7 Ways To Spring Your Team Into Spring

Spring is springing. The vortex is melting, and now you sense spring fever coming on…for you and your team. Embrace this season of new growth and possibilities. Making Spring a workplace celebration will help offset the “wish I was outside” blues.

Spring Into Spring

  1. Establish Spring Growth Goals – Challenge your team to a growth spurt before summer. Help each person identify concrete way they will grow in the next 90 days: a special project, a new skill, mentoring someone or finding a mentor. Model the way. Pick your own goal and talk about your challenges and progress.
  2. Hold A Spring Training – Pick an exciting team stretch goal for the team and rally the troops. Hold a “spring training” to get everyone “in shape” to win against this challenge.
  3. Make Work A Game – Challenge another team to a friendly competition that will help both teams stay more focused and have a little fun. Engage in a little trash talk.
  4. Plant Some Seeds – Hold a “seed planting” campaign. Have your team identify other areas of the business (or prospects/customers) where they could plant some “seeds” (e.g. ideas, new relationships, collaborative work) for future growth. Have each person share their seedling idea in a team meeting.
  5. Do Some Spring Cleaning – Have the team pick something specific they can do to improve their work environment: Clean-up their emails, throw away unnecessary files, bring in some flowers, create a motivational display. Even remote teams can engage in a Spring cleaning competition and share their pics.
  6. Give In (a little) – Plan a team picnic lunch outside. Create an after work walking group. Have everyone pick one day they will leave an hour or two early and plan something fun for themselves. Find ways to share what they’ll be doing with their Spring Fever early start. Plan an outside teambuilder, like bird watching over lunch.
  7. Volunteer – Pick a volunteer project you can do as a team. They’ll have a break, grow as a team, and do something for the greater good.

When Work Is Play

Work should be fun, but should it be playful? Pause here. What were your first reactions when you read those words?
Perhaps some of these thoughts are running through your mind:

  • “Work is not fun, that’s why they call it work”
  • “Play is not good for my leadership image”
  • “Sometimes, in the right context.”

In my day job, I work with different companies with unique cultures. I was in one center this week, which had developed a Jimmy Fallon meets training sort of way to keep their reps up to speed on breaking news and key initiatives. It was funny, upbeat, engaging, and most importantly sent a crystal clear message.

This video streams live to reps computers every few days, and they look forward to the next edition. After watching that short segment, reps are crystal clear on what’s important and what to do next.

The “bloopers” they shared at the kickoff were even more entertaining.

When I spoke with the COO about the approach, she shared that one of the leaders who is “anchor” is normally so serious and results-driven. It’s nice to see him leveraging the lighter side of his personality to engage these young reps. He’s a well-rounded leader using all his strengths. Results are on a hockey stick trajectory.

My Play

Ask my team, I’m dead serious about results (and we achieve them). But, I’ve also been known to play from time to time. This round of kickoffs includes a video with me doing one of my kickboxing stunts and pretending to clumsily knock over one of my Directors (p.s. no leaders were actually harmed in the making of this film).

When I was in sales, and we were launching the Droid phone, I rented professional Star Wars costumes for my leadership team (I was Leia) and we drove hundreds of miles visiting our retail locations. It inspired the team and the customers loved it. My little guy even dressed as Luke at met us at one of the stores before school (kids make great leadership side-kicks.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Of course this is not every day, but a sprinkling of leadership play can go a long way.

Your Play

I’m collaborating on a book with LaRae Quy, Alli Polin, Terri Klass, Chery Gegelman and others on Energizing Leadership. I’m on point to write about play at work. Would love your insights to any or all of these questions. Or any other ideas you have on the topic in the comments. I would appreciate you passing this along to any playful leaders you know. Looking to cast a wide net for stories.

  • Why is play important at work?
  • What are the dangers and downsides of play?
  • What’s the difference between productive play and down right silly?
  • What is your most memorable playful work experience? What made it great?
  • Are you a playful leader? Why? How has that impacted your leadership?
  • What examples can you share of play leading to breakthrough results?
  • What examples do you have of play backfiring?

If this is really your scene, or you know others I should talk to, please drop me a line at karin.hurt@letsgrowleaders.com

Winning When The Troops Are Tired

“I’m so sorry,: I whispered before he could even say hello. It was Sunday afternoon, and it was the third time I had to call.

He graciously spoke what we both knew was technically true, “Karin, no worries, this is my job.” But it had been a long couple of weeks, and I knew he was tired.

I hated to keep pushing, but the business needs were real.

