How Do I Deal With a Suspected Two-Faced Leader?

How Do I Deal With a Suspected Two-Faced Leader?

When you’re a manager of managers, one of the most important parts of your job is to know the managers on your team are leading well. Which can be tricky. Because every now and then you run into a two-faced leader, who acts one way in your presence, and completely different when you’re not around.

I’ve been there. And it’s not easy, but dealing with this scene is so vital for morale, productivity, employee engagement, and culture.

Two-faced leaders destroy culture, break trust, and diminish results.

Working with a two-faced leader can be frustrating when it’s a peer. But even more terrifying when you realize that Ms. Two-Faced is actually a direct report snowing you with her charm and strategic stories of effective leadership, all the time hiding what’s really going on behind closed doors.

You see:

  • Receptivity to feedback
  • Helpful approaches
  • Warm engagement
  • Inclusive discussions
  • Calm and helpful meetings

Her team sees:

  • Threats and ultimatums
  • Micro-management
  • Yelling
  • Disorganization
  • Mismanaged stress

And if this is going on, chances are her team is too scared to tell you.

5 Ways to Deal with a Suspected Two-Faced Leader

1. Hang around

Show up unexpectedly. Engage with the team in casual settings where they’re more likely to open up.

2. Conduct skip-level one-on-ones

Talk about their leadership style. Inquire about support. Ask what they need most. Ask for examples of great leaders. Some brave guys will bring up “two-faced.”  Avoiding the subject is also data.

3. Conduct a 360

Ms. two-faced may not fully recognize the differences in style with different audiences. Conduct an assessment, invite candor, and show her the data.  Get her a coach.

4.Ask her

Don’t wait until you have files full of evidence. Ask questions without confrontation. “How would you describe your leadership style? How does that play out in these different contexts?” “What would your team say about you” Watch for body language.

5. Talk to her peers

They’ve heard the stories, and have felt the repercussions. They didn’t want to throw her under the bus, but “since you asked” they are more likely to tell you.

Winning Well

Your turn.

What advice do you have for a friend dealing with a two-faced leader?

For more Asking For Friend advice or to ask a question for a friend for Karin to answer click here.

David Burkus

How Do I Get Better at Leading Remote Teams? with David Burkus

In this interview with David Burkus, author of the new book Leading From Anywhere, we talk about leading remote teams for the long haul and practical tools and approaches to take your remote leadership to the next level.

Advanced Skills for Leading Remote Teams

  1. Connect your team to meaningful vision and purpose, “Ask, what are we fighting for?”
  2. Create psychological safety (for more on this read our Courageous Cultures foreword by Harvard’s Dr. Amy Edmonson)
  3. Avoid disruption through more deliberate synchronous and asynchronous communication
  4. Hold shorter, purpose-driven meetings
  5. Nurture creativity and new ideas by breaking down conversation (issue, ideas, decisions)

If you’re looking for more tools and resources for leading remote teams, visit our Let’s Grow Leaders remote team’s resource center.

Linkedin LIVE on Leading Remote Teams with David Burkus and Karin Hurt (Transcript Highlights)

Connecting Your Team to Meaningful Mission and Purpose

Ask “What are we fighting for?”

How do I make the mission and vision of the company, affect people’s day-to-day lives? And the irony is the engagement numbers haven’t moved, right?

David Burkus (02:49):

In some cases, they’ve gotten worse,  but I’m going to blame that on a lot of different factors. But it, it hasn’t moved the needle.

And I think one of the questions is that there’s not that sense of clarity and there’s not that sense of where we’re really working toward something important, something that will make the world a better place.

And so I started cutting through all of that and asking teams or even individuals when it came to mission and purpose, I would go, you know, I don’t care if you know it, most companies write such a complicated mission statement that like, I wouldn’t be able to memorize it either.

But when I asked them the question,
“Hey, you know, when we think about our organization, what are we fighting for?”

What About Psychological Safety When Leading Remote Teams?

David Burkus (07:53):

And when, when people invest trust in us, it releases that oxytocin, we’re more likely to respond with trustworthy behavior. And so if you’re a leader looking to actually build trust in a team, you need to think about it that way.

What are the things you can do to demonstrate that you actually already trust your people?

This is an interesting conversation by the way, in this world of work from anywhere.

