that matter.

A-Acknowledge

Acknowledge the disappointments. Acknowledge what you could have done better. Acknowledge the effort that may not have paid off the way you would have hoped. Acknowledge the effort that did.  When we ask our audiences  “What’s one thing you feel underappreciated for?” at work, the number one answer is always, “The time I spend developing my people.” Acknowledge that too.

R-Renew

Do something to refresh and renew. One year one of my sales managers took his team bird watching in the local park, before digging into their strategic review. Another year I hired a caricature artist to come do a composite sketch of the team. Another time, we had white elephant exchange, but instead of wacky presents, each member of the team brought their favorite business book– people were stealing from one another right and left, and the side effect was a lot of strategic reading and dialogue happening that year. Most years at Verizon, I brought my team to my home for a planning session followed by a dinner celebration. Find some way to refresh and have some fun along with the reflection and planning.

E-Engage

Engage the team. Ask each team member to reflect on their own contributions in terms of results and relationships this year, as well as disappointments.

If you’re holding a small meeting with just your direct reports give them time to share. If you’re hosting a larger event, there are lots of fun ways to engage and capture reflections, from sticky notes and grouping themes; to “best of”/”worst of” reflections on index cards collected at the beginning and sorted into themes; to simple polling texting apps, with results projected immediately on the screen.

Find a way to get your team’s best view of the year into the conversation.

2018 Fast Start

Operational Excellence RalliesGet your team off to a fast-start in 2018. Learn more about our Let’s Grow Leaders Operational Excellence Rallies. Let’s us help you and your team have a remarkable fast start to the new year.  We’d love to talk more about how we can custom-design a one or two-day strategic working session with high ROI.

 

how to support your project managers

Six Reasons Even the Best Project Managers Fail

The project is mission critical, and complicated with lots of moving parts across departments. You’ve assigned your rock star, PMI certified project manager to shepherd the process and the project is way behind schedule. She’s frustrated, you’re one missed deadline away from frantic, and your boss wants to know what she can do to help. What next? How do you best support her and your team of project managers to ensure their success?

Six Reasons Even the Best-Run Projects Derail (and How to Help Your Project Managers Avoid These Traps)

When great project managers fail, which they sadly sometimes do, the root cause is almost never a breakdown in a technical expertise. More pressure on the PM won’t solve these issues; neither will more frequent readouts or points of escalation. When your great PMs fail, take a step back and check for these surefire project derailers.

1. Lack of Executive Alignment

Of course, every exec in the room was “all in” when their boss said, “Fix this now, we need all hands on deck.” But what exactly does that mean?

What exactly are we fixing now and how?

What does success look like?

Which departments are going to do what by when and how will we know? If this is not clear at the executive level, you’ll never foster true collaboration a level or three below.

How does this issue rank in priority to the other top 3 issues everyone is already working on night and day?

When your PM goes out looking for support and resources, where does this rank? Are you sure all are aligned?

2. It’s Not the MIT (Most Important Thing). 

Closely correlated to number 1, your project team members are attending your meetings, agreeing to next steps, and then going back to their “real” priorities and day jobs. If your project is not what’s top of mind for their boss, it’s unlikely any tasks will be on the top of their to-do list.

3. The Team’s Full of B-Players

I’m guilty as charged. Perhaps you are too. Have you ever been asked to commit resources to a project that you feel is a distraction from your MIT? All “headcount” is not the same. If your project is failing, you may have more than one leader giving you less than their A team.

4. They’re Too Stressed to Put People Before Projects

The pressure’s on and the team jumped right in, no wasted time. Teams take a minute to gain trust and to build collaboration. If the team is failing, a quick time out to focus on the people issues might be just the trick. Go slow to go fast.

5. No One Wants to Hear the Tough Stuff

If #3 doesn’t apply, you have the A-team, everyone’s aligned on MITs and expectations, but you’re telling the team to stop complaining and make it happen– you might be missing the most valuable insights for true project success. Be sure you and your team are taking time to channel challengers.

6. PMs Don’t Feel Empowered to Have the Tough Conversations

No project succeeds without clear expectations and accountability. But so many of the PMs we work with share how hard this is without the support they need to lead through influence.  Here’s our INSPIRE methodology applied to Project Managers.

I.N.S.P.I.R.E. Model for Project Managers

Your turn. When great project managers struggle, or when important projects derail, where do you look first?

sexual harassment in the workplace

Sexual Harassment: The Second Most Troubling Part of All These Revelations

The most troubling part of the recent sexual harassment revelations is that they happened.

We are deeply saddened by the constant parade of allegations and the deep pain being surfaced and resurfaced for so many. No one should feel threatened or demeaned at work. No one should be intimidated by sexual acts. No one should suffer in years of silence, humiliation, and shame because they were scared into doing something they regret by someone more powerful.

The Second Most Troubling Part of all this Sexual Harassment

For us, the second most troubling part of all these sexual harassment stories is that other people knew what was going on, and did nothing.