7 Ways to Counter Attack Tired

Be a leader that strengthens the mission and the team. It’s wrong to live in a state of constant urgency, if that’s the scene, something’s wrong. Leaders must lead in seasons. But when the going gets tough, it’s important to plan your triage.

  1. Strategize Failure – The business needs this AND that. But some battles will win the war. Help your team understand what matters most. Be frank about what can be lost without sacrificing your mission. Candor strengthens resolve. Empowering “less than perfect” energizes the frontlines.
  2. Visualize the Win – Help them build a team vision aligned with the strategy. Brainstorm creative tactics and alternative approaches. Encourage talents outside normal job descriptions that support the cause.
  3. Speak to Behaviors, Not Metrics – Too many metrics exhaust. Trend and study results, but coach to behaviors. Identify the 2-3 most important behaviors that will impact results.
  4. Provide a Little Leave – The normal response to overwhelmed is longer hours and fewer breaks. Review their calendars and help them find white space. Eliminate unnecessary meetings. Stepping back will leave room for creativity and more efficient approaches.
  5. Communicate Through the Ranks – Your highest performers won’t complain. They’ll take on more, and work longer hours to get it done. You may not even know they’re tired. Initiate the conversation. Establish regular check-ins. Make it okay to politely question your asks.
  6. Manage Your Own Stress – Stress rolls down hill. Get a grip.
  7. Encourage Collaboration & Sharing Best Practices – Fast paced pressure creates silos. Catalyze best practice sharing. Eliminate redundant work. Benchmark how other departments are approaching similar issues. Ask for help from unusual suspects. You’ll get support and it will enhance their development.

50 Shades Of Boring: When Leaders Are Bores

It all looks so sexy. Corporate jets. Dramatic moves. Microphones. When it’s a Cinderella story, it’s even better. It’s easy to romanticize leadership success. To imagine the stroke of genius, the well-timed leap of faith, sitting with the right guy on the plane. No one wants to hear the boring parts, but they’re there. Always.

“The real story is actually probably pretty boring, right? I mean, we just sat at our computers for six years and coded.”
~ Mark Zuckerberg

Sleepless nights figuring it out. Triple checking the deck for the big presentation. Revising the speech 18 times, and practicing 20. Slogging through. The great idea that nobody gets. And the next one and the next.

People reveal their boring once they’ve “made it.’ Then boring becomes an intriguing part of the story. Before that, it’s just, well, boring. Right now, your bosses boss is likely doing something way less cool than you imagine. It’s tedious, but it works. So she invests the time, day after day.

The gymnastics coach has watched her vault 400 times. It’s a yawner, but she’s got potential, so he critiques every move. Tomorrow’s Mark Zuckerberg is revising the code, again. And here you are ___________.

What if you got better at boring?

Practice more. Rehearse that speech 4 more times. Triple check the spreadsheet. Invest in the differentiating monotonous tasks. Correlate the data. Start over. Keep trying.

How To Become A More Energetic Leader

Your team needs you to show up strong, energetic, and ready to go. It’s hard for your team to run out of steam, when the leader they admire keeps showing up strong. Energetic leadership is contagious and inspires results.

I’ve been observing the most energetic leaders I can find, and looking for themes. I’ve also been paying close attention to those who show signs of burn-out (the biggest sign is they tell me so).

4 Causes of Energy

  1. Calling
    Feeling deeply inspired to a passionate calling ignites fires even the worst days can’t extinguish. When you’re connected to a deeper calling, setbacks stoke the flame. Look for the deeper meaning in what you do. Almost all work has meaning when done well. Engage your team in that cause.
  2. Commitment
    Is it a job, or something more? Feeling a deep commitment to outcomes drives energy. Commit to personal goals you must achieve. Committed marathoners train in the rain. Discover what you’re willing to wake up early and slush through puddles to achieve.
  3. Connection
    Energy is contagious. When work sucks, deep relationships save the day. Invest deeply and build lasting relationships. Build professional intimacy. Invest in light connections with every person you encounter. Smile more, help strangers, the energy will multiply.
  4. Comeback
    The most exciting game to watch is the comeback. The underdog leaves it all on the field, and pulls it out. That can be you. Put your rally cap on, garner your resources, and give it another go. Celebrate the small wins, and go for another. Nothing is more energizing than turnaround success.
  5. What would you add as #5?

Real leadershipThis post is the 3rd of 4 on Energy, as part of the REAL Leadership Model. Stay tuned by entering your email address to subscribe. Already part of our community, invite 2 friends. Let’s grow the conversation and our leadership together. Namaste.

