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?

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?

why your team won't collaborate and what to do about it

Why Your Team Won’t Collaborate (and What To Do About It)

“I’m sick of this crap! My team won’t collaborate – why can’t they just figure this out?”

Scott was CEO of an engineering firm that produced communications hardware and software for industries around the globe.

He had worked hard with his board and senior leadership team to settle on their strategic M.I.T. for the next 18 months. They needed to launch a new product to remain competitive in a market they had once led.

He held a company meeting where he made the goal painfully clear to everyone in the room. “We need to get this new product to market by this deadline, or we’re out of business in five years.”

Within six weeks he was exasperated. His people were at war with one another. Several senior VPs were about to quit and the do-or-die deadline was looking like a dream.

We see this frequently: leaders lay out a clear M.I.T. (for more on the Most Important Thing), they check for understanding, and they turn their people loose to get after it.

Before too long, customer service and sales are at each other’s throats. Engineering and marketing are having shouting matches in the halls while finance and human resources won’t talk at all.

When their team won’t collaborate we’ve watched executives get frustrated and shout, “Why can’t you guys figure this out? Just work together and solve the problem!”

Maybe you’re a frontline leader and you’ve worked hard to establish a clear, shared team vision and the M.I.T. initiative for this quarter, but your team ends up squabbling.

Why Your Team Won’t Collaborate

When your people can’t unify in pursuit of a common, clearly established goal, the problem is usually that you’ve only established 50% clarity.

You’ve clarified results, but you haven’t clarified relationships – and that is frequently why your team won’t collaborate.

In Scott’s case (and this is VERY common) he had made the new product a priority, but was still evaluating individual departments based on other criteria.

For instance, customer service was evaluated on their ability to retain customers, but at the same time, engineering was all but ignoring response-to-existing-customer requests in favor of getting the new product to market. So customer service naturally saw stubborn engineering as a threat to their bonuses and even employment.

Customer service continually requested that sales lend some of their people to try to save existing accounts. Sales people were being assessed on quotas that were unrelated to the new product’s launch.

In short, everyone was doing what made the most sense for their individual success and was frustrated that their colleagues wouldn’t cooperate.

Scott had defined an overarching goal, but had left the organizational systems and processes untouched.

Those systems and processes were built to achieve different goals.

When his people came to him and asked whether the engineering prioritization of new product over customer retention was okay, he got frustrated. “Why can’t they just figure it out?”

The answer: Because he’d given them conflicting goals.

What To Do About It When Your Team Won’t Collaborate

Real teams succeed or fail together. They have a clear goal and they all have a clear role to play in achieving it.

Effective leaders establish clarity of results and relationships.

Clarity of results is often easier to define:

  • What’s the M.I.T. we must accomplish this year?
  • What are our three most important strategic M.I.T. initiatives?
  • What are the M.I.T. behaviors we need at the executive, manager, and frontline levels?

Clarity of relationships, however, requires you to address some additional questions:

  • How are roles and handoffs defined and communicated?
  • How do department or individual team member priorities align with M.I.T. initiatives?
  • What are the most important values, systems, and processes guiding everyone’s behavior?

In Scott’s case, this meant we had to ask and answer some tough questions:

  • Would customer retention goals be lowered or continue at prior levels?
  • Either way, how could these be achieved in ways that aligned with the timely new product launch?
  • How much attention should engineering give to resolving existing customer issues?
  • How would performance bonuses be changed to align with the stated M.I.T. of the new product launch?

Your Turn

If you’ve established a clear M.I.T. but people are siloed, caught in endless arguments, and the team won’t collaborate, take a hard look at the relational clarity and how you can get everyone aligned with the new goal – not just in theory, but in reality.

Leave us a comment and share your thoughts: How do you ensure that everyone on your team understands their role in achieving a shared goal?

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.

5 Top Leadership Articles Week of Sept 11, 2017

5 Top Leadership Articles for the Week of September 11, 2017

Each week I read a number of leadership articles from various online resources and share them across social media. Here are the five leadership articles readers found most valuable last week. I have added my comment about each article and would like to hear what you think, too.

