Are You a Closeted Servant Leader?

Are you afraid to talk about leadership development at work? Would you like to invest more in developing your people, but worry that your boss will pooh pooh the idea?

You’re not alone.

This week, I had the honor of co-hosting the Online Servant Leadership Summit with Becky Robinson. We had some great guests including Ken Blanchard, author of the new One Minute Manager and Cheryl Bachelder, CEO of Popeyes. You can watch the recordings and pick up some awesome free resources here. A common question coming in from the audience was “Is it possible to be a servant leader if the culture doesn’t support it?”

The answer from all participants was a resounding “Yes!”

Now as a moderator, it would have been uncouth for me to jump up and down and scream,  “YES, YES, YES!!! In fact, the more the culture is lacking these behaviors, the more vital it is that you put your own fears and vulnerabilities aside and serve well. You’re not serving anyone if your first thought is to protect yourself, fit in, and let fear and intimidation roll right past you on the way to your team!”

But the phone call I received yesterday, made me realize I needed to scream this message from some rafter, and thank goodness, we have one right here 😉

A high-ranking official of an important non-profit doing great work reached out to me via LinkedIn– after participating in the Summit.

We laughed about the Summit attracting people who already believe in leading through service, and that the folks who most need to hear the message would likely not sign-up. His next words shocked me. “You’ve got to understand the culture. My boss has no idea I participate in such things, we just don’t talk about leadership development around here. I do what I need to do–but in secret.” Wow.

I thought back to the conversation I had earlier in the week with a manager who so wants to bring in my online course for her team, but is afraid to raise the topic with her boss–because it will look like she’s not focused on more important matters. Huh? If you know your team’s results will improve as they develop, have THAT conversation.

A vital part of being a servant leader is advocating for what your team needs.  Scared leaders can’t serve well.

You Can Serve Well Without Using the S Word

If the S word scares your boss, for goodness sake, don’t use it. Just serve. Serve your team. Serve your boss. Serve your peers. Serve your customers. Get results. You’ll attract real servants like a magnet and the upwards results spiral will continue.

I’ve worked for some really tough cookies over the years. I would never have set up a meeting to talk about building a servant leadership culture. I just did it, the results followed, and they gave me bigger teams to turn around. I spent 30% of my time developing leaders, who then got promoted and led the way they knew got results (no S word articulated, just lived).

One of the senior execs I worked for actually told me privately over coffee, “The difference between you and me is that you’ll stand up for your principles even if it rubs people the wrong way. Man, do I respect that.”

I don’t think most C-levels care if you want to be a servant leader, as long as you out perform expectations with a side effect of strong employee engagement. If the culture’s not right to call it serving— don’t worry about semantics. Just live it. Teach it. Help your team grow.

P.S. If you need help convincing your boss to invest in leadership development, call me 443-750-1249. I’ll help you.

Go Slow to Go Fast

Have you every had a really crazy date? Or worked with a leader who was totally delusional?

Well that was me, about 15 years ago, single (again), feeling old (ironic now) and unsure on the Acela train.

It was just after the diversity council debacle.  I was sitting in the café car on my way to NYC for another meeting trying to rebuild trust.

I hadn’t looked up when the crowd pushed on at the Wilmington stop. It always gets crowded at that stop, and frankly I was really hoping no one would sit next to me. I wasn’t exactly feeling like company.

The conductor came on the overly loud loudspeaker to remind us they had just put on a fresh pot of coffee and the café car was open, when I heard a voice across the aisle, say, “You look really beautiful in that dress.”

To give you a sense of my mental state, it didn’t even occur to me that comment could possibly have been directed at me.

After all, I was beginning to believe my mother’s fear that at 35 it was too late to find someone new and I’d end up alone. In fact I was pretty much accepting the fact.

Five minutes later the voice came closer and I realized that the voice and the man it belonged to were standing in the aisle beside me.

“You know, it’s customary here on the East Coast to say “Thank you” when someone pays you a compliment. Where are you from?

I looked up and locked in on his beautiful brown eyes.

“Oh, I’m so sorry. Yes, thank you so much, err, very much. Do you want to sit down?”