David Burkus (08:38):

So as a leader, I think it’s a little bit of letting go that you have to do…. One of the biggest things you can do is when you’re working early with a team and they’re looking to you to make a decision, make sure you’re demonstrating the rationale behind that decision. Not just because here’s what it is, but you want to be understood. You want people to understand how you’re thinking so that gradually you can actually delegate that decision once your team has a great idea of that kind they have learned from you, what you think and, and the wisdom that you have to give the rest of the team. You can let them make the decision.

David Burkus (09:13):

And then you end up usually at a very similar decision, but through a sense of trust and a sense of camaraderie that wouldn’t have happened if you just snapped to that decision. Right? So little things you can do like that. I think that also means not engaging in a uniform standard of checking in with people. You know, you don’t need to do a 15 minute zoom call all Friday, stack the ball on Friday afternoon. And then again on Monday to say, what are you going to work on this week? Everybody manages their workflow a little bit differently, especially in this environment and the leaders who actually trust their people are the leaders who go through that feeling out process to find out how can I make sure that you have the autonomy to work? However you want. You don’t feel like I’m breathing down your neck, but you know, I’m here for you anytime you need help.

On Trust and Security

Karin Hurt (09:54):

Yeah. It’s so interesting. About eight years ago, uh, I was involved in this experiment of having call center agents working from home and it was so fascinating. I mean, the dealing with it, dealing with the security, dealing with CPNI issues…

We talked about, Oh, should we put cameras in people’s offices so we can watch them like radically different conversation. And now I’m laughing because I watched, you know, our call center clients in one week back in March, move everybody home. They’re where they’re at right now. It’s amazing how, in a sense of urgency, how see how much simpler it got and guess what it’s working out. Great.

David Burkus (10:39):

I remember a lot of rhetoric in April and May about what software systems should we use the monitor employees, fancy term for spying on them. And that’s, and I just remember thinking again, through this idea of trust and autonomy, mutual respect, psychological safety, that like, if you couldn’t, if you couldn’t send your call center employees home on a week’s notice and trust that they would do their job without being monitored, you screwed up a long time ago, right?

How Do I Create Boundaries Between Work and Home?

Karin Hurt (11:23):

What you were writing was reminding me of the conversations I’m having literally every day, which is people are not finding that their employees are not working enough. They’re finding that their employees are working too much. I think, and this is, I think this is the next big problem we’re going to have is that more and more people are going to be burned out, stressed out and they can’t have the boundaries. And what I like is that you really did give some, we’re all about really practical advice on this, like really practical ways to do that. Can you share a few of those tips?

David Burkus (12:43):

And so everything that we can do as leaders to help people avoid burnout is really about making those distinctions that’s the little things. Right? So that can be little things like teaching people to set business hours, not the normal nine to five, but to actually plan it out in your calendar, when are you going to be working? And when are you not so that, you know you’re off right now, or rituals, are you going to use that replace the commute? Right. So like for me I have two devices and when I leave this room, which is in the basement of our house, when I leave this room, I go upstairs to a charging station and I switched my phone for a tablet. The tablet has nothing work-related on it. It’s like my personal Facebook account and then Netflix and Kindle and, and that’s it.

What Can Senior Leaders Do to Model the Way?

Karin Hurt (14:14):

So Jonathan Green, who is also a friend of mine (coming in the LinkedIn Live chat) says leadership not disconnecting is a real issue when leading remote teams. So I want to turn that into a question.

“What do you do if your leaders are not turning it off? They’re not setting boundaries, but they’re telling you, it’s okay for you too?”

David Burkus (14:33):

Yeah. So this is a huge problem that predates the great work from home experiment, right? The idea that we care about work-life balance and you being off work, but we’re also sending you emails at 1130 at night, right. Um, and this is something that, that really needed to stop, um, kind of a long, long time ago. I think now the best thing you can do is be first, you’ve got to commit to disconnecting. If you say that our work hours are this, or you say that are times where we don’t expect email responses, this is actually the big one for a lot of leaders. If you say that 24 hours is a reasonable amount of time to wait for an email, then you have to wait 24 hours. Right. So it starts with you and it starts with drawing those up.

The irony…

David Burkus (15:12):

The irony, of course, is that leaders are the most burnout by this whole thing that we’ve been running through. So they’re the biggest incentive to be the ones drawing up those boundaries. And then when you have those boundaries be showy about those boundaries, right? You don’t need to apologize if someone sends you an email at 6:00 PM and you don’t reply till six 30. Right. You don’t have to say, Oh, I’m sorry, I’m just seeing this.

