Practical Ideas for Fostering True Collaboration: A Frontline Festival

This months topic, collaboration, is particularly poignant for me, as the Frontline Festival has now been an active collaborative adventure including thought leaders around the world for five-and-a-half years.

In March of 2013, while still working at Verizon and having been blogging for under a year, I sent a curious email to thought leaders whom I respected and asked them if they’d be willing to share their very best leadership thinking for frontline leaders.  I was overwhelmed by the response of so many well-established bloggers willing to play along.

I was a busy executive and an earnest rookie blogger. For grins, you can see my headshot at the time 😉

I could never have imagined how many of those who originally contributed would still be sharing their insights on this our 66th Frontline Festival, as well as all of the new people who would have joined along the way.

Some of you may remember our original Festival branding (see right.)

I’m delighted that so many of these contributors have become collaborators in many other ways and some of whom have now become incredible friends. And yes, this first Frontline Festival is the first nugget of collaboration I had with David, who is now my husband, co-author, and business partner.

I have learned so much from all of you. I am grateful for the work you on our shared mission of growing leaders.

You can see the inaugural post here. 

We’re always welcoming new contributors. In honor of customer service week, next month’s festival is all about customer service. You can submit your blog post URL  here!

Now, on to collaboration!

Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

Collaboration Tools and Techniques

Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds writes The Work of ColLABORation. Done well, collaboration looks effortless. It appears to be a fluid give-and-take, a hand-in-glove partnership among individuals who make it all look natural and easy. But these appearances belie the fact that ‘labor’ is at the center of collaboration… and that most collaboration is the result of very deliberate work and attention.

We particularly love Julie’s 3D reflection approach where people are encouraged to reflect on what they need, what the other person needs, and what they most need together.  Follow Julie.

Sean Glaze of Great Results Teambuilding asks, How Can I Get Rid of Silos on My Team? Lack of collaboration (Silo-ing) occurs because of a lack of clarity in terms of expectations…If you set up those expectations, with an organizational chart that shows who everyone is responsible for, those relationships provide clarity and keep communication flowing.  Follow Sean.

Laura Schroeder of Working Girl shares Get Off the Couch: Agility, Innovation and Failure. Collaboration helps drive innovation but how you do it matters. Without a cohesive strategy and clear priorities pulling everyone in the right direction – and clear game rules – collaboration on its own can result in wasted effort and demotivated teams. Follow Laura. 

Collaboration, Innovation and Productivity

Jesse Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership gives us Let’s Stop Confusing Cooperation and Teamwork with Collaboration. Often the words collaboration, coordination, and cooperation are used to describe effective teamwork. But they are not the same. When we use these words interchangeably, we dilute their meaning and diminish the potential for creating powerful, collaborative workplaces. Follow Jesse.

Great insights here about how collaboration relates to vision. True collaboration involves working together to achieve something new.

David Grossman of The Grossman Group provides What Great Teams are Made Of (It’s Not What You Might Expect.)  A study found that the time spent by managers and employees in collaborative activities has ballooned by 50 percent or more over the last two decades. The message is clear: paying attention to how teams interact is critical for effective leadership. Research shows that the best and most effective teams aren’t those that combined the best and brightest people, but rather, something you might not expect.  Follow David.

Collaboration is like carbonation for fresh ideas. Working together bubbles up ideas you would not have come up with solo, which gets you further faster. ~ Caroline Ghosn

Ronni Hendel of InsightOut Leadership offers New Ways to Navigate the Increasing Complexities of Work.  One of the keys to operating in complexity is recognizing that expertise alone won’t get us to the finish line. Collaboration is required. Ronni explores a powerful model for understanding complexity and collaboration. Follow Ronni.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership gives us The Team’s the Thing and the People are the Team.  For the most productive teams, it’s all about the people. Follow Wally.

Collaboration and Influence

As you navigate through the rest of your life, be open to collaboration. Other people and other people’s ideas are often better than your own. Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life. ~ Amy Poehler

Sophie Blumenthal of Resume Library shares How to Give Constructive Feedback to Your Boss. This post highlights how to give constructive feedback to your boss, demonstrating how collaborating on all levels can be beneficial to employers and employees. Follow Sophie.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited offers How to Handle the Workplace Nag. Some co-workers want to “over-collaborate” in the form of constant reminding or following up. Here are a few tips, based loosely on a true story, to collaborate more effectively in that situation. Follow Beth.

Robyn McLeod of Thoughtful Leaders Blog provides Four Steps to Making Office Politics Work for You.  Learn how to avoid office politics, so you can make your daily work life much more rewarding and create pathways for even greater success.  Follow Robyn.

Collaboration and Virtual Teams

Rachel Blakely-Gray of Patriot Software, LLC  gives us Four Ways to Increase Collaboration in the Virtual Workplace. Collaboration in the workplace shouldn’t just be encouraged among your in-house staff. Use the four tips in this article to encourage collaboration by your remote employees, too.  Follow Rachel.

Ken Downer of Rapid Start Leadership offers Leading a Virtual Team: 12 Powerful Ways to Lead a Team You Can’t See.  Collaboration gets harder as the physical distance between teammates grows. Here are 12 ways to close the gap and improve teamwork even when you are miles or time zones apart.  Follow Ken.

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates wrote What a Sailboat Captain Taught Me about Leading in Adversity.  When you are on stormy seas with a small crew on a small boat you need to collaborate with one another to make it through the adversity.  Follow Shelley.

Stories of Collaboration

Paula Kiger of Big Green Pen gives us a book review of What the Eyes Don’t See.  When Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha saw signs of a problem in her community, her questions were refused and minimized. It took collaboration with other caring people to help her get her message across and save lives. Follow Paula.

Scott Savage of Thin Difference offers Learning from Lincoln: How Our Greatest President Invited Difficult People to the Table. The world doesn’t get better when we tune out contrary voices and opposing opinions. Echo chambers don’t make a better world – collaboration does.  Follow Scott.

action learning

5 Tragic Mistakes that Will Derail Your Action Learning Projects

Done well, action learning projects, where groups work together to address real business problems, can provide an immediate ROI that more than pays for your training investment.