We exchanged stories in a non-stop flurry of excitement. As it turns out Kurt was a West Point grad, also divorced with a small child, and spent half his time in Maryland, with his daughter and the other time in New York running his business. He had a similar juggling lifestyle, except I was in a row home and the Sheraton and he a Waterfront property in Annapolis and a penthouse.

“What are you doing for dinner tonight?”

I told him my plans were to head back that night on the train.

“Is your son with his Dad?”

I said yes, totally relieved to find someone who got the picture before I had to explain it.

“You can grab the 11:14 train home after having dinner with me at this awesome place in Central Station. I do it all the time. I’ll make reservations for 6 that will give us plenty of time to talk.”

By the time I got on the train home that night I began wondering how I’d stumbled on someone so interesting, smart, and let’s face it, rich.

I resisted the urge to call my mother and tell her so. As it turned out, that was a good choice. She never heard this story.

After a week of flirtatious emails and some flowers delivered to work, he invited me to dinner in Annapolis with his daughter, Molly.

“Don’t you think that’s premature?” I asked.

“Nah, It’s casual. I like to have her meet successful women. She needs a good role model. We hang out with friends a lot.”

The evening was going great until I found myself alone with little Molly at the table. “My daddy has already figured out how he’s going to ask you to marry him,” she said matter of factly.

I choked on my water.

“He has? Really. How?”

“Well he’s going to be at the finish line of your next marathon with a bottle of champagne, roses, and a ring.”

Kurt came back to the table and I locked in with those brown eyes again, but this time searching for signs of mental illness.

“What’s wrong?” He asked.

“I told her your secret,” Molly sang out.

“We need to talk.” I said coldly.

“Later. Let me get Molly to bed and I’ll put on some coffee. I can explain.”

We got home and he encouraged me to wait downstairs in the rec room.

I smelled the coffee brewing, and could hear sweet daddy daughter chatter. Hopeful that this was Molly’s delusion, I made myself at home and poked around (as any self-respecting-freaked-out second-dater would do).

I opened the door next to the stairs and found his office–which was decorated as the spitting image of the oval office.

I was still standing in the doorway in shock when he tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a cup of steaming coffee.

“What is going on?” I was shaking now.

“Sit down”, he said calmly, as if he had done this a hundred times before.

“Look, Karin, it’s like this,” he touched my hand sincerely.

“I’m very successful and very busy. I’ve got my life mapped out. I’m going to be President some day and I like my office this way as a constant reminder and inspiration. Every time I sit in that chair, I’m reminded of my goals. Anyone who visits knows my intentions.

I don’t have a lot of time to date, and quite frankly neither do you. We both have a hard time finding someone who meets our standards.

You meet ALMOST all of mine.”

Almost all ??? (I was insecure but still feisty).

“Yeah, you’re divorced and that’s not good for a first lady.”

I started, “May I point out…” and then stopped myself. Why in the world was I defending myself?

“But I’ve been doing a lot of digging. You’re attractive ENOUGH you make a good ENOUGH salary, you’re articulate,  and you go to church.”

And he continued, “I think we can make it work.”

My only thought now was how fast I could sprint to my car, whether I could outrun this West Point grad, and how many other first lady candidates he’d scared off on the second date.

I know you’ll find this shocking, but I’ve yet to see him emerge as a candidate.

Although this year, he might actually have a chance.

Accelerators have great vision, but they also know when to go slow to go fast.

Don’t scare off your team with audacious expectations too soon. Sure paint a vision, but make each step feel doable and realistic. Go slow to go fast. Burn the script and watch the magic unfold.

Two weeks later I met a grad student living in a rented room studying to be a teacher.

Two years later I married him.

But first, I checked the basement.

How Do I Get My Peers to Trust Me?

Honestly, I wish I learned this sooner. Having a tight network of trusted peers is as vital (and often trumps) your relationship with your boss and your direct reports. Trust matters even more with your peers because it’s TECHNICALLY optional and therefore more meaningful and sticky. There’s no “official” accountability levers. It’s easy to put them last on your trust-building priority list.

