leadership tips managing emotions

Frustrated or Focused – Leadership Tips for Managing Emotions

“David, I know I shouldn’t take this personally, but I’m so frustrated and I just want to yell at my team and walk away. I need help managing emotions or I’m going to have a meltdown.”

Amanda is a team leader for an international clothing producer. She loves her work, finds it inspiring, and she cares deeply about her people and the quality work they do. Like many leaders, however, her passion has turned to frustration as she struggles with managing emotions.

Leadership is challenging. Things never go exactly according to plan, disappointments creep up where you don’t expect them, and people can be erratic. Leading means you’ve got to deal with the human element.

If you’re going to succeed over time and achieve breakthrough results that last, you can’t walk around stressed out and frustrated all the time. You’ll break down or you’ll lash out at your team. Either way, your credibility suffers.

6 Steps for Managing Emotions

Recently one of our workshop participants mentioned a manager who said, “I’m here to manage results, not manage emotions.” Frankly, I think that statement is naïve, dangerous, and self-sabotaging. Managing emotions, starting with your own, is a critical leadership skill. Here are six ways to help you stay grounded and manage your emotions:

1. De-personalize issues.

Like many leaders, Amanda was taking her team’s behavior personally. She was basically saying, “How can they do this to me?” But here’s the thing: another person’s behavior is almost never about you. They are living their life, trying to do the best they can with what they have. They didn’t wake up that morning thinking about the best way to anger you.

In short: You are not the center of anyone else’s universe. (Unless you have a dog – then you’re totally the center of their world.) De-personalize the issue by recognizing that this isn’t about you. You need to lead through it, but it’s not about you.

2. Name your feelings.

This is a powerful way to lessen the grip of powerful emotions. When you realize you’re feeling tense, upset, tight, or can’t breathe, take a moment and try to name the feeling. Eg: I’m feeling scared, I’m feeling frustrated, or I’m feeling sad.

Your emotions are there for a reason. They’re like a warning siren calling for attention. When you ignore them or try to push them away, they turn up the volume. Over time, consistently ignoring them can do serious damage. But when you name it, it’s like you’ve acknowledged the warning call by saying “I see you – thanks for alerting me.” Just naming the feeling helps it to move through you and loosen its grip.

3. Apple catching (choose what you allow in.)

Imagine someone tossed an apple to you. You would not catch the apple with your mouth, immediately chew it up, and swallow it. You would catch the apple, inspect it, and then decide if and when you want to eat it.

Feedback is the same way. Don’t automatically internalize every bit of feedback you receive. If a 4-year-old stomped their foot and said “I don’t like you very much” it probably wouldn’t offend you.

But have a 44-year-old colleague say those same words and many people automatically take offense. They swallow that feedback without first evaluating it and whether or not it has something useful for them.

4. Get perspective.

Imagine holding a penny right in front of your eye. It blocks out your entire vision. Even if there is a huge mountain right in front of you, you won’t be able to see it because that small penny is consuming your vision. Move the penny farther away from you – get it back in proper perspective and it no longer blocks your vision.

Leadership problems and frustrations are often similar. You care, you devote so much of yourself to your work, so of course, the problems seem huge. But without perspective, it’s often impossible to find the healthiest solutions.

What helps you restore your perspective? For me, it is nature, sunsets, stars, forests, rivers, and mountains that remind me that this is a small problem in a very large universe. Time with family and friends restores my value of what matters most in life and gives me the energy and reserves to tackle the challenges I’m facing. Moving your body helps – a short walk, run, or bike ride can do wonders and give your mind time to process and work through what you’re feeling.

5. Give yourself room to feel.

You’re a human being and those emotions that have you in their grip are there for a reason. Anger is a sign that something’s wrong. Sadness is an acknowledgment of loss. Fear is a normal feeling when faced with the unknown. It’s okay to have these feelings. You can’t erase them. Rather than ignore them or fight them, acknowledge them and allow yourself a moment to feel. This doesn’t mean you’ll wallow in them or stay stuck.

When that promotion doesn’t happen or your team lets you down, give yourself time – maybe an hour or even a day or two to feel sad. Then move forward. Let the emotion do the work it needs to.