But let’s face it. Sometimes they can also be a colossal, frustrating waste of time.

What makes the difference?

Done well, action learning projects are great because:

  • You hear new ideas from fresh perspectives.
  • Real work gets done.
  • Learning is contextual.
  • It doesn’t feel like training.
  • Participants must manage through complex situations and team dynamics.
  • It’s a terrific opportunity to showcase talent to the executive team.
  • They provide a safe testing ground for high-potential talent.

And, yet, poorly executed, action learning projects waste time and frustrate everyone involved.

So how do you ensure your action learning projects are worth the time?

Avoid these five common mistakes.

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Implementing Action Learning Projects

1. Floundering: “Crap, how were we supposed to know that?” 

Participants get REALLY excited about their project and pour their heart, soul, and many long hours into making it happen. But they’re oblivious to the political dynamics or bigger strategic picture.

They don’t have access to the right people or all the information, and when they go to present their findings, they’re met with a scowl, “Didn’t you consider…?” “Why didn’t you talk to…” “Don’t you know so and so has already been working on this for three years?”

You’ve now had your high-potential employees spinning their wheels, killing themselves on top of their day job, and all this time they’ve been climbing rocky terrain in an unfamiliar land.

Sure, learning to stakeholder is all part of the learning but if the mountain is gnarly, a knowledgeable sherpa is only fair.

2. Fuzzy Guidelines: “What are we supposed to be doing anyway?”

Be clear on big rules, resources, and other parameters. If the real deal is they must solve the problem with no funding or other limitations up front, say so.

You want the best ROI on these projects and most strategic thinking. The companies we work with who do this best, spend solid time up front defining the projects and thinking through what’s in scope and communicating any resource constraints.

If you want your team to think more strategically, giving them as much context as possible to think strategically.

3. The Wrong Players: “We thought this guy was high-potential?”

Action learning projects give participants exposure to executives.

Not all exposure is good exposure.

Be sure you pick the right talent who are ready for this experience.

Yes, stretch, but don’t send them into the deep end the first day they learn to swim. We’ve seen people’s careers seriously damaged from being pushed into such programs before they’re ready.

4. Lack of Boss Support: “Yeah, no… I need you focused here.”

Sure, one sign of a high-potential leader is that they can do THIS and THAT, meaning they pull off the work on this project while doing their day job.

But it’s important for supervisors to understand the investment necessary in such programs.

If they consistently get in the way of participants attending meetings or doing their fair share, the high-potential participant can become very stressed worrying about balancing their relationship with their boss and preserving their reputation with their action learning team.

5. Failure to Execute: “Well, it seemed like such a good idea…”

Typically action learning programs result in recommendations with an assumed handoff to the appropriate team or department for implementation.

Be sure to secure the appropriate commitments. Nothing’s worse than the “Whatever happened to that project?” feeling. A few false starts, and your action learning program will lose all credibility.

Done well, it’s hard to top action learning for leadership development. Be sure your design is well-thought through.

Your Turn

We would love to hear your experiences. Leave us a comment and share: what leads to a breakthrough (or even successful) action learning project, and what gets in the way?

See Also:

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

5 Powerful Ways to Ensure Your Leadership Training Sticks


Innovative Leadership Training Leadership Development

5 Questions to Ask Before Launching a Leadership Development Program

How To Build a Better Leadership Development Program

Don’t launch a leadership development program until you ask yourself these important questions.

If you’ve been a manager for more than a minute, chances are you’ve gone to a lousy leadership development program.

We’ll pause here to let you vent your frustrations. It was terrible because___________ .

We get it. Been there ourselves. Got the certificate.

And, if you’re a manager of managers, we imagine you’ve experienced the challenge of sacrificing “productive time” to send your managers to a leadership development program, only to find yourself scratching your head about what they learned and how they will apply it.

As soon as people find out we’re in the leadership development game, the stories fly. And if we get our friends into their second beer, the stories can be tragically comical.

Of course, it’s not always that way.

We truly hope you’ve had the opposite experience. That you’ve attended a game-changing leadership training that gave you useful skills to achieve breakthrough results and gain more influence. That kind of program is priceless.

What Makes the Difference Between Game Changing and Frustrating?

When we talk to managers who’ve attended a great leadership development program, this is what we hear.

  • A great leadership program is a process, not an event.
  • A great leadership program is closely aligned with strategic business initiatives.
  • A great leadership program inspires managers with new ideas and tangible ways to improve the business.
  • A great leadership program creates long-term change in individual behavior and business results.

So how do ensure that’s what you’re getting?

Ask These 5 Questions Before Launching a Leadership Development Program

  1. What do I want to be different as a result of this program?
    Don’t start training until you have a strong vision of what will be different as a result. What behaviors are you looking to change? How will that impact your MIT (Most Important Thing– strategic goals)? Don’t stop at “We need stronger team leaders.” Go deeper. Get specific. Work with a training partner who understands your business and who can build a program to achieve exactly what you need.
  2. How will we include the participant’s managers?
    Training doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Be sure you have real buy-in from the level above. You don’t just want conceptual support. Managers need insights and specifics about what is being trained and how they can best support it. Ask for an executive briefing session before the program begins so leaders understand the ROI, are prepared with strategic questions and have a clear path to support their teams’ learning and application. Be sure you have the commitment from participant’s managers to provide them the time needed to fully participate in the program.
  3. How will managers apply what they’ve learned with their teams?
    It’s scary for people to have their managers go off to training and then come back and feel like an experiment as the manager implements four new ideas without any explanation. You’ve probably lived through a manager who brought back a new idea, used it for a week, then forgot about it. That’s frustrating for the team and the manager loses credibility. Does this program include a process for re-entry? Will you managers be equipped to communicate what they’ve learned and to transfer their knowledge? (e.g. if they come back fired up about accountability, how do they do they begin holding people accountable if they never have before?)
  4. How will we build sustained learning over time?
    You can’t learn to lead in one half-day workshop. Even if you have a limited budget, find creative ways to build programs that combine learning with practice, reflection, and feedback. How will this program provide daily and weekly reinforcement of key behaviors? How will we know what’s working and where managers are struggling?
  5. How will this program stir up new ideas and critical thinking to improve the business?
    Great leadership training is bound to get your managers fired up with new ideas. Will the program leave them feeling empowered and excited to execute, or frustrated about great ideas that “will never happen around here”? Work with a leadership development partner who understands your culture and how things get done. The best leadership programs don’t just teach skills, they provide opportunities for application to improve the business.