How to Be Tough When You Prefer Being Kind by Dan Rockwell

Stress increases when leaders can’t bring kind and tough together.

Kind without tough makes you a pushover.

Tough without kind makes you a jerk.

My Comment: Stress increases, yes – and both results and relationships suffer when you don’t combine kind and tough. Without a disciplined focus on results, people lose focus, infighting increases, and your top performers go somewhere where their performance is appreciated. Without healthy relationships, trust suffers, people burnout, they do the least they can to get by, and inefficiency prevails because people don’t come together to solve mutual problems.

Leaders who combine their focus on achieving breakthrough results with a focus on healthy professional relationships with the people they lead give themselves the best chance to achieve transformational results that last.

Employee Engagement: What Story Does the Data Tell Leadership? By Martie Moore

The first time I used the words “resilience” and “engagement” was with my leadership team at the time. I asked, “What can we do to advance engagement and help people to be more resilient?”

Suddenly, everyone around the table had important emails to read on their phone. In essence, this immediate phone reading signaled an uncomfortable discussion — and their avoidance level.

My Comment: While this article was written for leaders in the long-term care industry, the issues it identifies are typical of the reality faced by leaders across industries: constant connectivity, acute margin pressures, increased pace of change, and uncertain futures are challenges you can probably relate to. This article is the beginning of a series that will look at experience, science, and practical action can take for themselves and the people they serve. It looks promising.

Leading in large organizations is tough. It’s easy for people to lose their identity and humanity as decisions are made by spreadsheet. And yet, almost paradoxically, more humanity, more focus on relationships and results, improves that bottom line. It takes courage along with the specific management and leadership skills we share in Winning Well to meet this challenge and succeed.

A Leader’s Job Is Never Done by Jane Perdue

Given that our state was in the path of totality for the August 2017 solar eclipse, people in our neighborhood gathered to watch. The closer we were to the time of totality, the larger the crowd became.

Within five minutes of the awe-inspiring ninety seconds of darkness and coolness, the crowd had largely dispersed.

The lost interest and crowd thinning-out triggered thoughts in my mind of how we tend to think about many things, including leadership, mostly in terms of their headline-making moments.

My Comment: When I was young, a mentor would often share his perspective that you can’t be a hero in the big moments if you’re not a hero in the small ones. Perdue takes a look at many of the ways that leaders build their credibility, influence, and trust in some of the more mundane, less headline-worthy, common moments that you face throughout your day, week, and career. You’re constantly becoming who you will be tomorrow. With each of these moments, you choose who that will be.

How Can You Make Yourself Invincible at Work? by Wendy Marx

Quick question: How valuable are you at work? Hint: It has little to do with your place on an organizational chart.

The new truth is that grabbing a high rung in an organization’s hierarchy isn’t necessarily a sign that you’re indispensable.

What clinches your value at work is what’s known as informal power — the ability to influence people and overcome resistance where you lack authority. It means being able to get someone to do your bidding where you have no formal authority.

Today you can’t lead simply by virtue of your title.

My Comment: While I’m not a fan of the notion of “getting someone to do your bidding” (it smacks of manipulation and a USER approach to leadership) Marx is right on with regard the role of influence. I won’t promote someone to a formal leadership position until they’ve demonstrated that they can get things done without that formal power. Power gives you the ability to deliver an “or else,” but that only gets a person’s minimum effort. Effective leaders cultivate an environment that releases a person’s strengths, talents, and skills toward the mission and the work.

Marx provides a good exercise you can use to assess how much value you are adding to the people around you and how you can address it if it’s out of balance.

Optimized or Maximized? By Seth Godin

I once drove home from college at 100 miles an hour. It saved two hours. My old car barely made it, and I was hardly able to speak once I peeled myself out of the car.

That was maximum speed, but it wasn’t optimum.

Systems have an optimum level of performance. It’s the output that permits the elements (including the humans) to do their best work, to persist at it, to avoid disasters, bad decisions and burnout.

One definition of maximization is: A short-term output level of high stress, where parts degrade but short-term performance is high.