Your peers aren’t evaluating you on an employee engagement survey, or writing your performance appraisal. Often they have competing agendas, and of course you know it’s you against them in the stack rank.

So many of us buckle down, approach our peers with cautious pleasantries, and watch our backs.

Real trust develops when no one is watching…when you’ve got something to lose, and choose to be vulnerable anyway.

5 Ways to Get Your Peers to Trust You

Building trusting peer relationships starts with you. Here’s how.

1. Get Naked

Well not all the way, but at least take off your parka and mittens. Let them know what scares you (yes, yes, I know getting naked scares you. Do it anyway.) People trust those they can see. Share a vulnerability or two, and then wait for it. It might not happen right away, but stay open and investing as trust grows.

2. Give More Than You Receive

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into a company and seen two teams with the same objectives, doing the same work, both with best practices that they’re completely keeping to themselves. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” is old school. Show your great idea first without worrying about what comes next.

3. Take a Field Trip

I learned this from one of my direct reports in my sales exec role. His peers in the finance department were not approving contracts for a subset of our customers. My deeply southern district manager got in the car and drove three hours for an old-fashioned visit. They had some sweet tea, cleared up misconceptions, developed a streamlined communication protocol, and our acceptance rate for that market skyrocketed. These were qualified customers that “didn’t look good on paper.” But the paper didn’t do them justice.

4. Lose a Battle

You don’t care equally about every issue. Know what’s worth going to the mat for, and what isn’t. A few concessions can gain you the reputation of being “easy to work with.” When you really need something, they’ll be more likely to trust your motives.

5. Lift Them Up

As a customer service director, my friend Dan and I stumbled on this one by accident. We were peers (who were always stack ranked against one another), but we also realized we had different gifts. I’m embarrassed to admit, he went first. He rolled up his sleeves and helped me tremendously on the operations side. He even silently sat in on a few tough customer calls and privately messaged me with what to do while I was getting my sea legs.

I then came to his region and helped him attack his employee engagement issues.

In every operations review we genuinely credited one another with our success. A high-tide rises all boats.

Don’t overlook the importance of trust amongst peers. It’s harder, it makes a difference, the big guys notice, and the relationships last a lifetime.

Are you looking to take your team to the next level? Please give me a call at 443-750-1249 for a free consultation.

leadership lessons

Who are you? Who Who?

You used to be sick? Or you ARE a survivor?

You used to be a marathon runner? Or you KNOW the power of endurance?

You used to be an artist? Or you have the ABILITY to create something beautiful?

You used to be successful? Or you understand what it FEELS like to win?

You used to be a screw up? Or you UNDERSTAND the importance of mentors?

You are what you’ve learned. The power of those lessons are buried within you.

Never let them go.

Let your learning inform your leadership.

How to Motivate Yourself

I had just finished reviewing the syllabus with my Masters level leadership class, and asked my typical follow-up question. “What else would you like to cover?” Lin raised her hand and asked sincerely, “Professor, you are so passionate about what you do, it’s oozing out of you. How do we motivate ourselves to feel like that?”

Oh boy, a challenge.

You see this is the debate my husband, Marcus, and I have been having for the last 12 years. He swears that kind of motivation is genetic, and therefore, unteachable. If you met my family, you’d see where his gene theory comes from. But still, I’m passionate about proving him wrong. Yes, the irony is not lost on me.

I do know one thing, you can’t give someone 5 steps to figuring it out. It involves miring in the muck of what drives you, what you value and why.

From Motivation Theory to Real Life

So last night, I told them to buckle their seat belts and took them on a tour of motivation theory. We started with the classics: content theories (what motivates), process theories (how to motivate) and of course good old reinforcement theory. We then moved to more current thinking like Sinek and Pink. I told them to take good notes because it would be on the exam (that’s always a motivator.)

Then the real work began. I asked them to break into small groups and come up with five ways to help someone motivate themselves (all of which had to be grounded in at least one of the theories).

They started miring in the muck. I overheard deep conversation about where they get stuck and why: Childhood memories of reinforcement motivation for which they blame their bad habits, frustration of sending out so many resumes they have a hard time mustering up the gumption to send one more, questions of how they had let themselves turn from an athlete to a couch potato.