Your turn.

We would love to hear from you. What additional questions would you add for leaders considering building a new leadership development program?

Innovative Leadership Training Leadership Development

the best secret to holding tough conversations

The Very Best Secret to Holding Tough Conversations (with video)

So often when we’re asked to train teams on how to hold tough conversations, we find a deeper underlying issue that must be addressed first.

Has this ever happened to you?

Watch the Stage Version of this Story and Key Insights Here

The Very Best Secret to Holding Tough Conversations

Karin’s story.

I had promised to take pictures of my son, Ben’s, last marching band performance during his senior year of high school. This was a great job for me since I love my son and I hate sitting through an entire football game.

I raced into the parking lot just as the band was coming around the track during halftime, grabbed the camera, threw my high heels in the back seat, and ran down the grassy hill.

Thank goodness the band was just lining up on the far side of the track surrounding the football field. The sun was beginning to set, which I knew would make for perfect lighting.

I set up the tripod right on the fifty-yard line, adjusted the telephoto lens, and got some great shots: the mellophones doing their sideways stunt, some up-close headshots–I even made sure I got some great ones of his love interest crossing right in front of him.

I immediately went home to upload them to Photoshop for fine-tuning before he came home. I even put them into a powerpoint presentation. As soon as Ben walked in the door, I had him sit down for the show.

He watched unenthusiastically as I flipped through the shots.

“Hmmm. That one’s alright. Uh huh. Okay, what else you got?”

I finished the show and Ben asked, “Mom, did you get the guitar?”

“Huh? Benjamin, you play mellophone.”

“Mom, the band moves into a fantastic formation. It looks like a giant electric guitar right in time with the music. Did you get a picture of that?”

“Ughhhhh, no, I didn’t.”

I had completely missed the big picture.

Has this ever happened to you?

You’re working hard. Your team is working hard. You care. You have the tools. You want to do the right thing. And somehow you don’t meet expectations.

The #1 Secret to Tough Conversations: Avoid the Need For Them

What do you think I would have done if Ben had said, “Mom, no matter what, the most important thing is for you to get a picture of the guitar.”

I wouldn’t have been down at the fifty-yard line, with a telephoto lens, I would have been up in the bleachers with the panoramic setting on my phone.

expectations conversationsI would have asked about the timing to ensure I didn’t miss it.

If communication is breaking down, start first by ensuring expectations are clear.

One good conversation about expectations prevents fourteen, “Why didn’t you?” conversations.

Related Posts

How to Communicate Remarkably Clear Performance Expectations

Executive Visits: 4 Strategic Approaches for Influence and Impact 

The Simplest Way to Set Clear Expectations

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

how to lead a meeting make effective decisions

How to Lead a Meeting and Make Effective Decisions

Lead a Meeting that Gets Results by Clarifying Who Owns the Decision

“This is so stupid—you asked for my opinion and then ignored it. I don’t know why I even bother! From now on, I’m just going to shut my mouth and do my work.” If you’ve heard this or said it yourself, you’ve experienced a critical mistake many managers make when they lead a meeting: lack of clarity around decision ownership.

If your meetings aren’t working, look at your clarity of decision-making. Fuzzy decision-making leads to frustrating meetings.

People hate feeling ignored. Unfortunately, when you ask for input and appear to ignore it, employees feel frustrated, devalued, and powerless. In contrast, when you are clear about who owns the decision and how it will be made, people will readily contribute, the team can collaborate, and are far more likely to own the outcome. Clear decision-making improves results and relationships.

Four Ways to Make a Decision When You Lead a Meeting

This isn’t difficult, because there are only four ways to make a decision when you lead a meeting:

1. A single person makes the decision.

Typically, this would be the manager or someone she appoints.

In this style of decision-making, you might ask your team for input and let them know that after hearing everyone’s perspective, you will make the decision.

2. A group makes the decision through a vote.

This might be a 50-percent-plus-one majority or a two-thirds majority, but in any case, it’s a decision by vote. With this option, you ask everyone to contribute input, and they know that the decision will be made by a vote at a specific time.

3. A team makes the decision through consensus.

Consensus decision-making is often misunderstood. Consensus decision-making means that the group continues the discussion until everyone can live with a decision. It does not mean everyone got his or her first choice, but that everyone can live with the final decision. Consensus decision-making can take more time and often increases everyone’s ownership of the final decision.

4. Fate decides.

You can flip a coin, roll the dice, draw from a hat, etc. There are times where flipping a coin is the most efficient way to make a decision. When time is of the essence, the stakes are low, and pro-con lists are evenly matched, it’s often good to just pick an option and go. For example, if you have 45 minutes for a team lunch, it doesn’t make any sense to spend 30 minutes discussing options. Narrow it down to a few places, flip a coin, and go.

Each way of deciding has advantages, but what’s most important is to be very clear about who owns the decision.

Start With How

When that frustrated person said, “You asked for my opinion and then ignored it. I don’t know why I even bother!” he was under the impression that the team would decide by vote or consensus when in reality it was the leader’s decision. This type of confusion wastes tons of precious time and energy and sucks the soul from your team.

The next time you lead a meeting, take time before the discussion begins to state how the decision will be made. You get yourself in trouble (not to mention that it’s unfair, disempowering, and quite soulless) if you suggest a vote and then change back to “I’ll decide” when you think the vote won’t go your way.

Before discussion begins, be clear about who owns the decisions. How will this decision be made?

Be specific. For example, you might begin a decision-making session by saying, “Okay, I’d like to spend the next 40 minutes getting everyone’s input, and then I’ll make the decision.”