Of course, you’re just seeing this now, because you turned off that device at five o’clock. Right. Um, so I think those little things go a long way. I think the problem is, like you said, about challenges with it before. Well, one of the, one of the big problems is this is a senior leadership and it level issue, but it’s also a team issue. And so if you can’t get senior leadership to go, yeah, we probably should turn off the email servers at some point at night and turn them back on at 8:00 AM. Then you, as a leader, need to have that discussion with your team to go, okay, what are the standards we’re committing to inside of this team? And then hold, hold yourself accountable to them first and let other people, I don’t want to say fall in line, but follow your lead.

Communication in Remote Teams

Karin Hurt (20:48):

Okay. I want to shift gears to my favorite part of your book because this is, this is an area, this concept of in remote work environment, synchronous communication, asynchronous communication. And I’m going to share with you my favorite sentence from your book.

So you say asking employees to keep a group chat open is like demanding they attended all day meeting with no agenda where participants come in and out at random and speak only in sentence fragments, as you’re asking them to commit to the work that they’re doing right here, what could go wrong?

David Burkus (22:39):

The problem is that a lot of us choose tools that were actually designed for asynchronous communication and then have expectations that it’s synchronous, whether that’s expecting an email reply in the next hour or feeling like you always have to be in that Slack channel because if you’re not, you might miss something. And that the tools are getting a little better than this like threaded discussions in Slack actually make it a totally different tool.

And when it was like, if it was like trying to do a business meeting and a Chucky cheese before that but, but the point is we can’t pick the right tool until we break out of that and have that conversation. What are the subjects of the issues and the types of communication we need to commit to as being asynchronous, project updates, requests for help, all of those sort of things can usually be asynchronous? And then what are the things and the subjects and the times that we want to have synchronous communication. Once we settle that, then we can think about what the tool for talking about those specific issues is, right? It’s usually not Slack, by the way, it’s usually a project management software. If you’ve committed to the idea that this is asynchronous communication.

Your turn.

What would you add? What are some of your best-advanced strategies for leading remote teams?

how to keep the team motivated

How Do I Keep My Team Energized and Motivated in the Schlog? #AskingForAFriend

It’s a new year- but not much has changed. How do you keep your team energized and motivated as the schlog continues? Today I share 4 ways to keep your team motivated as the challenge of the pandemic continues.

I was snowshoeing with a friend the other day, and she told me how worried she was about her team. They were all Slacking one another and talking about how great it was for 2020 to be behind them, and looking for a fresh start in the new year. But the challenge is, the turn of a calendar is not going to change much and she is concerned for their mental health.  And of course, she wants to help keep her team energized and focused.

4 Ways to Keep Your Team Energized and Motivated During Difficult Times

  1. Acknowledge the reality of the scene.
  2. Break down big goals into smaller projects to keep a sense of momentum.
  3. Keep your team focused on what they can control—and limit the number of people you include in the broader contingency planning.
  4. Invite people to talk about their personal goals … just a few of my thoughts.
What would you add? How are you keeping your team energized and focused in the new year?

Some Additional Resources to Help

How to Start the New Decade in Deeper Conversations (or most popular blog post of 2020)

Strategic Planning Tool: How to Engage Your Team in Better Conversation

How to Lead When Your Team is Exhausted

4 U.G.L.Y. Conversations to Have By Year End

Nate Regier

Compassionate Accountability: How to Build a More Compassionate Workplace

In this Asking For a Friend LIVE interview with Dr. Nate Regier of Next Element, Karin and Nate talk about how to build a more compassionate workplace and share practical approaches for balancing accountability and compassion.

How Do I Build a More Compassionate Workplace (Transcript Excerpts)

“I just want to say right out, compassion is a leadership strategy. It is the way we do our work. It’s not something we do on the side. I coach a lot of leaders and one of the most common struggles they have is they have over-indexed to kindness and they’ve dropped the ball on accountability. Compassion includes both. If you’re compassionate without accountability, you can’t get anything done, but accountability without compassion gets you alienated, so the two have to co-exist in everything that we do to really be a viable business strategy.”

– Dr. Nate Regier

What is a Compassionate Workplace?

Karin Hurt:

Definitely. Let’s talk about compassion. When you say “Creating a compassionate organization,” or “Compassion in the workplace,” what do we mean by “compassion”?

Nate Regier:

Yeah, it’s traditionally been a very soft word, I think. When I hear “compassion,” at least when I was growing up, I thought of these famous people like Mother Teresa or Gandhi that were just doing all these incredible selfless acts of service for everyone out there. My parents were missionaries, I grew up overseas in Africa, and so I saw a lot of service and I thought, “Well, that’s compassion, is you go just help people.” But really, compassion as a culture, if you look at the root of the word, the Latin root of “compassion” means “with struggle, with suffer,” so compassion means to struggle with people. That’s the best definition of work culture that I’ve ever thought of is we are struggling together towards some common goal, something amazing.