And so today I bring  you five ways to motivate yourself, courtesy of BUMO 796.

5 Ways to Motivate Yourself

1. Love (my personal favorite)

Connect with the feelings of love and sacrifice others have made for you. Acknowledge that support. Go get more if you need it. And then, turn that love into something spectacular. (P.S. this might not be unrelated to gene theory).

2. Focus on Your Basic Needs First

Work your way up Maslow’s hierarchy. If you need sleep and food, get that first. It’s hard to be motivated to change the world if you’re exhausted.

3. Set Achieveable Goals

Expectancy theory seemed to resonate.

4. Create a Support Network

Don’t try to do this alone. Articulate your goals, and surround yourself with people who will help to keep you on track.

5. Reward Yourself

Give yourself something to look forward to at each milestone.

If you’re feeling stuck, perhaps a good mire in motivation theory muck will help.

Are you looking to take your team to the next level? Please give me a call for a free consultation.

Excited vs. Excitable: The Real Secret to Executive Presence

The situation would have sent any leader who cared running for aspirin. I asked Mark, the Senior VP, “Are you okay? Are you stressed? What needs to happen next?” Mark responded, “Karin, I don’t get stressed. There’s no use in that. But as it turns out I’m a stress carrier.”

In humor lies the truth.

Mark had mastered executive presence. Mark had excited but not excitable nailed. Deeply passionate about the cause, nothing rattled him. He’d taken on each new scene as if he’d seen it a thousand times before. His actions were values-based, consistent, deliberate and timely. And yet he knew that his calm words didn’t always have a calming effect on his team. In fact sometimes, the more calm he appeared, the wilder his VPs became– as if to make up for his lack of excitable.

Stress was still rolling down hill, even though Mark had tried to stop it.

Excited Energizes, Excitable Freaks People Out

In almost every company I work with, I’ve noticed a consistent pattern– things are remarkably calmer on the executive “floor.” (Thank goodness, not always a real floor these days.)

The stakes are higher, the decisions graver, these folks have farther to fall, and yet when the going gets tough (for the execs who get it) the volume doesn’t amplify.

In full disclosure, I didn’t learn this early in my career. For a long time I believed my excitable nature proved I cared. I confused stress with passion. Fired up is a long way from freaked out. Know the difference in yourself, and in those you lead.

Your team longs for calm in you and in them. Don’t stop with you.

How to Encourage Excited vs. Excitable

So how do you grow leaders who emulate calm, in the midst of a frantic context?

1. Acknowledge Reality

More than anything your team needs to know you get it. Otherwise they think your head is in the sand. When you calmly state the issue and the implications, I promise that your team will breathe a sigh of relief. They’ll move from trying to prove that the fire is real, to trying to figure out how to extinguish it.

2. Stay Consistently True to Your Values

Great leaders stay true to their values when the going gets tough. If “customer service is #1” has been your rallying cry and you start short-cutting when budget (or boss) pressures loom, your team will be confused at best. Don’t change course. Instead ask, how do MAINTAIN OUR COMMITMENT to a great customer experience with these new parameters?

3. Encourage Wacky Solutions

Chances are that someone is sitting on an idea that is so crazy it might just work. Give them an opportunity to share. Then help them calm down, ask great questions, and consider how they could best execute.

4. Use Failure as Learning

When the going gets tough, our  tolerance for failing decreases, and in many well-intentioned leaders, disappears. Ironically, it’s in the toughest times that we need it most. The 18th failure is much harder than the second. Help your team stay calm and keep learning.

5. Stay Real

When the going gets really tough, your team wants the truth. Share what you can and help them to make informed decisions.

Leaders who win well are excited, but not excitable. They have a strong vision and a strong sense of where they are headed. They expect disruption and leverage chaos as an opportunity to engage creative solutions.

Stay excited. Resist excitable–for you and those who care enough to follow your lead.

giving employees another chance

Jack, Jill and a Slippery Hill

Antoine was an accomplished millennial retail sales professional  considered “a bit rough around the edges.”

His no-BS approach created a natural bond with entrepreneurs and mom and pop companies, that left some managers scratching their heads. But, heck it worked.