6. Move to “How can I…?”

After you acknowledge your feelings, it’s time to figure out what comes next. One of the best ways to do this is to ask yourself a “How can I?” question. For example, if you didn’t get a promotion, ask “How can I better position myself for the next opportunity?” When your team lets you down, ask “How can I ensure they are able to do what needs to happen the next time?” Maybe you need to clarify what success looks like or have an overdue INSPIRE conversation.

Moving to a “How can I?” question re-empowers you and produces positive energy. Don’t move to this step without first identifying what you’re feeling or you may ask the wrong “How can I?” question.

Your Turn

When you’re feeling more frustrated than focused, remember that your feelings have a job to do. At the same time, if you don’t develop the skills for managing emotions, they can also cripple your leadership. Effective leaders lead themselves first. They acknowledge their own humanity and lead their team through theirs.

Leave us a comment and share: What is your best strategy for managing emotions at work?

PS: If you’re unable to cope with your emotions over time – whether it’s depression, rage, or anxiety, please seek the help of your doctor or a mental health professional. Your mental health is every bit as real a need as your physical health – take care of yourself.


Innovative Leadership Training Leadership Development

leadership skill no one talks about

The Leadership Skill No One Talks About

The Secret to Transform Your Culture or Results is One Often-Ignored Leadership Skill

“I’m so frustrated.” Martin, the Senior Vice President of a rapidly-growing communication hardware company serving the United States, leaned back in his chair and blew a heavy sigh past his mustache. “I’m hoping you can help me. It’s like there’s some key leadership skill I never learned.”

He continued: “Three of my direct reports are behind on projects I delegated. I walked through our contact center and customer service was a mess even though we invested all that time in training. Our quality initiative is stuck in neutral…it just seems like we can’t seem to get anything done.”

Martin is well versed in leadership and management. He knows the M.I.T. (Most Important Thing), how to set clear shared expectations, how to make sure everyone knows how to succeed, he knows how to reinforce what success looks like, and he knows how to inspire, to celebrate when it goes well, and how to hold everyone accountable when it doesn’t.

He knows all of these fundamental leadership skills.

So what’s the problem? What’s the leadership skill that Martin feels like he’s missing?

The Missing Leadership Skill

As we work with thousands of leaders around the world and watch them start using Winning Well leadership and management strategies, we’ve seen a common theme when it comes to who succeeds over time:

When it comes to changing a culture or transforming results, they don’t just start – they finish.

Sadly, organizations are littered with leaders who start, but never finish:

  • The leader who says the meeting starts at 9, but when someone is late, doesn’t say anything.
  • The manager who declared that a customer call must begin with empathy, confidence, and connection, but he only said it for two weeks and never got back to it.
  • The team leader who facilitates a great meeting, helps the team dig deep to make tough commitments, but doesn’t follow up to see that it happened.
  • The manager who has a brilliant performance coaching conversation with an employee who needs to improve in one key area, but three months later has never reviewed the desired new behavior.
  • The team leader who declares a new era of entrepreneurial teamwork, but then never asks for a single new idea.
  • The manager who delegates a project, but never receives it back.

It doesn’t take many of these failed commitments before your team loses faith in your ability to make change happen, and worse, you lose faith in yourself.

Make Your Choice

When you set an intention and follow through your confidence increases. Your team knows they can believe you, trust you, and rely on you. You credibility builds.

Finishing is a choice. It doesn’t happen by chance. In fact, the chances are it won’t happen at all.

Here’s the deal: life is busy. You’ve got more to do than time to do it. Your plan is going to get interrupted and your interruptions are going to get interrupted. If you don’t have an intentional, focused way to finish what you start, it won’t happen.

Effective leaders consistently choose to finish – but they don’t leave it to chance or a heroic act of willpower.

Make It Automatic

If you have to spend energy trying to remember everything you need to finish you’ll never do it. There’s just too much going on and your brain has limited energy. Just thinking about every open loop can be exhausting.

There’s a better way: schedule the finish.

The moment you set an intention, make an appointment with yourself or with the other person where you will complete the intention or take the next step. The key is when. What moment in time will you follow up, follow through, and finish?