Karin Hurt:

Oh, I love that. I noticed in your book you were talking about struggling together as opposed to conflict struggling against. Can you tell me a little more about that?

What Does it Mean to Struggle Together?

Nate Regier:

Yeah. Well, like you, we work with a lot of organizations and companies and leaders where conflict has created lots of casualties, or it seems to create casualties, which is why I named my book the opposite, but conflict isn’t inherently a bad thing. Conflict is simply the gap between what we want and what we’re experiencing at any point in time and there’s a lot of energy in that gap, to be sure, but the real question is: How do we spend that energy? Misusing the energy of conflict leads to drama, but when we leverage that energy, it can be a very transformational source of energy for us. I really believe that compassion is the actual mechanism to turn conflict energy into something creative.

Karin Hurt:

Oh, very nice. Would you say that compassion is the same thing as empathy?

What’s the Difference Between Compassion and Empathy?

Nate Regier:

No, it’s not. Many people think that compassion is empathy in action: “My heart goes out to you. I feel your pain. I feel your suffering. I want to go alleviate that suffering.” That’s what compassion, we’ve come to think of it as, but that’s actually not the case. Research on empathy shows that empathy actually triggers the pain centers of the brain and over time, a lot of empathy leads to burnout, like healthcare providers, people that are on the front lines. Compassion, though, the practice of actively being involved with somebody towards a common goal, actually triggers the dopamine and reward centers of the brain and it’s energizing and fulfilling. Empathy is actually one of nine strategies we teach to practice compassion, but it’s not compassion.

Karin Hurt:

Hmm. Oh, very nice. I’ve been thinking a lot about this in our work with our clients and the conversations that we’ve been having. We’re hearing a lot of people almost over-indexed on what they would say is empathy or compassion and now I’m hearing, “Okay, and we need to keep the business going.” I mean, has the pendulum gone too far or are you hearing that? How do you do both, showing up incredibly compassionate, and run a successful business?

Nate Regier:

I just want to say right out, compassion is a leadership strategy. It is the way we do our work. It’s not something we do on the side. I coach a lot of leaders and one of the most common struggles they have is they have over-indexed to kindness and they’ve dropped the ball on accountability. Compassion includes both. If you’re compassionate without accountability, you can’t get anything done, but accountability without compassion gets you alienated, so the two have to co-exist in everything that we do to really be a viable business strategy.

What is Compassionate Accountability?

Karin Hurt:

Okay, terrific. I’m going to ask you about that in a minute because that’s some of the favorite parts of your work. I just love this compassionate accountability. But before I do that, I want to, just in case you’re just joining us, I’m here with Nate Regier from Next Element. We’re talking about some of the compassion in the workplace, particularly from his book, Conflict Without Casualties. Nate, I’ve got to tell you, compassionate accountability, when you talk about what that looks like, and you even in your book give a really good example of a peer coaching conversation that happened. I’d love to unpack that a little bit for us.

Nate Regier:

Sure, sure. Well, like I said, we’ve noticed that we can’t over-index on either end of this pendulum, that we have to find the balance. I think in the balance where conflict, or sorry, where compassion and accountability intersect is most obvious and needed when there’s conflict. Let’s say that I have a situation where maybe a peer of mine is not meeting a work expectation and I’ve got an issue with it. I care about that. I’m ultimately responsible for it. Maybe a client relationship is at stake and I want to talk to them about that, so this difficult conversation to balance compassionate accountability has to start at a place that we call “openness.”

Nate Regier:

How do we reinforce that we are two equally valuable human beings? Nobody’s going to get hurt in this conflict, but we’re going to talk about the tough stuff, so I might start by saying, “I’m feeling really anxious about what’s going on here.” Then I got to get clear about what is it. Explain the situation without blaming anybody: “Here’s what I saw,” or “Here’s what’s going on, here’s what I found out.” Then the accountability part is what we call “persistence.” Every compassionate conversation has to include talking about “Why does this matter?’ What’s most important? What’s at stake here? Why would we even go to the effort to have conflict with each other?

Nate Regier:

I might finish by saying “At the end of the day, what’s really important for me is that we uphold our promises to our customer.” Then I would check back in with the person and say, “How are you feeling about this?” We bookend the conversation with safety, vulnerability, openness, and in the middle, we talk about here’s what’s happening, here’s why it’s important. That should be a daily conversation between leaders and their people.