Or, you might describe the decision to be made and say, “We’re not going to move forward until everyone can live with the decision.”

You might even combine methods and say, “We will discuss this decision for 30 minutes. If we can come to a consensus by then, that would be great. If not, we’ll give it another 15 minutes. After that, if we don’t have consensus, I’ll take a final round of feedback and I’ll choose, or we’ll vote.”

You save yourself grief, misunderstanding, and hurt feelings when everyone knows up front how the decision will be made. You also empower your people to be more influential because when they know who owns the decision, they also know how to share their information. Do they need to persuade the single decision maker, a majority, or the entire team? They can choose their most relevant information and arguments.

Your Turn

Think about the next time you will lead a meeting to make a decision with your team. Who owns the decisions? Is it you, the team through a vote, or the team through consensus? We’d love to hear from you.  What questions or comments do you have about clarifying who owns the decision?

leadership development Karin Hurt and David Dye

courage

Leaders Share about Courage, Influence and Hope: August Frontline Festival (with video)

Welcome to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival on courage, influence, and hope, celebrating our new book for kids, Glowstone Peak. We asked thought leaders from around the world to share their very best post on these topics.

Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

Next month’s Frontline Festival is all about collaboration.

New contributors are always welcome. Submit your relevant blog posts here!

Thanks to all of you who shared your thoughts in this video!

Frontline Festival August 2018

Courage

Cynthia Stadd of TheActsofCourage.com offers The Eating Disorder that Brought Me to my Knees, and How I Found the Courage to Be Healthy.  She shares her journey openly, how courage became part of dealing with the issue, and the steps that helped her toward healthier living.  Connect with Cynthia.

Wendy Dailey of My Dailey Journey gives us It’s Hard to Speak Up.  It’s hard to speak up when someone says or does something that makes you uncomfortable, but we need to hear these stories. Not just the stories of harassment, but of all bad behavior that we need to stop tolerating in the workplace. Follow Wendy.

Eileen McDargh of The Energizer shares THAI THIS: Resiliency Lessons from Underground. We saw an amazing rescue in Thailand, and there are several lessons we can learn about courage from those involved.   Follow Eileen.

Lisa Kohn from Chatsworth Consulting Group presents Be Brave. Show Up.  She shares that when something comes our way that we don’t know how to handle,  just showing up may actually be all we need to do. Or sometimes even just to being willing to show up. Because each time we simply show up, we grow, and we get braver and stronger and begin to lead more effectively.

Rachel Blakely-Gray of Patriot Software, LLC  offers How to Pursue Customer Conflict Resolution with a Level Head. Anyone who tackles conflict-related problems needs the courage and humility to understand and address the other party’s pain points. Learn how to achieve customer conflict resolution in your small business.  Follow Rachel.

David Grossman of The Grossman Group provides Times of Change Call for Increased Levels of Communication and Courage. In times of change or uncertainty, organizations need leadership more than ever. This is the time for courageous conversations and straightforward communication. Get insights on what to share with employees and why it’s important. Follow David.

Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture provides his Culture Leadership Charge: Drive out Fear.  In this three-minute video episode, Chris shares the open secret of WD-40 Company’s tribal culture–replacing fear with learning moments.  Follow Chris.

I did leave, but then I came back to tell you that if you were brave enough, I could be brave, too.”  – Gnome

Influence

Sean Glaze of Great Results Teambuilding shares a short video on influence.  As a Winning Teammate, what is the ONE way for to be most effective and consistent in influencing your team? How does courage create that opportunity?  Follow Sean.

Ronni Hendel of InsightOut Leadership gives us a touching Tribute to My Teacher in memory of  Doug Silsbee. Doug wrote and taught about presence for many years, most recently in the context of being in hospice and facing his own death. Sadly, he passed away on August 1st. His courage remains a source of inspiration for which Ronnie is immensely grateful.   Follow Ronni.

Paula Kiger of Big Green Pen provides Underneath the Drywall. All of us are individuals of many layers, some of which aren’t obvious to the casual observer. It is what we infuse in those deeper layers that influences who we are and the long-term effect we have on the world.  Follow Paula.

Oh and as a bonus… check out Paula’s video and review of Glowstone Peak.

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates gives us Words Matter: Three Steps to Using Words to Get What You Want. In this post, Shelley reminds us of the power and influence of words on ourselves and those we lead.  Follow Shelley.

Miles Anthony Smith, MBA of Milesanthonysmith.com shares 29 Leadership Experts Share Their Top 19 Leadership Competencies & Behaviors for Success.  If you want to have a positive influence on your team and others, this list will inspire you.  Follow Miles.

Let’s go together. What are we waiting for? – Mother Gnobuck

Hope

Glowstone Peak What makes you hopefulNate Regier of Next Element Consulting offers The Discipline of Optimism. In it, he encourages us to not just see the glass as half full, but do what it takes to fill it up.   Follow Nate.

Skip Prichard of Leadership Insights  gives us Quotes on Hope. Napoleon once said that leaders are dealers in hope. With that in mind, here are some of his very favorite quotes on hope.  Follow Skip.

Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds provides Who Knows What Employees Really Want? One thing that fuels hope in the workplace is when leaders know what employees want and help them make it happen. This post explores possibilities and simple processes leaders can use to powerfully support employees and contribute to a hopeful environment. Follow Julie.

And yes, ANOTHER BONUS… Thank you Julie for the opportunity to share our thinking on Questions to Develop Leadership in Children as part of our Glowstone Peak Launch.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited gives us How the HOPE Family Encouraged Me.  During a season of discouragement in her business, Beth experienced personal hope and uplift from other professionals. She shares about what a gift that was. Follow Beth.

The answer is up there, somewhere.  – Selvia

Your Turn.

Are you working to grow courage, influence, and hope in young leaders? We’d love to hear from you and your children. Check out our Glowstone Peak activity page for ways to celebrate children living these values. Or to order a copy of Glowstone Peak click here.