Here are some examples:

  • When you have a performance conversation using the INSPIRE model, the final step (E) is the Enforce step. Schedule a brief meeting to review their desired behavior. Eg: “Sounds good. Let’s meet at 10 next Tuesday to see how this is going and if you have any questions.”
  • When you delegate, schedule a time where the other person will meet with you in person or by video to return the project to you, answer questions, and discuss next steps.
  • When you lead a meeting, conclude the meeting by asking who will do what, by when, and “How will we know?” The final “How will we know?” are scheduled commitments to the team. Eg: “We will all have our data to Linda by Friday at 4 pm. Linda will send us the new process by Wednesday at 3 pm.” Everyone puts the times on their calendar. If Friday 4 pm comes and Linda doesn’t have data from Bob, she calls him. If 3 pm Wednesday comes and they don’t have the process, they call Linda.

The key in all these examples is to make an appointment. There is a difference between a to-do item and scheduled time on your calendar, particularly when that time is scheduled with another person. The likelihood of you both keeping your commitment increases significantly.

For items that don’t naturally fit in a calendar appointment (eg: you’re rolling out a new process to improve on-time delivery and quality), you can still make appointments with yourself to reinforce the initiative (communicate at least five times through five different channels) and to review performance.

When you create an expectation – particularly a new one that is the result of training or a new process – follow through on behavior quickly. When people get the behavior right, celebrate it, acknowledge it, and reinforce that this is what people like us do.

When it doesn’t happen, have quick INSPIRE conversations to redirect people back to the new way of doing things. If there are problems that prevent people from doing what’s needed, solve them quickly and visibly.

(This is the strategy at the core of the Confidence Burst strategy.)

Your Turn

Finishing isn’t flashy, but it’s a leadership skill with a huge payoff.

Martin didn’t need to learn a new strategy or read another book. His only missing leadership skill was to finish what he started.

Finish. Schedule the follow-through. Don’t leave it to chance or your to-do list.

We’d love to hear from you: As a leader, how do you ensure you finish what you start?


leadership development Karin Hurt and David Dye

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.

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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 Do You Know What Your Team is Thinking?

How to Know What Your Team is Really Thinking

Are you listening to your team
and the stories they tell?

During times of change and uncertainty, your team is desperate for information. They’re looking for the story behind the story. They’re thirsty to listen to anyone who knows what’s REALLY  going on. And in the absence of information, they’ll find their own stories and share them widely.

Most of the time, those stories are 10X worse than the truth you’re afraid to share. 

Yes, get your story together to explain what you’re doing and why. Hold town hall meetings. Conduct great skip level meetings.  Walk around as much as possible, AND don’t overlook the importance of listening to the stories your team members are telling one another.

Simon’s Story

I met Simon, a millennial Austrian engineer on a recent diving trip. He’d quit his well-paying engineering job and was on a 3-month backpacking adventure in South America. Curious about what gives someone the courage to just quit a job with nothing lined up when they return, I asked to hear his story.

Our company got bought by a Canadian-owned multinational company. All they care about is profits and reducing costs. They’ve created all these remote teams without much training or communication and I now work for a German boss who is a complete #@%&@$#.

They cancelled the Christmas Party!

You’re a leadership person, don’t you think that’s a bad sign? And then right after they cancelled the Christmas party, they had a big meeting where they brought us all in to talk about how great it was going to be and all this rah-rah about being one team. They had money for that, but not for the Christmas party?

This company is ruthless. So I quit. I’m going to travel and when I come back, I’m going to find a job for a smaller company that really cares.

I asked him what he would have wanted to hear in that big meeting.

The truth about where we are going. Transparency about the vision and cost-cutting efforts. How and why decisions are being made and how I will be impacted. Is that too much to ask?

In the absence of information, Simon had built his own story of bloodthirsty opportunistic grinches, which of course was validated by the stories of his peers–many of whom are still there looking for more evidence their story is true.

It might be. Or maybe not.

I don’t know about this company or the leadership motives behind their communication strategy. But, I’ve worked with enough senior level teams to know that there is another side of the story.

I asked Simon if he had shared why he had really left.

“No one asked.”

Sarah’s Story

And now what I heard from Sarah, just the other day.

I was brought in to do some “brand ambassador” training. The focus was how to help frontline employees provide extraordinary customer service and represent this premium brand.

The minute I walked into the room, I knew there was no way we could start there. So after some introductions and some fun, I asked, “What’s really scaring you about what’s happening in the company right now?”