How do I Hold a Poor Performer Accountable?

Karin Hurt:

Yeah. We always say if you are letting someone be a poor performer, that is not kind, right?

Nate Regier:

No, no.

Karin Hurt:

You are not serving them when you let people get away with things. How do you think about this now in this context where people say, “I get it, but I know what’s going on for people at home. I know what they’re dealing with. I understand. They got a parent in a nursing home, but their performance is suffering so much right now”? How would you coach in a situation where performance has definitely continued to degrade, but you also know that there is context and the context is not likely going away for folks for a while?

Nate Regier:

Yeah. Oh, such a good question. Just yesterday, I had this call. I spent an hour with an executive around this very situation. There’s plenty of circumstances that would invite us to have empathy, to realize that, “Yeah, there’s a lot going on in this person’s life.” I think it helps. We really need to distinguish the difference between caring about someone and having attention to results and that both of those can coexist. Of course, we’re going to give people breaks now and then. Everybody deserves a day off, everybody deserves to be able to just check out because something’s going on.

What is the Most Important Job of a Leader?

Nate Regier:

But over the long haul, leaders really only have three jobs. Job number one is to create a safe place where you really know what’s going on and people can talk to you. Job number two is to be a resource without solving the problem because your job is to build capability in others, not be the problem-solver. Then job number three is to always be crystal clear about the expectations, the goals, and the boundaries. When you do those three things and don’t cross the line, people can step up even during adversity because they know you care about them and they know that you’re a resource for them and they know what’s expected.

Karin Hurt:

What About Workplace Drama?

Nate, I’m curious: Sometimes I hear people say, “I’m worried that if I am too compassionate, I will bring on the drama.” I know you are an expert in workplace drama, that was your first book, so I’d love just to shift gears a little bit and talk about that.

Nate Regier:

Well, I really appreciate that question. Michelle and Luisa have commented on this already here about how do we draw that fine line. Again, that conversation that I just showed an example of, that hits three very important points along what we call the “compassion cycle.” All are necessary and you can’t have one without the other. One of the ways that we can contribute to drama or cross that line is if we only do one without the others, like if we are always just reinforcing the non-negotiables, always talking about the rules, always bringing the hammer down, that’s going to lead to the kind of drama that we call “persecuting,” where we’re just attacking, blaming all the time, trying to use fear and intimidation to get what we want.

Nate Regier:

On the other hand, though, maybe we’re just always nice. We’re always like, “I care about you. I’m sure things are going to get better. I’m going to give you a break this time,” and we’re so kind that we become what’s called the “victim” in drama, that we’re actually compromising our own boundaries and the standards of our company and our teams just to be nice. That, again, doesn’t help anybody, but it’s another kind of drama.

Nate Regier:

Or we might cross the line and start giving what I call “nonconsensual helping,” which is another fancy word for giving advice that nobody asked for. Nobody asked you for help. Be a resource, but don’t rescue them.

How Do You Help Leaders Who Lack Compassion?

Karin Hurt:

Yeah. Oh, that’s fantastic. Michelle is asking, “Do you have any advice on how to work with leaders who don’t seem to practice holding space for compassion?” I had a leader we were working with one time. He says, “I’m just missing that gene.” Yeah, so how do you coach someone like that?

Nate Regier:

Yep, yep. Thank you. We’re very explicit about how do you coach for compassionate accountability. It starts with, “I have to be the model. I have to be the one practicing compassionate accountability in every interaction.” When I do that, my behavior is providing people bridges to join me in what we call the “compassion cycle” and save face while they’re doing it. It’s like when I practice those kinds of conversations, between the lines, what I’m saying is “Here are the rules of the game. Here’s how it’s going to be when we interact. I’m going to treat you as valuable, I’m going to treat you as capable, and I’m going to treat you as responsible, and I’m not going to vary from those things.” What we find is, as I continue to have these conversations, people will eventually join me and start participating in this new game with new rules. I don’t have to teach them about it. I don’t even have to tell them what I’m doing, I just have to be compassionate, and that gives them another way to play the game and another way to engage with me.

Karin Hurt:

What If your Boss is the Jerk?

Hmm. What if it’s your boss? What if you’re working for a non-compassionate boss?