Shake It Off: When To Let It Go

“Shake off all fears of servile prejudices, under which weak minds are servilely crouched. Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call on her tribunal for every fact, every opinion.”
~ Thomas Jefferson

Bad stuff happens. Life is unfair. Stupidity drains our energy. We must learn from the tough stuff. And then, shake it off.

  • You’re highly qualified, and don’t get the job, again.
  • Irate customers take their bad day out on you.
  • Your peer is stressed out at home, and is making the project miserable

Of course, you have a role in the story. You must learn from each scene. But, it’s not only about you. Don’t get defeated. Like the proverbial duck, let the dirty water roll off, hold your head high, and swim on with grace.

Shake it Off, A Time Out Story

We on our way to go tubing. My 7-year-old had invited an older friend he admired and desperately wanted to impress. The banter in the back seat turned to conflict.  Something felt unfair. Suddenly, all that “I’m trying so hard” energy erupted in an outburst of tears (from my kid). His hard work to fit in as an older guy, left him looking like a baby. I stopped the car (had a gentle parenting moment) and then said, “okay now shake it off.” We both physically shook our arms and legs, and got back in the car. He rallied.

Grown-Up Shake It Off Moments

The Job Search

Every week I get compelling emails from our LGL community. Beautiful leaders stuck in bad situations. Feeling defeated. The job market is still terrible in many areas around the world (I received 3 emails on this topic from subscribers in 3 different countries just this week). You are not alone. Sure there are important actions to take resumes to hone, interviews to streamline. Do all that. Most importantly, don’t let defeat get you down. Know your worth. Shake it off, stand tall, keep knocking.

Customer Interactions

In the customer facing world, looking to “wow” customers in every interaction can be tough. Face it, sometimes customers are mean. They’re mad at something in their lives, that is not about you, or even your company. Create connection, find empathy, do everything you can. Once you hang up the call, shake it off. Don’t transfer that negative feeling to the next (mostly likely reasonable) customer.

Weird Vibes

Yesterday, I overheard a conversation on the train. I’ve had that same conversation hundreds of times. The guy in the next seat was trying to calm down the woman on the other end of his phone. Her peer was acting like a jerk, the situation had mushroomed and work was suffering. The side of the conversation I could hear went something like this. “It’s not about you. Your peer is really dealing with some complex issues. Try to be as caring and helpful as you can. And, as hard as this sounds, some of this you need to just let go.

A pretty cool poem that may help, She Let Go.

Real leadershipNote: This week, I’ll be dealing with angles of “energy” the second branch of the REAL model. Holding on when we need to shake it off, will drain energy. Reclaim some of yours. Stay tuned this week for other angles on energy. Add your own thoughts. Don’t want to miss any of this? Enter your email to receive updates. Share with a friend. Let’s grow this community together.

5 Ways To Unblock Leadership Energy

I felt my energy drain as I drove toward the call center. The center’s results were stagnant– it was time to dig deeper. I was there to help, but also to deliver some tough messages. Necessary, not fun.

“Joe,” one of the managers, ran enthusiastically across the parking lot. Joe’s energy ignited mine. The day was looking up. As we walked toward the center together, Joe high-fived and encouraged each arriving rep. They responded in kind. More positive vibes.

We entered the building and the rest of the managers sat quietly at the conference room table nervously awaiting my (and now Joe’s) arrival. The difference in energy–palpable.

Joe’s results blew away the rest of the struggling center. While the other managers shared action plans, Joe excitedly articulated his leadership vision and robust examples of personal connection, challenges and growth.

When I met with the executive team offline I questioned, “How do we get more Joes?” They squirmed, “We can’t expect everyone to have that level of energy.”

Energetic Leaders are Born, Made, and Destroyed

Energy is union, with yourself, the vision, and the team. Energy isn’t extraversion. Don’t waste your time looking for “Joes.” Unblock the stuck energy on your team. It’s not that hard. Release their inner “Joe.”

Empowering low energy destroys potential.

5 Energy Pressure Points

Your leaders have innate energy yearning for release. Get them unstuck. Their energy will cascade, and pretty soon you’ll have an entire organization high on Qi (9 out of 10 studies show well running Qi beats energy drinks without that awful crash ;-).