Capitalism sometimes seeks competitive maximization instead. Who cares if you burn out, I’ll just replace the part…

That’s not a good way to treat people we care about, or systems that we rely on.

My Comment: I loved this article. It gets at the heart of why so many managers can turn into jerks, even if they’re not naturally inclined that way. We call it “trickle down intimidation.” In the interest of short term “maximization,” leaders who lack any other tools turn to fear, power, and control to get things done. And it works, at least minimally. As I said in my comments on the second article this week: it takes courage and leadership skills to choose a different path. To, as Godin says, optimize your leadership, your team, and your company for the long run rather than fleeting and costly short-term gain. It takes courage and practice, but you can do it.

Your Turn

What thoughts do these articles bring to mind? Do you see something differently than the author? Did you have a favorite?

Tanveer Naseer

The Importance of Relationship-Building in Today's Leadership (Tanveer Naseer)

Winning Well Connection

We’ve gotten to know Tanveer through his fantastic leadership writing and thought leadership over the years. He’s been a regular contributor to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival the last few years and a kindred spirit on blending the bottom line with the human spirit.

Relationships For Complex Times

Leadership today has certainly become a complex endeavor.  With an increasingly interconnected global market, along with growing demands on a leader’s time, attention, and resources, it can be challenging at times for leaders to ascertain where they need to be putting more of their focus and effort.

But if there’s one area that leaders should always be paying attention to it’s how well they are building and nurturing relationships with those they lead.  Although most leaders have come to realize that leading through influence is far more effective than leading by authority, the challenge still remains that we ensure that the measures we put in place are serving the best interests of our employees, as opposed to simply lessening the demands we face.

This is where relationship-building becomes critical to our ability to succeed at leadership.  By focusing on building and sustaining relationships with our employees, we send a clear message that our focus is not simply on ourselves, but on how we can help our employees to succeed and thrive under our leadership.

Relationship-building also encourages us to be honest about our motivations and the decisions we make, because they are no longer simply transactional in nature.  Instead, we become mindful of the impact our choices and decisions have on others and consequently, how and what we should communicate to provide them with some context for why things are the way they are.

As I’ve written and spoken about through my work, the true function of leadership is not what you gain, but what you give of yourself to help others.  That we not use our role simply to improve ourselves, but that we help those under our care to become that better version of who they can be.

That’s why people are drawn to work for some of today’s successful leaders – not because of the successes those leaders have achieved, but because of their outward focus on those around them.  A focus to better understand their employees in terms of what matters to them, what inspires them to bring forth their best efforts, and how they can connect that to the shared purpose of the organization.

Interestingly, this paradigm shift from the traditional top-down, command-and-control style of leadership to one based more on a collective interdependence offers a unique form of support for leaders that’s especially needed thanks to the faster pace which we now have to operate.  Namely, that by building relationships with those we lead, we give ourselves permission as leaders to not have all the answers.

Indeed, given the increasing complexity of today’s workplace environments, it’s impossible for leaders to know everything that’s going on, which is why delegation has become so critical to our collective ability to succeed and grow.

There’s no question that relationship-building requires intentional efforts on our part, but it’s important that we understand that it’s no longer requisite because it’s simply the ‘right thing to do.’  Rather, we need to appreciate how relationship-building has become a critical cornerstone to leadership success, if not also how we can ensure that we’re able to inspire the best from those we have the responsibility to lead.

Winning Well Reflection

We appreciate Tanveer’s observation that by building relationships you also give yourself the flexibility to be a leader who asks the right questions – as opposed to one who has to have all the right answers. In our executive leadership roles we’ve both had employees come to us as we were stressed out, becoming overly-directive, and they encouraged us to “Trust the team. We’ll find the answers together.” That’s an incredible power of relationship.

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Shelley Row

Connection: We Feel Good When We Feel Connected (Shelley Row)

Winning Well Connection

Shelley and I got to know one another through our Mastermind group at the National Speakers Association. I admire her strategic mind and warm heart along with her amazing resiliency and poise through the most challenging circumstances.