In the case of Matt Lauer, while we can’t know for certain what happened, victims report having informed management at the time (NBC management maintains no current executives were aware of past reports and they acted immediately once they were). Many of the other recent revelations (e.g. Charlie Rose, Louis CK) were followed by bystanders saying they were aware at some level and chose to stay silent.

It’s not just celebrities.

It’s “Steve,” a manager who observes his boss verbally harassing women on his team, yet stays silent.  And, “Jane” who tells the “girls” on her team to “just ignore” the inappropriate touching, “It’s no big deal. Let it go.” Or the co-workers who know John is sick of the homophobic jokes, but just ignore their peer’s banter, because John does too.

“Unless someone like you, cares a whole awful lot.

Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”
-The Lorax, Dr. Seuss

We understand the fear that keeps people silent. Often, saying something means risking your career or reputation.

So does staying silent.

You can’t lead without trust. Staying silent or refusing to treat these situations seriously tells your team you can’t be trusted – not when it really matters. You undermine your credibility and erode team unity.

Moving Forward

We don’t need another policy. Most human beings know right from wrong.

We need courage.

We need to build cultures where speaking the truth is not only tolerated, but encouraged.

We need leaders to lead. To take a stand, even when it’s hard. To recognize that choosing self-protection over what’s right is exactly what perpetuates inexcusable behavior, degrades trust, and permanently damages relationships and results.

It’s going to take all of us to end this epidemic of harassment and distrust.

What will you do next time?

How to differentiate your performance

5 Ways to Differentiate Your Performance and Stand Out

Working to differentiate your performance can be a real challenge.

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

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

5 Ways to Differentiate Your Performance and Stand Out

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

1. Know what matters most.

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

Ask:

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

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

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

2. Fix something broken.

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

3. Build a clear cadence of communication.

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

4. Strengthen strategic peer relationships.

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

5. Invest in your own development.

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

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

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

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

Bad advice don't bring a problem without a solution

One Awful (but Common) Leadership Practice and What To Do Instead

“Don’t bring me a problem without a solution.”

It’s nearly a leadership cliché:

You’ve probably been on the receiving end of a harried manager barking these words at you. You may even have said them yourself.

I’ve delivered many keynote programs and workshops where frontline leaders in the audience approach me afterward and proudly announce how they are in the habit of telling their people not to bring a problem without a solution.

Some of them even mean well. They believe that they’re helping their people. Others just want people and their problems to go away. They’re usually surprised at my response:

Please stop.

Unintended Consequences

Here’s the thing, if you’re in a leadership role, yes, your executives can fairly expect you to think things through and bring solutions (particularly when you’ve got bad news – see the D.A.R.N. Method). You’ve got the experience and responsibility to be able to own your problems and look for answers.

However, your employees are a different audience. Telling employees not to bring a problem without a solution is careless and lazy.

They may not know how to problem solve. They may lack critical thinking skills. They may not have the training or information they need to arrive at reasonable solutions.

The problem with telling people “Don’t bring me a problem without a solution” is that when they don’t know how to come up with solutions, you’ve essentially just told them, “Don’t bring me a problem.”

Now you’ve got people mucking about with problems they can’t solve and that they won’t bring to you. The problems fester, productivity and service decline, and everyone is frustrated.

There’s a better way.

Help Employees Learn to Think Critically and Solve Problems

The answer is definitely not to play the hero and jump in with answers, nor is it the old-school “Don’t bring me a problem without a solution!” The immediate problems might get solved and work continues, but next time an issue comes up, your team still can’t figure it out for themselves and, worse, you’ve now taught them that if things get difficult, you’ll just figure it out for them.

Yes, you’re the hero, but say goodbye to your own productivity!

What they really need from you in these moments are your questions: the kind of questions that focus on learning and the future. Questions that generate ideas and solutions.

Examples include:

  • What is your goal?
  • What did you try?
  • What happened?
  • Do you need a specific skill or tool to be able to solve this?
  • What would you do next time?
  • What do you think will happen when you try that?
  • What will you do?
  • Super-bonus question – keep reading to learn this powerful tool!

Assuming that your staff have the basic skills, training, and materials they need to do their jobs, this conversation doesn’t have to take more than a few minutes. For a complex project, it might take the time required to drink a cup of coffee, but it shouldn’t take much longer than that.

Now, you might be wondering what to do if the person replies to one of your questions with, “I don’t know.”

Don’t despair – it’s time to use the super-bonus question. When a team member says, “I don’t know,” most managers will then jump in and supply the answer, but not you. There’s a better way.

“I don’t know” can mean many things. Rarely does it mean the person has zero thoughts about the issue.

More often, “I don’t know” translates to:

  • “I’m uncertain.”
  • “I don’t want to commit before I know where you stand.”
  • “I haven’t thought about it yet.”
  • “I don’t want to think about it.”
  • “Will you please just tell me what to do?”
  • “I’m scared about getting it wrong.”