  1. Missing Connection – Connection fuels fire. Teach the power of connecting, with you, peers, and their team. Model the way. 360 feedback and coaching helps. So can a good talk. Explore insecurities and fear preventing valuable connections.
  2. Faking it – Pretending exhausts. Leaders pretend to look the part, fit in, mask insecurities, hide secrets. Help your leaders uncover and use their mutant powers by using unique skills that stretch them beyond their current job.
  3. Blurry Vision – Fuzzy vision confuses. When leaders lack energy, it’s often that they don’t understand (or buy-into) the vision. It’s hard to act jazzed, when you don’t get it. Go slow. Help them understand the bigger picture. Encourage closed-door dissent and questions. “Ah ha” moments radiate energy. Then help craft and practice messages.
  4. No Options – Choices ignite. Challenge your team with exciting possibilities. Leaders lose energy when they’re stuck. Stuck in their career, in a role, in a project. Help them discover options and new challenges.
  5. Stress – Stress sabotages . When leaders are stressed from competing priorities or home concerns they lose the necessary energy to lead well. Help them balance their goals and energetic pursuits.

10 Ways To Zap Energy And Squash Enthusiasm

Bad leaders suck life-force from their teams. They don’t mean to. And yet, contagious yawns permeate the workplace. Low energy abounds. Why?

I’ve been asking this question everywhere this week (my organization, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter). Here’s the top 10. I’ll leave it to you for #11.

10 Energy Zappers

  1. Blurry vision – Working frantically without a clear purpose is dumb. With pressure, dumb morphs into exhausting. Leaders must clearly communicate the vision and engage the team.
  2. Lack of connection – If everyone around you is gung-ho, and you don’t get it look within. It’s not them, it’s you. That’s great data. If you have one person on your team who you just can get there perhaps it’s time for a tough conversation. Learn what they really want to do.
  3. Missing information – Without information we make stuff up; make-believe is always worse than the truth. Filling in blanks is exhausting.
  4. Inauthenticity – Folks want the truth about the dynamics and safety of their organization, the market forces and challenges, competitive moves and yes, where they stand. Not knowing dims life-force.
  5. Feeling stuck – Lack of career growth or forward progress. Help your team grow.
  6. Personal ick – One follower wrote,
    “What gets me down or out of my regular mode of existence cold weather and not having a lover.”
    Honest feedback. We’ve all got our stuff. Leaders must lead humans, even in the winter. He added:
    “Nothing or no one can demotivate me. I’m the ony person who can motivate myself.”
    Yes! Tap into, and encourage, the personal elements in your leadership. Your team may need a listening ear and an understanding heart more than a pep rally.
  7. Too many priorities – Overwhelmed confuses energy. Refine focus to streamline energy.
  8. Unattended conflict – Healthy conflict energizes. Buried conflict exhausts.
  9. Boring – Monotony leads to sleepy.Mix it up. Create challenges. Find fun in repetitive tasks.
  10. Festering negativity – Even one whiner makes people crazy. Take Mr. Negative aside and get underneath. When others complain to you encourage straight talk. Don’t underestimate the impact of a loud negative minority.

*Photo by Larry Kohlenstein

Want Great Customer Service? Call A Vampire

If you need to contact a customer service call center, today would be a good day.

You will likely get great customer service. Employees will be happy, spirits will be high.

Oh, and the pictures will be fantastic.

From my experience and in talking to leaders in call centers across the industry, today the phones will be answered by vampires, zombies, clowns, and pirates. There will be joy in their voices, a skip in their steps, and their customer service will be delightful.

Why Costumes Lead to Great Customer Service

I asked a seasoned customer service leader why costumes work.

It’s the energy. My theory has always been that results on any singular day are driven by atmosphere. So costume days increase the fun and excitement, and it shows in the tone and inflection. When you are having fun and are excited, the pace of your conversation, the conviction of your voice are upped another level. The secret we all wish we could bottle is the energy and excitement on the floor. For the long-term it’s driven by effective coaching, and the only way coaching works is if you have a willing audience, you get that by how you interact daily.

Why Leaders Should Wear One Too

I have spent much of my career finding excuses to wear wigs, sing songs, and inspiring others to do the same. My “best of” pics lining the walls of my office include my entire leadership team dressed as the gang from Star Wars, Diana Ross and the Supremes, and other “you just had to be there” moments. These times create lasting memories and bring the team closer together.

Costumes work because…

  • Costumes are silly, and silly is fun. We all need that
  • Fun makes us real. Real creates connections. Connections inspire awesome customer experiences
  • Teams long for a leader to show they are vulnerable. Nothing says exposed like a blue wig.
  • Risk taking is an important leadership competency, it’s a bit gutsy to ask your team to follow you into a costume, maybe it will make the next risk easier to take
  • Silly creates lasting team experiences which draw the team together. “Remember the time she had us all.”(they may complain, but I guarantee the guy who resisted the most has a picture of that day in his office)
  • It says fun is good. Let’s make more. And send me your pics.