Sarah spoke up first:

The only people who care about the customer around here are the people in this room. Ever since the merger (8 years ago) it’s been all downhill and now this new IT system is the final straw. Now we won’t have any choice but to be “corporate.” We’ve lost all ability to do the right thing for our customers.

Now this time, I DID know the other side of the story. I understood how and why the new IT system would improve the customer experience. I’d engaged in hours of discussions about the importance of extraordinary customer service as their key differentiator. In fact, that’s why I had been brought in. The senior team’s number one priority was differentiation around an extraordinary customer experience.

But that story doesn’t matter. Until we understand the story Sarah and her friends were sharing.

“Why do you stay here?” I asked.

George spoke up next, “because these people are like family, but you can bet I’ve stopped wearing my company shirt to the bowling alley. And if someone sees me at the grocery store with it on, I make up a story of winning the shirt in a golf tournament.”

It was only after hearing their very real stories, that we could begin the real work of transforming the customer experience, digging into the AND of personalized service and the value of new systems to take that experience to the next level.

Why the Brain Loves Stories

I know you are working to frame the story you want your team to hear. It’s also so vital to slow down and be really open to hearing the stories they are telling one another.

Paul Zak has done some fantastic research that matters when it comes to your culture and how your team processes change.

The first part of the answer (as to why the brain loves stories) is that as social creatures who regularly affiliate with strangers, stories are an effective way to transmit important information and values from one individual or community to the next. Stories that are personal and emotionally compelling engage more of the brain, and thus are better remembered, than simply stating a set of facts. In the absence of information, your team is more likely to make up a story far worse than even your most difficult bad news.

Do your best to be as much of a story listener as a storyteller.

Hear their stories. Listen well. Share yours. Listen again.

Related Posts

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leadership development Karin Hurt and David Dye

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

Motivate Your Team Stop Treating Them Like Family

How to Motivate Your Team – Stop Treating Them Like Family

Thinking they’re a family doesn’t motivate your team.

You’ve probably heard leaders say it and you might have even said it yourself when you were hoping to motivate your team.

“I treat my team like family” or “We’re one big family here at XYZ Corp.”

It feels like a nice thing to say. You want them to know you care about them as people; that everyone cares about each other; and we may fight at times, but we always come back together.

We are all about genuine caring and connection. Winning Well leaders focus on both results and relationships.

However, there are three problems with comparing your team or company to a family and they can badly undermine your leadership and your team’s effectiveness.

1. You don’t know what “family” means.

Each team member will interpret “family” differently depending on their past. For some, the definition of family is “that safe place where you are always accepted no matter how badly you’ve screwed up.”

For another team member, the family might mean a dysfunctional, tense situation that they left as soon as they could.

For another team member, family means they just wait for their parent to tell them what to do and they don’t have to think for themselves.

As soon as you use a word like “family” you’ve lost a shared, mutually understood set of expectations about what success looks like.

2. You’re not a family.

When it comes to motivating your team, one of the biggest problems “family” language creates is the obvious one: you’re not a family. One big difference that I’ve seen create problems for many businesses is the idea that you can’t fire a brother or sister for poor performance.

I’ve listened to sad employees receive a letter of separation and tearfully tell their manager, “But we’re supposed to be a family. This isn’t right.” And they believe it, and they’ve been allowed to believe it, because the manager so frequently spoke in terms of family.

Teams exist to achieve a shared goal, whether it’s to serve your customer, create change in the world, or solve a significant problem. When your behavior doesn’t align with that goal, you can and should be removed from the team. Families may or may not share a common goal, and rarely does poor behavior get you removed from a family.

3. You make growth difficult.

Small teams and businesses will often speak of themselves as a family. It’s natural–the constant time spent with your team, high pressure, the informal meetings, and lack of structure that often come with small organizations can feel very family-like.

However, this mindset makes it very challenging to motivate your team when you want to grow. Team members who enjoyed the casual environment and lack of structure start to complain when you introduce role clarity, define MITs, and increase accountability.

This is where you hear things like, “We used to be a family, but now we’re becoming so…corporate!” Corporate is said as if it were a poisonous snake (and, to be fair, if their experience of corporate has been to be treated like a number, not a person, it may have been poisonous.)