Antoine was maxing out his compensation and winning the big recognition trips year after year, but he wanted more.

He went back to school at night and got his degree. He waited until he was selling more from the store than his counterparts in the business channel, and then applied for a job with the business sales manager.

Rejected. He applied again. Rejected.

His mentor, Jill, encouraged him to shave his scraggly goatee and begin wearing suits to work. He applied again. This time he didn’t even get an interview–just a call from HR saying he “wasn’t quite ready.”

So Jill called up the Jack, the hiring manager, and described an ideal candidate she’d like to refer to him. Jill described everything about Antoine without using his name. Jack salivated and asked for the resume ASAP, after all Jack didn’t want to risk losing a candidate like that.

Jill sent over Antoine’s resume.

Embarrased, Jack gave Antoine a chance in a junior role–a level down from the position to which Antoine had applied. Within six months he was promoted, and began teaching his new peers his secrets to success.

“Job fit” is more complex than it looks. Discrimination comes in many forms.

Do you have an Antoine who deserves a chance?

For whom could you be a Jill?

digging deeper

What I Learned From Marshall Goldsmith: A Simple and Effective Technique

When Marshall Goldsmith sent me his new book, Triggers, I read it cover to cover on my flight to Vegas. Great read. But what makes a good book a great book is when it leads you to action. This one did.

The Power of Daily Questions

It’s so simple. Goldsmith recommends asking yourself a few “easy” questions each day. Of course, I say easy because they should be straightforward. But we all know gut-check questions are some of the most difficult in the world.

He shares:

For years I’ve followed a nightly follow-up routine that I call Daily Questions, in which I have someone call me wherever I am in the world and listen while I answer a specific set of questions that I have written for myself. Every day. For the longest time there were thirteen questions, many focused on my physical well-being, because if you don’t have your health . . well, you know the rest. The first question was always “How happy was I today?” (because that’s important to me), followed by questions like:

How meaningful was my day?
How much do I weigh?
Did I say or do something nice for Lydia?

And so on. The nightly specter of honestly answering these questions kept me focused on my goal of being a happier and healthier individual. For more than a decade it was the one constant of self-regulated discipline in my otherwise chaotic 180-days-a year-on-the-road life. (I’m not boasting that I do this test; I’m confessing how much discipline I lack.)

For those who are stumped on where to start, he draws on research of behaviors that lead to employee engagement and comes up with six key questions.

  • Did I do my best to set clear goals today?
  • Did I do my best to make progress toward my goals today?
  • Did I do my best to find meaning today?
  • Did I do my best to be happy today?
  • Did I do my best to build positive relationships today?
  • Did I do my best to be fully engaged today?

What you’ll notice is the recurring theme is “do my best.” Yes, its subjective. You could cheat. But if no one else is looking…

My Big 5

Picking the questions is easy and hard. I have about 100 things I SHOULD be doing every day, but that’s not the point. The point is to focus on what Covey would call the “big rocks” not the pebbles.

It also occurred to me that these questions will need to change with the seasons. For me this summer is really heavy into content development. I have a book due to a publisher and an online course that we’re neck-deep in curriculum development. I need to be writing and developing content every day. In other seasons, it will be more about delivery and the questions will change.

Here are mine:

  • Did I write something meaningful that will help managers lead more effectively?
  • Did I actively work on growing my speaking and consulting business?
  • Did I add value to husband’s and sons’ day?
  • Did I connect with my father today (This is really important because my mom died recently. He lives close and it’s a blessing to have him so integrated in our lives)?
  • Did I exercise?

As the clock ticks away, it’s surprising how motivating knowing I’ll have to answer to myself will be.

Simple and effective.

A Powerful Way to Gain the Trust of Your Team

building trustThe Senior Vice President stood in front of my all hands meeting of 300 and said, “I was wrong.” I’ve never heard a group that size sit in such silence. I’m not even sure we were breathing.

You see, she had been a naysayer. She knew the mission our team had been given was necessary, but she didn’t believe it could be done. This stung twice as hard because she’d been a mentor of mine for years. In some ways the mission to prove her wrong by accomplishing “the impossible” became quite personal.