Feeling Good By Staying Connected

Is there someone you work with who could use a little motivation? Could you use a little motivation? You can’t motivate someone else if you can’t motivate yourself and, frankly, we could all use a little motivation sometime. Too often we think of motivation as money or a promotion but intrinsic motivation comes from inside and is powerful. One of the motivation levers in the brain is connection. We feel good – and more motivated – when we feel connected.

As humans, we are designed as social creatures. In fact, we feel good when we feel connected with others. According to a Simply Psychology article, research by Solomon Asch in 1951 illustrated the strong desire to fit in under pressure. Asch showed groups of people a line of defined length and asked them to select the line of the same length from a series of three. All except one in the group were told to select the wrong answer. The test was to see whether the one person felt pressure to change their answer and conform with the group. Of twelve trials, 75 percent changed their answer to conform at least once even though it was clearly the wrong answer. Your staff and teams feel the same pressure to fit in and be part of a perceived “in-group.” You naturally want to connect with those like you because it makes the brain feel good.

Additionally, recent research shows that for those with whom we feel connected, we demonstrate more empathy, trust, and cooperation. Would it help productivity in your office if people were more cooperative? You know the answer. But at the office, we experience in-groups and out-groups. Motivation is enhanced when we feel connected.

It’s easy to think of in/out groups based on gender and race, but it goes beyond that. Do you have multiple offices? Perhaps you noticed reluctant collaboration or less motivation when working between offices. Has your company merged? If so, there may be a lack of trust between members of the formerly different companies. When I worked for a professional association, we had a headquarter’s office and state chapters. We did our best to work together but it wasn’t easy. We were parts of different groups and didn’t have a connection.

Thankfully, the brain readily accepts new connections. How can you create more connection?

You can create more connection for yourself or between others on a team.

Teams create a sense of connection by setting common goals, naming themselves as a team, jointly establishing their performance norms, and conducting team activities (field trips, happy hours, lunches). You can also create individual connections by seeking out commonalities. The gruffest colleague may soften when connecting about kids, sports, or a shared hobby. Connection fosters greater trust and collaboration.

And for you, personally, who can you connect with that would instill more motivation? Invite them to coffee or lunch and listen for opportunities to connect. I’m a member of a speaking association and while they are a wonderful, talented, generous group of people, they can be a little intimidating and effervescent for this introvert. I sought out the organization’s president because, as a scientist, I sensed a quiet thoughtfulness. Over lunch, which he graciously accepted, I found a kindred spirit who gave me valuable advice about how to better connect with my high-energy, uber-talented colleagues. I left feeling more motivated because I felt that I had a connection in the association.

Who can you connect with? How can you help others find connections within your organization? Both will increase motivation and, frankly, it makes coming to work more fun.

Think Less, Live More. Lessons from a Recovering Over-Thinker

Winning Well Reflection

The trust you need to create lasting breakthrough results, both between you and your team and with team members among themselves, comes from understanding and shared experience. Shelley’s invitation to create connections through personal interest, mutual goals, and spending time together are essential ingredients for high-performing teams that care for one another and supplement one another’s strengths with their own.

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Marshall Goldsmith

The Performance Appraisal that Really Matters (Marshall Goldsmith)

Winning Well Connection

From his books that taught us and informed our early careers, to the selflessness he consistently demonstrates, to his embodiment of professional confident humility, Marshall has been a tremendous supporter of Winning Well. We were honored when Marshall wrote the foreword for our book. Thank you once again, Marshall for your unwavering commitment to blending the bottom line with the human spirit and your support of Winning Well.

I’ve made a career out of helping business leaders develop better relationships with their colleagues and team.  In the course of that work I’ve seen many managers who struggle to achieve business success; much less build meaningful professional relationships.

If that’s you, you’re not alone. The truth is that in companies, nonprofits, and government offices around the world it’s not hard to find stressed out, frustrated, (and often hopeless) managers.  But it doesn’t have to be this way. Not for you.

It’s a message we can’t repeat often enough: you can achieve business performance without sacrificing your humanity, your well-being, or your sanity.