How to Motivate Your Team When They Talk About Family

When you hear your team talking about being a family (or if you’ve used this language yourself), I invite you to Ditch the Diaper Drama with your team and have a straightforward conversation. You might start with:

“I’ve heard us talk about being a family and I’ve said it as well. I want to talk about that. Family can mean different things to different people and I’d like for us to make sure we are on the same page and understand one another.”

In this conversation, you want to reinforce that you are a team (or organization) focused on both results and relationships. Clarify the MITs and What Success Looks Like. You might use the Expectations Matrix to facilitate a conversation and identify gaps in expectations.

Clarify your culture (How people like us act) with regard to how you will treat one another with respect, compassion, and hold one another accountable. If growth is in your future, talk about how it will require more role clarity and more structure, and how treating one another with respect, compassion, and holding each other accountable should never change.

Your Turn

Remember that “family” can mean something very different from what you intend and create bad misunderstandings for your team. To motivate your team, take the time to clarify shared expectations about your purpose and the ways in which you will respect and care for one another.

We’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment and share your thoughts about what it means for a business team to be “like family.”

leadership development Karin Hurt and David Dye

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

Bulldozer Parents and our Gen Z Workforce

What Bulldozer Parents are Doing to Our Gen Z Workforce

I’ll be honest. I didn’t even know bulldozer parents were a thing until Friday night. When did helicopter parents become bulldozer parents?  Are they really bulldozing at work?

I had to Google the whole “bulldozer parents” thing after having dinner with some HR execs who were attending the keynote I was giving the next day. Every single person at the table had at least one story of a bulldozer parent. Most had more. It made for a sad, twisted sort of entertainment. But there’s nothing really funny about what overly protective parents are doing to our future workforce.

“Don’t you hate it when a parent comes to the interview AND ANSWERS ALL THE QUESTIONS?”

“Or when you are doing new hire orientation, and the mom comes too, AND proceeds to supply all the answers? AND  then when I suggest to mom that their child needs to take responsibility… the mom gets the gist and gets quiet… and the kid doesn’t have a clue what to say next and keeps looking at Mom?”

“Or when the Dad pulls strings to get his child hired. And then, AFTER ALL THIS ADVANTAGE, the child keeps screwing up… and said Dad then intervenes AGAIN to defend the behavior…Exactly how is this helpful… for anyone?”

Dear Bulldozer Parents,

I get it. You want the best for your kids. So do I. You’ve learned a lot the really hard way and you want to save your kids some steps.

Despite all your best intentions and deep love for your children, your helping is hurting. All this extra support is undermining your children’s confidence and credibility. The last thing you want is HR recruiters comparing notes talking about you and your kid.

Of course, you can help. Give them interview pointers, help them turn their experiences into stories for the situational interview, and when they screw up, give them a big hug and encourage them to try again.

Build Confidence and Competence

confidence competence modelIf they’re lacking confidence encourage them.

If they think they know it all, coach them on their blind spots.

If they’re strong and full of confidence, challenge them to go for something bigger.

And if they’re struggling with the basics, don’t coddle, take a step back and teach them the basics.

Your turn.

Are you facing bulldozer parents intervening in their children’s careers? Are your Gen Z employees struggling with the basics? What advice do you have to help parents better prepare their children for today’s workforce?

See Also: 10 Common Excuses That Silently Damage Manager’s Careers- Fast Company

leadership development Karin Hurt and David Dye

Coworker Conflict: 7 Ways to Get Along with Other High-Performers

Coworker Conflict: 7 Ways to Get Along with Other High Performers

You’re passionate about your work and you’re nailing your role. You’re working hard and your results are on fire. And then in the middle of an otherwise raving performance review, your boss brings up the conflict you continue to have with another high-performing coworker.

“You’ve got to work on being a better team player.”

Ouch.

You’ve always prided yourself on building healthy relationships. But you’ve got to admit, the tension isn’t good. Not to mention, your team can smell it too. How can you expect them to work as a team, when you can’t get along with your peer?

We see it all the time–the conflict, drama and wasted energy between otherwise highly-competent high-performers. Stack ranked performance management systems can aggravate tension, but we often find it’s more complex than an artificial competition.

If you’re neck deep in conflict with a high-performing coworker, watch out for these behaviors.

7 Common Sources of High-Performer Coworker Conflict (and what to do instead)

1. You challenge them in front of others (particularly your boss.)

The Problem:

Your peer brings up a new idea at the staff meeting. You shoot it down with five reasons it won’t work. She’d mentioned the idea to you before the meeting and you had smiled and nodded. The truth is you weren’t really paying close attention. Now that you are really listening you’ve got some legitimate concerns.