And we had.

She could have chosen lots of other words to open up her talk. Words that would have saved face, but none that could have given her more credibility. “I was wrong, I didn’t think it could be done. You did it. Congratulations, and thank you.”

5 Ways to Admit You’re Wrong

The ability to admit you’re wrong is the ultimate sign of confident humility. It takes guts to admit you’ve made a mistake. More importantly, being vulnerable enough to admit you’re wrong makes it safe for others to do so too. Imagine a world where more people were that honest with themselves and others.

Quite frankly, many leaders screw this up. They reinvent history to justify their actions (another wrong.) No matter how you spin it two wrongs don’t make a right.

Next time you screw up, follow these tips.

1. Be straightforward

The power of her statement was that it was so blunt. “I was wrong.” She could have said something much softer with less impact, “You did a solid job,” would have been easier on her ego.

2. Explain why

Share what you’ve learned or would do differently. Articulating the lesson helps everyone learn.

3. Take accountability

Don’t be a blamer. “I was wrong, but Joe gave me bad information” or “I was wrong, but my boss had me distracted with other things” is basically saying, “Even if I am wrong, it doesn’t count.”

4. Apologize if needed

In this case there was no apology necessary, she was a leader with an opinion doing her job by expressing it. In fact, I’ll admit that her skepticism fired us up. It’s quite possible in some wacky way working to prove her wrong helped us win. But, if being wrong hurt someone, “I’m wrong,” coupled with “I’m sorry,” can go even further.

4.Follow-through

Of course the most sincere way to apologize is to not do it again. I have a friend who cheated on his wife. He admitted he was wrong, apologized, owned it… and then did it again. She left him. Those words only worked once.

Leadership credo Spring 2015

The Power of a Change of Venue

It’s tricky for all of us. I’m teaching the only leadership course these accounting students will take as part of their masters programs. The class runs from 5-10 PM after most have worked all day in their internships, and we’re crammed into a room too small for the big moving around that is critical under such conditions.

All but a handful are on visas from China. This is their final semester, and most who are not finding a job, face a fast-ticking clock that matters.

A good number name public speaking as their greatest fear, and of course it’s a leadership class, and it’s me, and it’s five hours…everybody needs to talk.

Which brings us to tonight, where each student was asked to present their leadership credo (if you want to try this click here, or heck, let me come help you 😉

Now, this is a Karin Hurt classic. It never fails. Until tonight, or so I thought.

The Power of a Change of Venue

It was time to present the credos–the student’s “This I believe” on leadership. Each student sat straight up in their seats. I could see glimpses, so I was optimistic of effort, but nearly everyone had their credo turned face down on the desk.  I invited volunteers to share their credo. I was met with crickets. Then two brave souls came forth with rock star quality presentations— followed by (you guessed it)–more crickets. The class looked at me with big, longing eyes waiting for me to move on. I offered a prize for the creativity folks most admired–not helpful.

Perhaps it was the tenacity to not let this fail, or the panic I felt realizing that this exercise should fill an hour and “We can’t be done in two minutes!”–but, I regrouped.

“I can see you’ve got great stuff by the glimpses I caught as you entered the room. I also see most of you don’t feel comfortable sharing in a crowd.

Let’s go into the hallway.” 45 students formed two circles and I quickly arranged a “speed dating” kind of sharing.

The energy level went up about 10 times, and I quickly realized my previously shy students had something important to say.

One minute in, it was clear, we were disturbing the surrounding classes.

I interrupted. “That’s the spirit! But, now ironically, we’re too loud.” Would anyone object to going outside? (It was sunny but a bit chilly.)

And off we went. You would have thought I had started serving cocktails. Bystanders  were staring as they walked by to see what we were up to.

They shared and admired and celebrated their leadership teachable point of views.

As we returned inside, I shared my “teachable moment.”

“My leadership was failing. I tried to get you to follow and you refused. I had to take a step back and regroup and change the approach (and in this case the venue). If no one’s following, blaming it on your followers may feel good, but it won’t work. If you’re really blowing it, step back and try again.”