I often share with executives that the only performance appraisal that really matters is the one you give yourself as you look back over your life. When friends of mine interviewed people in the last years of their life, three themes emerged: be happy now, friends and family are critically important, and if you have a dream, go for it.

From a business perspective, my ultimate business advice isn’t very different:

  • Life is short – have fun.
  • Do whatever you can to help people.
  • Do what you think is right.

When you cultivate a healthy management mindset, improve business performance, experience less stress, and build better relationships with your colleagues and team, you’re on your way to a great life and great results. To me, that’s Winning Well.

Ultimately, your work as a manager is about far more than what you make or how you serve your customers. Whether you give it conscious attention or drift along, you will leave a legacy – in fact, you’ve already built one. Take a moment to ask yourself:

  • As of today, what is your legacy?
  • What do you want your legacy to be?
  • What life will you build for yourself, and your family?
  • How will you impact the people around you while you do your work?

There’s a temptation to wait for ‘someday’ before you take action, but that day will never come. Today is the only day there is where you can take action and build the leadership legacy you want to leave the world.

Life is good,

Marshall Goldsmith

Triggers

Click on the image for more information about Marshall’s book.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winning Well Reflection

One of the things we appreciate about Marshall is his ability to cut through complexity and identify the MITs: have fun – help people – do the right thing. Leading well isn’t complicated when we remember that above everything else leadership is a relationship – and relationships are your greatest legacy.

Justin Maust

Refuse to be Offended (Justin Maust)

Winning Well Connection

Justin and I were introduced to one another through a common connection who just knew we needed to know one another based on our values-based approach to leadership. One thing led to another, and in a few weeks, I’m delighted to be keynoting at his  Lead USA event in South Bend, Indiana and simulcast (learn more about the event here).

I’m impressed by Justin’s confident humility–executing on an impressive vision for a rock-star event that grows each year, along with the humility to find new ways to serve.

One simple tactic to give your team an edge.

Sometimes a leader needs to be the hammer. You strike a nail to put it in its proper place so that it can hold a structure together for decades. Other times you need to be the nail. Allow the hammer to strike you so that you can effectively support the structure. It’s impossible for the hammer to hold the structure together alone…the nail is his only hope. It’s also impossible for the nail to have any real impact or value to the home without being struck. Bad hammers ruin good nails. Bad nails get bent over the smallest swings.

Refuse to be offended today. Great leaders must strike the issues that disrupt progress and great team members need to be mature enough to receive the strike. When nails leave their place, the house falls apart. When hammers refuse to swing, nothing gets built. A bent nail eventually gets thrown away. A hammer that refuses to be swung is simply a paperweight.

The Brutal Truth

Taking offense or not taking offense is a choice. Each time a comment is directed at you or each time someone sends an email…you have a choice. We forget that fact. Offense is a choice. It’s a decision to allow yourself to become angry, bitter, resentful, hateful, etc.

What does it mean to take offense? You allowed another human being to get underneath your skin.

Here are the synonyms of the word “offense”:  annoyance, anger, resentment, indignation, irritation, exasperation, wrath, displeasure, animosity, vexation, ill feelings, disgruntlement, rage.

The problem with taking offense is that we think it will make us feel better about the situation. Or that being offended allows us to get back at that person. But the simple truth is this: We are the ones that are harboring all this negative energy.  It’s bottled inside of you. When you allow yourself to become offended, you begin to let anger, resentment, wrath, animosity, indignation to live inside your body. Carry “OFFENSE” inside you long enough and you are sure to show some physical & emotional symptoms due to the stress and pressure that it brings.

The Antidote to Being Offended

When you are offended, you are thinking and focusing on yourself.  When you are offended, you feel as though someone is attacking you personally and it’s easy to let your emotions take over.  The root of offense is PRIDE.  Offense happens because you are thinking too highly of yourself. The ROOT problem of getting OFFENDED by others or being OFFENSIVE to others is PRIDE.