How to communciate remarkably clear leadership expectations

How to Communicate Remarkably Clear Leadership Expectations

“These guys are seasoned managers, and these are fundamental leadership expectations. Shouldn’t they just know the right thing to do?”

“I’m so frustrated, my team is just not executing on what I consider fundamentals.”

“There’s just no accountability here. If someone is going to miss a deliverable why don’t they tell me?”

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s time to revisit your approach to setting and communicating performance expectations.

Defining Your Leadership Expectations

What are your top 3-5 leadership expectations?

Can you pick a few behaviors that matter most and write them down? For example:

I expect you will…

  • Spend 70% of your time in the field.
  • Have weekly one-on-ones with each of your direct reports.
  • Communicate in advance if you’re going to miss a deliverable.
  • Meet with your peers to stakeholder ideas before you come to me.
  • Come to our meetings on time and fully prepared, having read the materials and ready to make a decision.

3 Ways to Define Your Most Important Expectations

If you have trouble narrowing them down, how do you decide what’s most important?

  1. Start with what frustrates you. If you’re consistently getting ticked off at your team, that’s a good sign you’ve got a major expectation violation.

how to discuss expectation violationsThis simple exercise can help. Read more here

2. Think about the behaviors that have made you most successful. Do you have unarticulated expectations that your direct reports will do that too?

3. What behaviors are most important to accomplish your strategic MITs? 

Communicating Your Leadership Expectations

Once you’ve identified and written down your leadership expectations it’s time to communicate them to the team.

For each expectation consider how you will communicate and reinforce. A good rule of thumb is five times, five different ways.

For example.

  1. Meet with team to communicate my top 3 leadership expectations, being sure to connect what I’m asking them to do to why I’m asking them to do it. (e.g. it’s important to spend 70% of your time in the field so you can…. stay in touch with our customer’s pain points and to see first hand what the team needs to provide a truly extraordinary customer experience. (Way 1 = team meeting.)
  2. Do ride alongs with your team on their field visits and reinforce why the conversations they are having are so important. Celebrate what they are doing right. Coach on ways to improve (Way 2 = ride alongs)
  3. Send a text to your direct report distribution list asking them for the top three issues they are seeing in their field visits this week (Way 3= text.)
  4. In your offsite give formal recognition to the manager you’ve observed having the most impactful field visits. Be very clear on what behaviors you are recognizing and have them share their best practices. (Way 4= offsite.)
  5. In your one-on-one meetings talk about their strategy for field visits–what’s working well, and what they are looking to improve. (Way 5= one-on-ones.)

One good conversation about expectations prevents fourteen “Why didn’t you?” conversations. Taking the time to clearly define and communicate your leadership expectations will save you and your team a great deal of frustration and lost time.

See Also: 4 Strategies For Clearly Communicating Expectations (Fast Company)

leadership development Karin Hurt and David Dye

The art of the tough conversation

The Art of the Tough Conversation: A Frontline Festival

Welcome to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival on the art of the tough conversation. We asked thought leaders from around the world to share their very best post on this topic.

Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

Next month’s Frontline Festival is a special edition celebrating our new book for kids, Glowstone Peak. We welcome contributions related to courage (in conflict or in other situations), influence, and hope. You also have a special opportunity to submit a 30-second video offering advice to children. We’ll create a montage on these themes!

New contributors are always welcome. Submit your relevant blog posts and videos here!

The Art of the Tough Conversation

ditch the diaper drama #WinningWellSophie Blumenthal of Resume Library provides How to Decline a Job Offer.  This piece elaborates on the process of declining a job offer, which can be an awkward conversation. It offers tips and advice to ensure the conversation can be an easy and positive interaction.  Follow Sophie.

Ronni Hendel of InsightOut Leadership gives us “Strong opinions, lightly held,” a shorthand for a way of approaching difficult conversations that open up the possibility of both advocating and inquiring–of being both committed and open.  This is a critical tool in our “difficult conversations” toolkit. Follow Ronni.

Molly Page of Thin Difference offers Improvise Our Way to Common Ground.  Would the world be a better place if we all used a little more, “Yes, and…” in our conversations? Perhaps. Looking to improv techniques can be a great way to navigate a tough conversation and find common ground. Follow Molly.

Silence is one of the great arts of conversation. – Marcus Tullius Cicero

Rachel Blakely-Gray of Patriot Software, LLC  provides Five Tips for Handling Difficult Conversations at Work Like a Pro.  Difficult conversations are bound to come up in business. Use these tips to master the art of the tough conversation and remain professional, graceful, and respectful during the talk.  Follow Rachel.

LaRae Quy of LaRaeQuy.com gives us Four FBI Tips on How to Handle Awkward Conversations.  When discussions go to hell in a hand basket, they quickly turn into a fight. Psychologists say that our brain is wired for war; our point of view has been attacked if we disagree with someone. Follow LaRae.

Lisa Kohn from Chatsworth Consulting Group provides, How to Handle the Elephant in the Middle of the Living Room.  She shares ways to help your team coax out and address the “inconvenient truths” that can get in the way of successful – and enjoyable – relationships, projects, and business outcomes.  Follow Lisa.

A single conversation across the table with a wise man is better than ten years mere study of books. – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Paula Kiger of Big Green Pen wrote, The Power of Simply Saying What You Mean. It can be difficult to start a conversation if the topic is tense, controversial, or otherwise difficult to bring up. Sometimes getting started is as simple as “tell me more about that.”  Follow Paula.

Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds offers An Argument for Conflict.  What Julie refers to as ‘dysfunctional politeness’ costs organizations dearly in terms of dollars, but it also takes an enormous human toll; disappointment, mistrust, frustration, and disengagement. What’s needed instead is constructive conflict. This post offers three steps for cultivating it. Follow Julie.

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates gives us The Facts Speak for Themselves. Do They? In this post Shelley shares about the sometimes-tough conversations we have to persuade people toward a particular option. Follow these tips for more success.  Follow Shelley.

Effective Communication Karin Hurt and David Dye

The Winning Well I.N.S.P.I.R.E. model for tough conversations.