Nate Regier:

Well, here’s the other thing, and what a great time to reinforce this, we can’t control anybody except ourselves. All we can do is practice these principles ourselves. We coach a lot of leaders to lead up and lead their bosses with compassionate accountability and it works. I coached a lady who had felt like she was being underpaid for years and she felt intimidated by her boss like he wouldn’t appreciate it, didn’t care, and we coached her to use this formula that we use for compassionate accountability. She went and talked to him. He doubled her pay after that conversation.

Karin Hurt:

Wow. Wow.

Nate Regier:

She chose to conduct herself differently. You know what Einstein said, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change,” and so it starts with us.

Karin Hurt:

Yeah, I think that is so important. We teach people how to treat us, right, and how you’re showing up in every interaction.

Nate Regier:


How Do I Create a More Compassionate Culture?

Karin Hurt:

You talk a lot about culture and how people rub off on one another and that also really can be a really negative thing. If you have someone who is very aggressive and not compassionate, then people see that and then they are acting in those same ways. What do you do from there? Because I know you do a lot of work about culture. How do you shift a culture?

Nate Regier:

Yeah. Thank you. That is a great question because ultimately culture, Seth Godin said it best. He said, “Culture is people …” What was it? People around you will do things like this, right?

Karin Hurt:

People around you … It’s my favorite.

Nate Regier:

Yeah. I think David reminded me of that the other day. Another way to think of culture is that culture is the sum of every interaction between the people. That’s all it is. How do we start to deal with those interactions? We realize that compassion can feel really esoteric, ethereal, kind of like how do you actually get your hands on it? We need to make it operational, so the first thing we’ve done is identified what we call the “compassion mindset.” What are the three switches we have to turn on inside to be able to start practicing this stuff?

Nate Regier:

Then we teach the three skills of compassion: openness, resourcefulness, and persistence. Each one is critical component and each one has three strategies that are behavioral, they’re observable, and we know when to use them. Then we put it all together in what we call the “formula for compassionate conflict,” which is what we call “Open, Resourceful, Persistent, Open; ORPO.” We teach people how to do that. It’s what I role modeled earlier in the conversation with my peer. The mindset, the skillset, and then the formula. Once we have those things on board, anybody can learn them and anybody can apply them in any situation where there’s a potential conflict.

Karin Hurt:

Wow, interesting. Let’s talk a little bit more about each one of those. Behaviorally, I’m all about practical. Behaviorally, what does openness look like if you were trying to teach me to be more open?

Nate Regier:

Yep. Openness, at its core, is about creating a safe emotional space or emotional transparency. This is not about just what I have in my head, it’s about showing you my heart. There are three strategies. One is disclosure, where we simply share how we’re feeling with people. Another one is validation, where we show people that their feelings matter and that we’ll hold them with respect. Then the third strategy is empathy, which I mentioned before, and that’s the strategy of saying “You’re not alone. We have felt the same thing, and so your feelings are not alone, they’re not out …” How often do people feel like “I’m the only one going through this” or …? The leader I talked to the other day said, “I don’t know who I can talk to because I don’t think anybody feels what I feel,” and so I can say, “Wow, I remember what that was like when I got promoted. I’m with you.” That’s openness. Three strategies. Very important in creating a place where people feel safe enough to talk about what matters most and I know that’s a big deal for you as well.

Karin Hurt:

Yeah, absolutely. Okay, and then resourcefulness, because a lot of that is you talk a lot about not solving problems for people and that is actually disempowering.

Nate Regier:


Karin Hurt:

I imagine resourcefulness has something to do with that?

Nate Regier:

Well, resourcefulness comes next. Openness is where we get out how we’re doing. Then we go to resourcefulness and then we say, “Okay, so how are we going to go about this? How are we going to understand what’s happening?” Resourcefulness truly is about problem-solving, but it’s about doing it in a way that increases capability, and so we’re exchanging information, we’re building on our strengths, we’re leveraging successes from the past or successes that other people have had that we can learn from, and so these are all strategies to build capability. Sometimes leaders ask me, “Well, how do I know if I’m being resourceful with my people?” and I ask them, “There’s just one question. This question is, ask the people you work with this one thing: After an interaction with me, do you feel more or less capable than you did before?”

Karin Hurt:

Oh, that is such a good question.

Nate Regier:

If the answer is yes, you’re doing the right thing. If the answer is no, you’re probably rescuing them instead of being resourceful, so we teach very specific strategies on how to be curious, how to ask good questions, how to leverage people’s strengths, how to help your people become more capable and be a catalyst for growth rather than being the one that’s solving all the problems. That then leads us to the next one.