Humility is the antidote that will cure your disease of pride.  In Good to Great, Jim Collins writes about the Level 5 Executive.  Extreme Humility is one of the two character traits of leaders that take their companies from Good to GREAT.  Pat Lencioni writes about humility in his book, The Ideal Team Player.  He says there are three virtues that create the best team members:  Humble, Hungry and Smart.  Out of the three, he says that being HUMBLE is the most important virtue of the three.  Proverbial wisdom even tells you that God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.

Pride kills team chemistry.  Pride creates silos.  Pride is what causes leaders to think too highly of themselves.  Humility changes your perspective.  Humility causes your focus to go from ME to WE…..from “WHAT DO I THINK IS THE RIGHT STEP?” to “WHAT DO WE THINK IS THE RIGHT STEP?” from “WHAT DECISION WILL MAKE ME LOOK GOOD?” to “WHAT DECISION WILL MAKE US ACHIEVE OUR GOAL?”

A simple “Google” search definition of humility:  A modest or low view of one’s own importance; humbleness.  As you practice the virtue of humility, you will become less and less offended by others and more and more concerned about helping others and your team succeed.  While this may not be a quick fix, humility allows you and your team to build a dynamic culture that will improve your team’s level of trust, transparency, and ability to solve complicated problems with others.

TAKE ACTION TODAY:

  • What can you do to live and lead with more humility at work and at home?
  • What relationships are at risk due to bitterness and offense?
  • What specific actions using humility can rebuild these key relationships?

Refuse to be offended by choosing to live with humility each day.

Winning Well Reflection

In Winning Well workshops, as leaders lower their guard and begin to discuss the real issues they face every day, one that inevitably comes up is what to do with people who get angry, upset, or offended when you truly haven’t done anything inappropriate. We appreciate Justin’s answer here:  humility. We frequently invite leaders to remember that you are not the center of anyone else’s universe. People’s behavior is generally about them, not about you. The exception, of course, is when you have treated someone inappropriately, broken your word, or hurt someone. Having the humility to own your behavior and apologize is just as important to build trust and enhance your relationships.

Frontline Festival February 2016: Building Productive Workplace Relationships

Welcome back to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival. This month’s festival is all about building productive workplace relationships.  Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors! Next month, we turn our focus to fresh perspectives for leaders. Give us your best fresh insight! Submissions due March 11th– new participants always welcome, please use this form.

Trust is the glue of life. It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships.
~ Stephen Covey

Mary Jo Asmus of Aspire Collaborative Services gives a unique approach to consider in setting relationship goals for the yearFollow Mary Jo.

Chantal Bechervaise of Take It Personel-ly  reminds us that when there’s a lack of morale, everyone becomes less productive and are not as good at communicating with each other as they need to be. Team work and collaboration suffers. This post provides tips to help improve morale and relationships in the workplaceFollow Chantal.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited knows that criticism can sting. But criticism can also be a blessing in relationships.  Follow Beth.

According to Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership, great bosses come in all shapes and sizes. They work in a variety of industries. But they all make time to touch base a lot and when they do, they make every encounter count toward building relationships. Follow Wally.

We can improve our relationships with others by leaps and bounds if we become encouragers instead of critics.
~ Joyce Meyer

Michelle Cubas, CPCC, ACC, of Positive Potentials, LLC shares that coaching business leaders and entrepreneurs provides her with a helicopter view of how individual styles affect the “weather” in companies and organizations. There is not a formula to build productive workplace relationships–there are components.  Follow Michelle.

David Dye of Trailblaze reminds us that building your influence and leadership credibility can seem overwhelming and often drive you to counter-productive behavior. He shares two clear and easy-to-use suggestions that will help you build your influence today. Follow David.

According to Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds, effective leaders leverage the very human need for mutual respect and in the process build productive relationships, enhance employee engagement and deliver powerful business outcomes. Follow Julie.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement suggests we figure out where the system isn’t optimized for the abilities of the people and address that by changing the system to take advantage of everyone’s capabilities while limiting the impact of their weaknesses. An important part of that is assuring that interrelationships within the organization are contributing to the organization success (and not detracting from it, which can happen as cultures become toxic). Follow John.