And then the magic happened. The class selected one of their quietest members as their “winner” for creativity and content. And then, classmates who had never participated started sharing their credos. The rest of the evening went a whole lot quicker. Ahhh the remarkable power of #confidenthumility.

Who Decides Your Future?

It’s been a long day, turning into tomorrow, but I can’t get her out of my mind.  Ling (not her real name) bravely raised her hand in my Masters level leadership class tonight. “Professor, I see how these techniques would be important for someone who could accomplish something great, but it’s hard to apply for someone like me…”

I gave more examples and stories of how these basic techniques are easily used in motivating frontline teams or to stand out in an interview.

Again, Ling shook her head.

Let me step back and paint a picture. Ling is early in her career, from China, taking a masters level curriculum completely in English. Life is tricky. Visas are uncertain. She’s a rock star contributor– thinking deeply and expressing great insights. She cares, she tries, she knows a great deal. She’s scared.

Someone like me…

I paused to hear more.

Ling continued, “I’m not going to accomplish anything like THAT.”

Next, a few more few anxious nods. Not from the men.

And I’m left with the nagging question so many of us feel.

“Am I someone who could accomplish something great?”

Who, or what, limits our belief that we can be great?

What’s the right level of audacious hope?

I’m sure she’s thinking, “For God’s sakes Professor, just give me enough practical advice to land a job.”

We’ll go there. But I’m not sure that advice will work.

“One notch above” won’t differentiate or lead an employer to go the extra mile to take on immigration.

Being remarkable takes bold moves, differentiated thinking, and a really strong “why.”

In an uneven playing field who defines remarkable?

How do you build audacious confidence amidst a chorus of assimilation advice to “just fit in?”

This is not just Ling’s story.

Her journey is hard. Yours is too. You can be the guy who “accomplishes something great.”

In fact, we’re counting on it.

Karin Hurt, CEO

Other LGL News

I’m delighted to announce I’ve signed a book publishing contract with AMACOM with co-author David Dye. Working title is Winning Well:  How to Lead Your Team to the Top Without Losing Your Soul.  We’re headed for an early Spring release, stay tuned for ways to get involved.

I also had fun this week with a feature article on Yahoo:  What to Do When Your Boss Drives You Crazy

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Why You Should Go There

Recognizing that some members of the newly formed call center engagement task force may not know each other very well, I reached for one of my favorite, go-to, get-em-talking and laughing icebreakers, two truths and a lie. My selection was met with a few “Oh, not that again” grimaces. “Ah, you’ve done that one before, huh?” Twelve heads nodded a quick yes.

I thought of the exercise I’d just read about in Lencioni’s 5 Dysfunctions of a Team Field Guide. It involves participants sharing something about their childhood that made it particularly difficult. I’ve been looking to try it, but was reluctant in an environment riddled with trust issues, particularly with a mixed group of reps, supervisors and managers.

I tipped my hand.

“A key element of trust is knowing one another at a human level. As you know, there are respect and trust issues in this center that we’re here to fix. I want to ensure you all know a bit about one another before we dive into the work. I’ve got another exercise I’ve been looking to try, but I’ve never done it before and it could be heavier than you’re ready for. How about I explain it and then you can decide?”

My explanation was met with eager, unanimous agreement to do the more difficult exercise. Before long, stories of abuse, sibling death, divorce, and poverty filled the room. Nods of understanding, words of encouragement, and knowing looks of “Me, too” quickly warmed the room.  A few folks shared what was happening in their lives today.

We finished and sat for a moment silently breathing in the understanding.

After thanking them, I asked what they thought would happen if we brought any other 12 people from the center into the room for the same exercise. Everyone agreed similar stories would emerge.

So I asked the obvious question. “If you all know that people have this kind of hardship in their lives, why would you treat one another  so harshly and with lack of respect?”

Again the response was unanimous.

“Because we’re strangers.”

We knew where to start our planning.

It’s tempting to assume that people want to keep their personal lives private. That we shouldn’t “go there” at work, and of course everyone has different comfort levels and strategies with such boundaries. It’s important to know that everyone in any given room has something going on that makes life hard. Making it easier to “go there” could make all the difference in the world.