Karin Hurt:


Nate Regier:

You were going to ask a question. What were you …?

Karin Hurt:

No, just I love it so much, I want to make sure we stop there because that is such a powerful question. If every leader went out today and asked that question, “After a conversation with me, do you feel more or less capable?” because if there are bullying behaviors, if there is fear and intimidation, people are not going to feel more capable, they’re going to lose confidence. One of the most important things we do as leaders is to build confidence and build people’s belief that they are capable as well as building their capabilities, so I love that one so very much. Okay, let’s go to the third.

Nate Regier:

Yeah, persistence. Well, I do want to give a shoutout to Courageous Cultures because your book is packed full of what it means to create a curious place, and so anybody who’s working with us or working with our model and wants to develop resourcefulness, just go read your book because it is an incredible place, incredible, chock full of stuff. Okay, so now we understand …

Karin Hurt:

No, wait, I’m going to interrupt you, first of all, to say thank you, but also because we have another question. Khaled is definitely-

Nate Regier:

… Oh, yes.

Karin Hurt:

… He’s somebody I’d met at a Project Management Institute conference. He was in one of our sessions. Thank you for always being on Asking for a Friend. He’s asking a great question here: “Is resourcefulness equivalent to coaching or is it a different thing? And if so, how is that different?”

Nate Regier:

Great question. Resourcefulness is to coaching what empathy is to compassion. Resourcefulness is one of the skills that we would coach a leader in, but it is only one of three of the skills of compassion. We provide a coaching strategy with how does a mentor or a coach invite someone to continue to move around the compassion cycle from openness to resourcefulness to persistence back to open. There are key decisions a person needs to make at each juncture and we teach coaches how to recognize when it’s time for that decision and how to invite and facilitate that so that people continue to step up to higher levels of compassion and higher levels of accountability over time.

Karin Hurt:

Okay, good. We actually have another question, so I’m going to just riff on these questions and then we’ll let you close with your final element here. In Conflict Without Casualties, you stated that there are only three roles, the persecutor, the victim, and the rescuer, and drama is all about negative attention behavior,” so you have someone who has read your book carefully here.

Nate Regier:

Wow. Great question.

Karin Hurt:

How would you respond to this?

Nate Regier:

Yeah, I would say that drama is always about real issues, but the way we’re tackling those issues is we are seeking to feel justified about our negative behavior and we’re creating an adversarial relationship around the issue. The issue is real, but the way we’re handling that energy of conflict is destructive, distracting, and leads nowhere but away from our best-laid goals.

Karin Hurt:

Hmm, so when you talk about reducing the drama, I think for me, in your book, it really kept coming back to, “Are we struggling together or are we struggling against?” It was really interesting because I was in the middle of some conflict as I was listening to your book and I was walking and I was thinking about, “Huh. How do we shift this to be struggling together? Because we all want the same thing.” At the end of the day, what the conflict I was involved in, we really did want the same thing, but the tension was there. It was weird.

Nate Regier:

Well, and that leads to the third skill of persistence, which is now we’ve understood the situation, we understand options, we have choices to make. Persistence is about saying, “Okay, let’s follow-through. What does really matter most? What is this about? Is this about quality? Is it about respect is about boundaries? Is it about a relationship that we both care deeply about? Let’s get clear about that so we can make some new commitments to each other about where we go from here.” That’s hard work.

Karin Hurt:

Oh, that’s beautiful. I love that so much. Okay, do we have any last questions from our listeners on Asking for a Friend? I’ll do one last call for questions. As I’m doing that, Nate, what have we not talked about that you think is so important for people? I know, a lot, but that are so important for people, particularly right now?

Nate Regier:

I think we, I just want to reinforce, again, that compassion is a way of being with people that preserves dignity. It builds capability and it, in crystal clear ways, reinforces responsibility in every interaction, so there’s never a wrong place to practice compassion or a wrong time. Now, we’re going into the holidays. Karin, you and I are really lucky that we have families that we love and want to be around and get along. That’s a luxury that maybe some families don’t enjoy, or maybe some people are alone now during the holidays, or maybe they’re just getting a barrage of social media on Facebook because they posted something and everybody is hating on them, or maybe they’re really feeling the drain and distress of this extended pandemic, and so I think compassion can be practiced on ourselves where we each day try to reinforce, “How am I valuable? How am I capable and how am I responsible for me every day?” That way, we can be that anchor in the storm and keep that centered focus when everything seems to be going crazy around us.