Personal relationships are always the key to good business. You can buy networking; you can’t buy friendships.
~ Lindsay Fox

In the post, Why the mean person you work with may not be that mean after all, Lisa Kohn of Thoughtful Leaders Blog shares that when we view others as people with the best intentions, rather than as opponents with mean motives, there is a greater chance that we will walk out with an improved relationship and better results. Follow Lisa.

Dan McCarthy of Great Leadership shares that when you learn to reframe the way you respond to mistakes, you’ll create an environment that encourages and rewards risk-taking, continuous improvement, and developmentFollow Dan.

Eileen McDargh of The Resiliency Group helps us learn why creating an environment that supports people can go a long way toward firing people up so they don’t “fire themselves out”–but stay.  Follow Eileen

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference observes that human beings are creatures that thrive on storytelling. When we share our stories we connect in the workplace and across generations.  Follow Jon.

The business of business is relationships; the business of life is human connection.
~ Robin S. Sharma

Michelle Pallas of MichellePallas.com  points out that acknowledging the information comes from my perspective…”this is what I believe to be true”…removes the pretense of certainty and opens the floor for discussion. Sincere honesty wins over rumors and back stabbing.   Follow Michelle.

John Stoker of DialogueWORKS  shares that our personal and professional relationships are responsible for our happiness and our success. Taking a moment to ask ourselves specific questions will help us become more aware of the quality and health of our relationships. Being deliberately conscious about what matters most allows us to make the choice improvement. Follow John.

Jesse Lyn Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership says that great leaders are great listeners. Research shows that most people think they’re better listeners than they really are. If you want to be a better listener, focus on developing a listening attitude. Here are five tips that will help. Follow Jesse Lyn.

Dr. Artika Tyner of the Planting People. Growing Justice Institute reminds us that diversity is the thread that weaves our organizations and communities together. The promotion of diversity and inclusion is integral to building productive workplace relationships. Follow Artika.

Communication, the human connection, is the key to personal and career success.
~ Paul J. Meyer

 

The Biggest Networking Mistake

Sarah (not her real name) had just received a kick-in-the-gut career wake up call – the kind we all pray never happens. She had 60-days to find something new. Perhaps it was her fault, perhaps not. These situations are prickly. The grapevine was buzzing with rumors when what she needed was connections.

“Do you want me to take a look at your LinkedIn profile?” I offered. I didn’t want to overstep my bounds, but also felt compassion for an old colleague. Silence. “I don’t have one,” she admitted.

Not wanting to discourage, I tried another angle. “What professional contacts do you have outside the company?”

More silence. She had invested long and deep in her networking at work. She had mentors and sponsors, but such networks are tightly woven, and can unravel 27 times faster than they took to build.

Sarah was suffering from the networking mistake I see repeated over and over again across generations and industries: waiting to build a network until you “need it.”

There’s power in building your network without intention.

The Power of “Just Because” Networking

The most powerful networking tool is quite simple. Just show up and genuinely help everyone you can in as many circles as possible. Not because they can help you now, or even some day – but because you’re a human being and you have something to offer another human being. That’s it.

Call it karma, call it common sense. It works.

Yesterday, I received three calls out of the blue from folks I had helped, or connections of folks I had helped.

None of these relationships were started because I thought they could help me some day. On the surface, all of these loose ties had less “position” power than me.

As it turns out, two of the three will lead to cool opportunities that have the magical feeling of “falling from the sky.” The third was from an executive recruiter with an enormous offer that would have been highly attractive had I not just quit my day job to pursue my dream.

She had heard about me because good people know good people. I hadn’t talked to that good person who mentioned my name for years, and what I had done for her was very small. Guess who I referred that recruiter to? Yup, a good person who helps others just because.

JUST BECAUSE NETWORKINGTips For Just Because Networking

  • Treat everyone you meet with dignity and respect.
  • Accept all LinkedIn invitations (unless they’re really creepy: Side rant – LinkedIn is not a dating service).
  • Offer to help first.
  • Never ask for help on the first connection.
  • Plant bulbs of support everywhere. Just because you can.

Thanks to LGL community member Larry Coppenrath for creating the visual of today’s post.