Your job as a leader is to continue the dialogue – to ease the person through their anxiety and train their brain to engage. This is where the super-bonus question comes in.

With one question you can re-engage them in the conversation and move through “I don’t know” to productivity.

When someone says, “I don’t know,” your super-bonus question is: “What might you do if you did know?”

Before you judge this tool, try it.

Try it with your children, with your co-workers, or with the person next to you in a coffee shop. In any conversation where someone says, “I don’t know,” respond with a gentle, “What might you do if you did know?” and watch what happens.

It’s like magic.

The person who was stymied two seconds ago will start to share ideas (often good ones) brainstorm solutions, and move on as if they were never stuck. It’s amazing and hard to believe until you try it.

The super-bonus question works because it addresses the source of the person’s “I don’t know.” If they were anxious or fearful, it takes the pressure off by creating a hypothetical situation: “If you did know…” Now they don’t have to be certain or look for your approval and they become free to share whatever they might have been thinking.

If they hadn’t thought about the issue or didn’t want to think about it, you’ve lowered the perceived amount of thought-energy they must expend. You’re not asking for a thesis on the subject, just a conversational “What might you do…”

Our brains can do amazing work when we remove the emotional blocks. When you do this for your team, you train their brain to engage, to push through their ordinary blocks, and increase their performance. Ultimately, they will be able to have these conversations with themselves and will only need to bring the very serious issues to you.

You’ll know you’re succeeding in asking healthy questions when a team member tells you: “I had a problem. I was going to come and talk it over with you, but then I thought, you’re just going to ask me all these questions. So I asked myself all the questions instead and I figured it out.”

Celebrate those moments and encourage them to start asking those questions of the people around them. You’ve just increased your team’s capacity for problem-solving, freed up time to focus on your work, and…you’ve built a leader!

Your Turn

Before you bark “Don’t bring me a problem without a solution,” remember that when a team member has trouble thinking through a problem, good questions are your best solution.

Leave us a comment and share: How do you develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills in your team?

find the fire book Leadership Relationships Scott Mautz

Want a Tighter-Knit Team? Look to the Family For Inspiration

It’s our pleasure today to bring you a guest post from Scott Mautz, author of Find the Fire: Reignite Your Inspiration and Make Work Exciting Again. -Karin & David


Believe it or not, we’re actually now spending more time with coworkers than family; this is true of almost 80% of people who work thirty to fifty hours a week. So it’s probably not surprising that research indicates we’re increasingly viewing our coworkers as direct extensions of our family. Group dynamic researchers say the parallel should make intuitive sense considering that the first organization people ever belong to is their families, with parents the first bosses and siblings the first colleagues. “Our original notions of an institution, of an authority structure, of power and influence are all forged in the family,” says Warren Bennis, the late management guru.

So since we’re there already, why not take a closer look at the best (and worst) of family dynamics to create through-the-roof camaraderie?

It’s worth the pursuit. Studies show that top-rated places to work share a sense of camaraderie as a key ingredient in their success formula. And the “add-on” effects of camaraderie in the workplace are astounding; nearly 40 percent of survey respondents named their coworkers as the top reason they love working for their company, 66 percent said those positive relationships increased their productivity, and 55 percent said they helped mitigate their on-the-job stress levels.

Now, if you stop and think about the attributes of a happy family, you’ll soon realize the number of traits that would be applicable for creation of a close-knit group in the workplace. And while each unhappy corporate family is unhappy in its own way, happy corporate families are all alike. They:

  • Make heartfelt connections with one another, showing warmth and an interest to connect
  • Openly and honestly communicate (even over-communicate) with one another
  • Have a sense of watching one another’s back, and that “we’re all in this together”
  • Are fiercely committed to each other and put each other first
  • Share goals and values, uphold family codes
  • Enjoy each other
  • Have compassion and move towards rather than away from one another in crisis
  • Help each other grow and support each other

The idea is to keep the nuclear family metaphor front and center and to strive to embed family values into your own workplace culture. But as you do so, it’s important to be mindful of darker family theatrics that all too often play out at work. Research in workplace dynamics indeed confirms that people tend to recreate their own family dramas at the office. Do any of these situations seem familiar?

  • Over the top or desperate plays for approval from bosses
  • Backstabbing of and bickering with scene-stealing co-workers
  • Bickering in meetings like at the family dinner table
  • Shying away from authority figures
  • Harboring petty jealousies towards co-workers
  • Hypercritical judgment of subordinates or co-workers

The key is to bring all the best of a caring, family mindset to an organizational culture while leaving behind all the subconsciously engrained worst aspects. A failure to at least do the latter can lead to a substantive productivity drain. A two-year study by Seattle psychologist Brian DesRoches found that “family conflict” type dramas routinely waste 20 to 50 percent of workers’ time.

How might your behaviors change if you acted as if your co-workers were actually family? Would you exhibit the powerful “happy family” behaviors previously listed?

It’s a filter that can drastically change your day to day interactions with others and maximize meaning derived from your relationships in the process.