Happy Talk: Energizing Results Through Positive Words

At times, leaders must be tough. Very tough. We must set high expectations, we must hold people accountable, we must ensure everyone is always striving for more. That works.

And there is also the need for “happy talk,” timed well.

One thing that I found as I have grown in the business, is how much people listen not just to what we say but to our entire mood. Of course, they text and instant message about it too just saying.

If you google, can humans control the weather… you will get a list of links and even all the patents involved. But, if you ask, Can Leaders Control the Weather the answer seems to be a quicker yes.

I have been paying a lot of attention to the weather being created by myself and others. Particularly the impact of what I call “happy talk,” and the results it can drive.

A few weekends ago, we had lots going on in our business which required many conference calls over the weekend to ensure everyone was in the loop and on track. Each time I dialed into the status call, Nancy (let’s call her Nancy, since that is her real name great when that works), engaged everyone with such tremendous excitement and enthusiasm. Through her “happy talk,” each person understood that their contribution to this effort was vital. Everyone worked very hard and her mood was contagious. The project came off extremely well.

That Saturday night, I walked into a restaurant and heard “I just wish this joint had someone who was eager to talk about leadership now that would be great.” I laughed, knowing that someone in this “joint” knew me and was eager to engage let’s call him “Dave” (since that’s his real name). Not a close friend, but someone who always pays attention, and wants others to feel good so they can grow. He is one of my leadership heroes.

The thing is “happy talk” is engaging. When leaders make people feel great they want to become greater. They want to follow the folks that made them feel happy.

In memory of Claire Graham, who performed the role of Bloody Mary many years ago in our Salem Player’s community production of South Pacific. I will never forget your rendition of “Happy Talk.

Saturday Salutations: Dream Gates

It had been a long night. The plane was delayed and delayed some more. The awaiting passengers were tired and the ground crew was weary of answering questions and rerouting. The rest of the airport was dark, we were the last gate in action. Finally the door opened and we were “ready to board.”

Then the gate attendant got on the microphone with the energy and excitement of an announcer at Camden Yards. And then the magic. Turns out one of the weary passengers was an agent looking for voice-over talent. He handed our cheerful gate attendant his card. The cheerful gate attendant was overwhelmed. He stopped everything for a moment, looked at me and said, “I have been doing everything I can to get into the recording industry, including announcing like this for years hoping to get discovered.” I can’t believe it finally worked. Amen.

Energetic pursuits do pay off. You never know when your dream gates will open.

My “Energy Project”

As I have been doing more writing, I have been paying a lot of attention to which leaders I find most inspiring–and why. For me, energy is a big factor in both whom I want to follow, and who I want on my team.

Leaders with strong, positive, engaging energy inspire others towards great results. It is much harder for the team to run out of steam when the leader keeps showing up strong.

When building teams, I always look for those with an engaged heart and spirit who are fired up with positive intensity. A lot of the other key skills can be taught if a person is wired that way. People have come to understand that this is how I roll, so it is getting easier to attract people who want to live in a fast paced, intense environment. Energy attracts energy.

So with all that outward focused energy, why do I get so tired?

In preparing for this week’s writing, I looked to what others are saying on the subject. My friends at Chatsworth (Chatsworth on Forget About Managing Your Time, Manage Your Energy Instead),  have good thinking on managing energy versus time and using those patterns. That work then turned me on to Energy Project.


The Energy Project hones in on four key areas which drive our energy: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. They offer a free “energy audit” for people to self assess how they are doing in each of these key areas, and then email the results with recommendations. The cool part is that they also offer a sliding energy tool that provides suggestions based on the importance each of those factors has to you.

Take the Energy Audit Here

My results from the audit showed strong energy on the mental, physical, and spiritual dimensions, but that I was on the cusp of “an imminent energy crises” on the emotional front. Suggestions include “taking more time for activities I deeply enjoy” and “having more quality time with family and friends.”Consistent with what my husband said to me just this morning, “I think you need to go do some more yoga, not by yourself, with your friends.” Turns out he is a good energy barometer as well.

So, this weekend I did some yoga, had dinner with my husband, bowled with Sebastian, and paddle boarded with Ben. And now from a calmer emotional heart, I head into a vital week at work and explore energetic leadership on my blog each day. Hope you will join the conversation.