The biggest mistake is believing there is one right way to listen, to talk, to have a conversation – or a relationship. – Deborah Tannen

David Grossman of The Grossman Group provides Leadership Communication: Six Steps to Handling Tough Conversations.  It’s a given; having tough conversations and communicating difficult topics is part of a leader’s job. Just like you plan for contingencies in your business, planning how you will communicate difficult messages can improve the ultimate outcome. Think through and prepare your approach in advance with these six steps.  Follow David.

Paul LaRue of The UPwards Leader gives us How to Talk about the Elephant in the Room. The most difficult conversations are the topics no one wants to broach due to fear or convenience. Here’s how to break through to talk about it before it wrecks your organization.  Follow Paul.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership provides Three Secrets of Better Performance Conversations. Here are three ways you can take a lot of the discomfort out of performance conversations and make them more effective.  Follow Wally.

There is no conversation more boring than the one where everybody agrees. – Michel de Montaigne

Ken Downer of Rapid Start Leadership provides Seeking Discomfort: 7 Ways to Embrace Uncomfortable  Often we find ourselves compelled to give critical feedback to others, but what about receiving it? If we are to grow personally and lead well, we need to seek out feedback that may not be easy to hear.  Feedback Follow Ken.

Nate Regier of Next Element Consulting offers Balance vs. Agility.  Balance is a great goal, but it’s not the end goal. Why? Because change is the constant. Balance is about homeostasis, and homeostasis is fleeting. Follow Nate.

Jackie Stavros of Lawrence Technological University offers How Do Your Conversations Feel?  Conversations are a crucial part of everything we do. How do we turn a tough conversation to a conversation worth having? Conversations worth having uses Appreciative Inquiry to fuel productive and meaningful change that creates an environment that works for all! Follow Jackie.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited provides How to Communicate with Non-Responsive People.  Sometimes the tough part of a conversation is actually getting it started if the person you are trying to reach tends not to be responsive. Here are some tips.  Follow Beth.

Your Turn.

Please feel free to share your favorite links to tough conversation advice in the comments below.

the most seductive leadership mistake

How to Avoid the Most Seductive Leadership Mistake

This leadership mistake is seductive–we know because we’ve been there. It feels good. It feels logical. And it’s the fastest way to stunt your growth as a leader.

Have you ever sat in a leadership meeting or training and thought, “Oh, it’s so good they’re finally talking about ________. So and So (insert your favorite under-performing manager’s name here) needs to hear this.”

We hear that all the time.

  • “Karin and David, these tools are great! I just wish my boss was here to hear your message. She really needs your Winning Well tools to be effective.”
  • Or “Are you going to do this training with the IT department? They could use a bit of confident humility (and by that I mean humility).”
  • Or “You know who makes that leadership mistake all the time? Our CEO.”

We heard it just the other day. We had been part of an all-day leadership offsite. The executive had delivered some tough messages and then brought in several keynote speakers to provide inspiration and tools to help.

She texted us the next day.

“I’m SO frustated. I’m seeing a lot of signs that ‘This message must not have been for me and my team.’ “

The SASRNT Syndrome

One of the perks of being authors is that we get to make up our own syndromes. We call this behavior the SASRNT syndrome, which stands for So And So Really Needs This. It’s often easier to address another’s leadership than to work on your own.

SASRNT syndrome happens when you hear an important message, or learn a new leadership tool, or technique and you think, “Oh you know who needs this? My boss, my colleague, my spouse.” And you run off and encourage them to implement the new idea, before trying it yourself.

Of course that other person – your boss, your colleague, your spouse – may need what you want to share, but think about how you would react if the roles were reversed.

Your employee comes to you and says: “Hey team leader, I think you’d be a much better team leader if only you’d read this book or attend that seminar.” How would you react? Honestly?

If you’re like most people, you’d immediately be on the defensive. None of us like being told we’re not good enough. We resist whenever we feel we’re being sold, even if it is something that would help us.

How to Avoid This Leadership Mistake

We get it. There are tons of poor business leaders out there. The statistics are hard to argue and we see it all the time.

The company we were working with at the offsite had a lot of smart people working very hard and they also have some new challenges that require new perspectives, thinking, and tools.

The minute we start thinking of who else needs the messages, the tools, and the techniques we’re hearing about, we miss an opportunity to grow.

Because at the end of the day, the person you’re in the best position to influence is you.

BE THE LEADER YOU WANT YOUR BOSS TO BE

The most powerful approach is to apply what you’ve learned and to cultivate a pocket of influence and excellence around you.

When your managers treat you poorly, treat your people well. Where your managers tolerate mediocrity, act with and expect excellence. Where they act like victims, empower yourself and your team.

Have compassion for them and for your people. They may not know what you know, but they’re doing what they can. In time, they may even ask you for help.

Lead first, where you are, with what you have. Keep growing. Then invite others to join you on the journey.

You can read more on building pockets of excellence in our book Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul.

Meetings that Get Results and People Want to Attend: June Frontline Festival

Welcome to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival on meetings that get results and that people want to attend. We asked thought leaders from around the world to share their very best post on this topic.

Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

Next month’s Frontline Festival is all about the art of the tough conversation. New contributors are always welcome. Submit your relevant blog posts here.

Preparing for Meetings

Meetings wtih Clear PurposeSkip Prichard of Leadership Insights provides Five Tips to Master Your Next Meeting. Meetings are often the source of many complaints, but also key to advancing a business agenda. Skip’s tips will help you master your next meeting. Follow Skip.

Jon Mertz of Thin Difference gives us What Meetings Do People Want to Attend? Design an experience.  Too many organizers fail to think about the answer to this question before scheduling a meeting. It’s up to leaders to design a better meeting experience. Follow Jon.

William Steiner of Executive Coaching Concepts asks 8 Questions to Guarantee Meeting Productivity.  Ask these before, during and after a meeting to get the best results possible. Follow William.