Karin Hurt:

Oh, wow. I want to make sure we get that. How am I valuable, how am I capable, and how am I responsible for me?

Nate Regier:

Responsible, mm-hmm (affirmative).

Karin Hurt:

Wow. Just think about that, such an affirmation. If you really think about that, especially when you’re stressed and regrounding yourself in that, “Hey, I actually have a lot to contribute here.” I love that. We got a “super,” there. Great. Okay, well, tell us a little bit about where people can find more about you. I know you all want to connect with him on LinkedIn. What could you share?

Nate Regier:

Well, LinkedIn seems to be working really well these days for connecting, so you can find me on LinkedIn, our company’s website is, and you can purchase my books anywhere books are sold. There’s Conflict Without Casualties, we’ve talked about today, and my newest book, Seeing People Through, is all about personality diversity and leadership and so both of those are great places, but if you just look up my name, I love to get connected. I’m just looking forward to hearing from you.

Join us on Future Asking For a Friend!

We’d love to have you join us for Asking For a Friend on Fridays at 11:30 EST on my LinkedIn Feed. If we’re not connected just send me a request!

And if you like interviews like this, you won’t want to miss our most popular Asking For a Friend LIVE interview of the year, on creating connection and celebration in remote teams—including getting better at remote small talk (with Debra Fine and Scott Friedman).

Debra Fine and Scott Friedman

How to Get Better at Remote Small Talk

Small talk is challenging for many leaders, but it can be even more challenging when leading a remote team. In this episode of Asking For a Friend, I talk with small talk experts Debra Fine and Scott Friedman about practical ways to approach this fine art.

“Yeah, I don’t do small talk.”

“My team understands, I’m cool with THEIR chit chat in-between meetings, but I don’t really have time for that stuff. I’m all business. That’s why I’m so productive.”

“I get that small talk is important, but I just hate it’s so uncomfortable. I never know what to say.”

“I love hearing about what’s going on with my team personally, but I don’t want to waste their time talking about my personal life, so I keep that to myself.”

These are all phrases we’ve heard from managers (and executives) recently. And yet, what we hear from their teams is quite a different story. People are yearning for human connection, with one another and their manager.

The truth is small talk is no small matter.

5 Practical Ways to Up Your Remote Small Talk Game

In our Asking for a Friend Live series this week, Karin interviewed connection experts Scott Friedman and Debra Fine about building connection and celebration—and of course, the importance of small talk in the mix.

A few tips (watch the video below for more):

1. Use prompts to invite a deeper conversation.

Debra suggests that instead of asking “How are you?” Use the phrase, “Catch me up.”

For example, don’t just ask, “How’s your kid?” Because of course, you’ll hear the most likely answer, “Oh, he’s fine.”

But if you say, “Catch me up about your son, Sebastian. What’s he’s been up to since we last spoke?” just like that, you are having a meaningful conversation that helps your co-worker feel seen and cared for.

2. Make small talk a task.

If you struggle with small talk, make small talk a task.

For example, you could make a calendar appointment to reach out to two people you work with each day, just to check-in. Or, if you’re leading a meeting, make a deliberate plan to start the meeting with space for small talk and a check-in prompt or two.  Then, just like every other task, once you’ve completed it you can check it off. (P.S.  no one needs to know you think of it as a task. They’ll just love the time for connection.)

3. Book-end each meeting with time for small talk.

Small talk doesn’t have to take a lot of time. As you head into each remote meeting, think about having small talk frame your meeting like bookends. Begin and end every meeting with time to connect for five minutes at a human level.

4. Create opportunities for asynchronous small talk.

One of the I.D.E.A.s that came out of a recent Courageous Cultures live-online program was to build a series of Slack channels where employees could engage with one another as they had time around topics they cared about (e.g. recipes, funny pet pics/stories, fitness challenges).

5. Make small talk a ritual.

Scott talks about the power of “Wow Friday,” where people get a moment to share their concerns and celebrations.

Wine: Get a beverage of choice and give people a chance to share what’s on their hearts.

Wow: Celebrate something good, and be able to celebrate.

More here…

Asking For a Friend Live With Scott Friedman and Debra Fine

Join us on Friday’s For Asking For a Friend

Join Karin every Friday at 11:30 EST for her Asking For a Friend Video Series where she shares practical tools and techniques including interviews with well-known authors and business leaders from around the world.

Your turn.

What are your best tips for small talk on remote teams?

See Also:

Fast Company- How to Replace Small Talk When Working Remotely

For more remote team tips and techniques visit our remote team resource center.