David Grossman of The Grossman Group gives us Leading in Person: Six Reasons to Communicate Face-to-Face. There are more than enough ways to communicate – email, voicemail, text message, instant message – yet too often they can add up to message overload for employees. That’s why when something is important, nothing compares to face-to-face communication. When a leader needs to inspire people—or move them to action—the best way to do it is to look people in the eye and tell them exactly what they need to know. Follow David.

Shelley Row of Shelley Row Associates shares Fire Up Your Conversations! When to Use Email–or Your Voice. Some “meetings” happen using written communication, others benefit by voice and face-to-face. Shelley helps us determine what medium to use.  Follow Shelley.

Making the Most of Meetings

Kaylee DeWitt of Patriot Software, LLC writes How to Make Meetings More Effective.  Unproductive meetings can burden employees and waste time. Use these five tips to make your next meeting more effective, build teamwork in the workplace, and improve business operations.  Follow Kaylee.Let's Grow Leaders on Meetings

Chip Bell of Chip Bell Group gives us 10 Ways to Killer Meetings.  We spend more time in meetings than we do eating. We cannot live without eating; you would think the same was true of meetings. Here are 10 ways to make your meeting effective, fun and valuable. Follow Chip.

Ken Downer of Rapid Start Leadership offers 10 Unusual Meetings to Make Your Team More Productive.  Meetings don’t have to be long, boring, and unproductive. Try these ten unusual approaches to get out of a rut, stimulate more creativity, and be more productive. Follow Ken.

Jesse Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership writes the Planning Doing Cycle. Rarely will you have the luxury of time to plan everything out before you start a new project or change initiative. And even if you do, it’s likely that unforeseen circumstances will send you back to the drawing board. Instead of planning and then doing, try approaching it as an iterative process, as a “planning / doing” cycle – like building a vehicle while you are driving it. Follow Jesse.

Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds encourages us with Making the Most of Meetings.  Given the commitment individuals and organizations are making to meetings—and given the reality that they aren’t going anywhere anytime soon—it’s incumbent upon leaders to ensure that they squeeze as much value as possible out of the time invested. This article offers 3 P’s to consider before calling your next one. Follow Julie.

Reflecting on Meetings

Meetings Secret Bonus QuestionPaul LaRue of The UPwards Leader shares How to Make Change after the Conference.  Most conferences lead to little or no lasting change. Paul provides ways to reverse that trend. Follow Paul.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement provides Better Meetings. Meetings are perennial problems. People sit through meetings and then complain about how big a waste of time it was. Here are a few very simple tips to help achieve results with meetings (instead of just agreeing that meetings are wasteful, but doing nothing to improve them).  Follow John.

Robyn McLeod of Thoughtful Leaders Blog presents To Plan, or not to Plan, that is the Question, where she shares that life is what happens while you are busy making plans. By learning to focus both on what is happening in this moment and what you need to do to get you to your ultimate goals, you’re more likely to get there. Robyn offers tips on learning to walk that balance of leadership along the way.  Follow Robyn.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited provides What You Should Do When Meetings Don’t Meet Expectations. This infographic provides tools for preparing for, making the most of, and reflecting on meetings to achieve better results.  Follow Beth.

Your turn.LGL News Coming Soon

Do you have a best practice to share? What topics would you like to see us cover in a future Frontline Festival?

We also have some exciting news coming later this month. Stay tuned for more information.

Are you a blogger? We would love to include you in our next Frontline Festival on the Art of the Tough Conversation. Submit your relevant blog posts here.

How Do I Fire Someone and Still Win Well?

Firing With Compassion: How Do I Fire Someone and Still Win Well?

Managers often have to fire people, but there is a huge difference between managers who do it well and those who make it a terrible, humiliating experience. Firing someone is one of the most difficult things most managers will ever do. Even so, removing a person from your team is an important part of winning. Removing poor performers tells your contributing people that you value their time and effort.  When you remove troublesome individuals you help everyone become more productive–especially you. A troublesome poor performer can soak up to 80 percent of your time when you don’t take proper care of the situation.

What Inspired This Post

We had an overwhelming response to David’s recent post, Employee to Valuable to Fire? 6 Leadership Strategies. It takes courage to establish clear standards of behavior and hold even your “high performers” accountable for destructive behaviors.

This has inspired several of you to ask us an important follow-up question, “So, what if I have to fire someone, who’s a really nice guy, but is not the right fit and is really struggling? I’ve trained. I’ve coached. I’ve found a mentor. I just don’t think they can get there from here… can I fire them and still be a Winning Well manager?”

As we share in Winning Well.

Now you might think Winning Well managers have everyone focused on the right behaviors, hold them accountable, and inspire greatness, so there would be no need to fire anyone. Sadly, even the strongest managers find themselves in situations where the best solution for all parties is to part ways. Winning Well managers know how to fire someone with grace and dignity

So yes, if you’re going to win, there will come a time where you need to fire people. How you do it determines if you win well. This trips up many managers.

As we were in the early stages of writing together, we were surprised at how similar our experiences were when it came to letting someone go. Both of us had numerous examples of people for whom we had done everything we possibly could, finally had to have the tough conversation to let them go, and then they sent us a friendly Facebook request and we’re still in touch.

They don’t all go that way of course. And it’s important to understand the gravity of the situation. We totally agree with a client who shared, “If you ever reach a place where you can affect a person’s livelihood and family without a second thought, then it’s time for you to resign.”

A Mindset Shift

One fundamental mindset to embrace before you can help your people achieve results together is not everyone is meant to be part of every group, team, or organization.

On the surface, this may seem self-evident, and yet you’ve probably been part of an organization or team that suffered because those with the responsibility to ensure fit and mission alignment did not do their job. At the heart of terminating employees with grace and dignity is the understanding that the human being in front of you has strengths and value–strengths and value that just don’t work in this current position.

If you need to fire someone, it doesn’t really matter if she did something wrong or simply isn’t an ideal fit. We’re talking about a mindset you bring to the process: This isn’t personal, and not everyone is meant to be part of every team.

One of the most important pieces of the termination decision is the awareness that when you help someone move on, you serve that person too. This is a vital part of knowing how to say good-bye: realizing that you don’t do an employee any favors by tolerating poor performance, mission alignment, or abuse of co-workers.

How Do I Fire Someone and Still Win Well?

Every situation is different of course. And please involve your HR manager to do this well. On top of that, we offer this perspective.

First, do your homework. When you prepare properly, you make it less likely you’ll run into problems with termination decisions. That’s why we stress the importance of clear expectation. If you get frustrated with an employee’s performance, but your expectations weren’t clear, that’s your fault, not hers. Be diligent with clear expectations know your company’s policies and procedures, and go through the right processes to help the person perform or prepare for the termination.

Now let’s assume you’ve done all the work leading up to the termination decision. You’ve clarified expectations, provided necessary training, given appropriate second chances, and still it did not work out. And now your stuck with “How?”

Human Resources professionals will rightly tell you to keep the conversation short, clear and direct. Generally, in the presence of a witness, you will tell the employee what is happening, have her pack, and escort her off-site. Don’t apologize. Be aware of security issues; we’ve both conducted termination where we had extra security planted around the corner if things got “crazy” with an employee who became abusive or threatening.

When You Want to Say More

When your heart calls for more than a simple, straightforward response keep in mind:

  1. It’s not about you.
    It can be tempting to express your own difficulty or emotional anguish about letting someone go. Don’t. A simple, neutrally-worded statement along the lines of “These conversations are not easy” is adequate.
  2. He’s not performing, but he’s not bad.
    Be clear about the behaviors that are a reason for the termination. Referencing the behaviors, not the person.
  3. She has a future and could use some hope.
    Help her to fail forward. When terminating someone for something stupid he/she did (like an ethics violation) you could share your experiences of others who have bounced back “You don’t have to let this define you. I’ve seen many people who have bounced back and had vibrant careers.”
  4. Allow space for questions.
    It’s compassionate to say something like, “I know this can be a lot to take in. Do you have any questions about the process or what happens next?”
  5. You can say goodbye.
    We’ve never regretted taking a moment to connect and say goodbye. If you were close, it’s okay to say something personal if it feels right.

Compassionate leaders stay compassionate. Stay firm, don’t back-pedal. But it’s okay to say, “Good-bye,” and, “You can survive this.”

Project Management: Best Practices and Tools

Frontline Festival: Best Practices in Project Management and Project Planning

Welcome to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival on project management and planning. We’ve been doing a lot of work with project managers and their teams in our corporate work as well as speaking at a number of Project Management Institute conferences and events. We’re always looking for new best practices and insights to support people doing this vital work. So, we asked thought leaders from around the world to share their very best post on this topic.

Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors!

Next month’s Frontline Festival is all about meetings that get results and that people want to attend.  New contributors are always welcome. Submit your relevant blog posts here!

PMI EMEA Conference: Becoming a More Strategic Project Manager

Project Managers practice elevating their gaze and Winning Well at the 2018 EMEA Global Congress in Berlin

Components of Project Management and Planning

Rachel Gray of Patriot Software, LLC gives Four Tips for Devising and Effective Small Business Project Management Plan.  Project management encourages small businesses to reach their goals on time and within budget. Create easy-to-follow project management plans to outline the necessary steps for reaching these goals.  Follow Rachael.

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement gives us Good Project Management Practices.  Good project management practices require that you deliver a working solution quickly, prioritize and limit work in progress.  Follow John.

Beth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited offers 10 Tips for Planning a Low-Stress Event.   Events are a project in themselves. Beth shares observations from a well-planned event she had the privilege to attend. Follow Beth.

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership presents Project Planning Lessons from Home Renovation.  You can learn a lot about project management when you decide to do some home renovation! Follow Wally.

True success has more components than one sentence or idea can contain. – Zig Ziglar

Gaining Commitment: Project Management and Planning

Paula Kiger with Lead Change gives us Disaster and Contingency Planning Lessons from the ICU. Are you a leader tasked with planning for routine operations along with the response when routines are disrupted in ways big or small? Then you need to remember that success, in Swanepoel’s words, “Isn’t just the next move – it’s what you do three, four, even 10 steps after that really counts.” Follow Paula.

Julie Winkle Giulioni of DesignArounds writes about Deconstructing Delegation. Project planning, management and execution rarely happen in an isolated vacuum. You need to draw others in, engage their hearts and minds, and eventually pass off tasks that must be done. Effective project managers are also effective delegators. This article offers a framework for getting the most from your delegation efforts. Follow Julie.

Jesse Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership  shares Create a Team Charter to Go Faster and Smarter.  The six elements of a team charter clarify the important agreements about the goals and how the team will work together to accomplish them. Taking the time to get clear agreements might slow things down in the beginning, but will help you later go faster in the right direction with smarter decisions. Follow Jesse.

Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort. – Paul J. Meyer

Challenges in Project Management and Planning

Skip Prichard of Leadership Insights  presents Three Common Mistakes of Strategic Planning.  Avoid these to save time and chart the best course for the future. Follow Skip.

In our work with project managers, one of the biggest challenges is having the courage and skills to have the tough conversations. Here’s a short video about how project managers can apply our Winning Well, I.N.S.P.I.R.E. model to their work.

Robyn McLeod of Thoughtful Leaders Blog provides, Are You Over-committing? How to Wow Them AND Take Control of Your Workload.  In it, she shares that by using the strategic approach of under-promising and over-delivering, you can make commitments that you can reasonably achieve without overloading your team and pushing to the limits. Follow Robyn.

Tony Mastri of Marion Marketing  gives us Four Must-haves in Your Marketing Plan for Small Business. Planning and managing your small business’s marketing can’t be too hard, can it? You might find that shortly after you get your feet wet, you’re in over your head. Learn which pieces of a marketing plan for small business are non-negotiable so you don’t drown in the details.  Follow Tony.

The biggest challenge is to stay focused. It’s to have the discipline when there are so many competing things. – Alexa Hirschfeld

We would love to hear your thoughts and best practices for becoming a more effective project manager. We encourage you to leave your ideas in the comments section, or links to your favorite resources.