Your co-worker feels belittled and bruised as she climbs out from under the bus you didn’t even know you were driving. “Why didn’t you tell me when I asked you before?”

You didn’t mean to be a jerk, you just want to get it right. The boss agrees with your concerns and once again praises your quick thinking.

The Solution:

Peer feedback is best given off-line. Give your input early, and then you can nod in full support of the enhanced plan.

your competition is mediocrity2. You withhold best practices.

The Problem: You’re trying some wild and crazy ideas, and you don’t want to share before you know they’ll work. Or you got busy and forgot to share. I know you’d never purposely withhold your great ideas, but your peers may not have the same interpretation.

The Solution:

Let folks know what you’re up to. If it’s half-baked, describe the batter and promise updates. Peers trust peers who share what they’re doing.

3. You take the credit.

The Problem:

When the praise is coming your way, it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion and just say “thank you.” And your co-worker is watching all this thinking “Are you kidding me, he’s not even going to mention all the work I did?”

The Solution:

This one is easy. Say “thank you” AND take a step back to consider and recognize your co-worker’s contribution.

4. You react poorly to feedback.

The Problem:

The surest way to lose friends and alienate people is to reject their feedback. If you stop hearing, they’ll stop talking (well, at least to your face.)

The Solution:

Be gracious and open to what they have to say. Pause to consider. If it’s stupid, shake it off. But always take the high road and thank them for their input.

5. You hoard talent.

The Problem:

You’ve nurtured gaggle of A players, but now you’re afraid to let them go. You’re sure to put the best talent on your projects and give the leftovers to support other objectives.

The Solution:

Have regular talent reviews with your peers and talk about potential next steps and developmental moves. Make a collective plan.

6. You don’t connect at a human level.

The Problem:

It’s easy to under-invest in co-worker relationships. Leaders tend to focus on their team and boss first, and leave peer relationships to naturally evolve. Co-worker relationships take time and energy to grow properly.

The Solution:

Go to lunch. Get to know them. Ask about their kids and hobbies. Do all the same things you do to connect with your team and boss. Understand their career aspirations. Ask how you can help. Side bonus, they’re likely to ask how they can help you too.

7. You don’t ask for help.

The Problem: You know they’re busy too, so you don’t ask for help. The trouble is that can make you look arrogant, or aloof.

The Solution: Understand their skills and ask for advice, or even support. There’s no greater form of flattery.

Like all relationships, it takes time, energy and deliberate focus to build trust and improve communication. It’s easy to think coworker relationships matter less than your direct reports, but often they matter more. Imagine the exponential impact of harnessing the collective power and support of other high-potential coworkers, channeling that wasted conflict into powerful collaboration.

Your turn. What advice do you have for building better relationships with a high-performing coworker?

A Few More Insights on Building Better Coworker Relationships

4 Powerful Ways to Get Meaningful Feedback From Your Peers

7 Ways to Lead Friends and Former Peers

4 Ways to Deal with A Toxic Coworker

leadership development Karin Hurt and David Dye

How to start team accountability when you never have before

How to Start Team Accountability When You Never Have Before

It’s never too late to begin team accountability.

“Karin and David, can I ask you a question?” We had just finished a keynote where we gave leaders the tools to have the tough conversations. Sarah, a middle-level manager, came up to talk to us, looking nervous. “I’ve been a pleaser manager my entire career, but I hear what you’re saying. It’s time for team accountability, but I don’t know what to do next. Where do I begin?”

What a great question, and one we hear frequently. If you’ve allowed your team to slide and have chosen being liked at the expense of achieving results, you’re not alone. In our surveys of managers, over 2/3 have a preference for getting along over getting results.

The good news is that when you recognize the need to practice team accountability, you can start with a few achievable steps. We have worked with many managers who have transformed their leadership from people-pleasing to human-centered results and accountability. Here are six steps you can take to transform your leadership and your team’s accountability when you haven’t done it before:

  1. Take responsibility

Before starting a new initiative, it’s vital to let your team know what you’re doing. You are a role model for everything that happens going forward so you need to demonstrate accountability right now.

You can say something like: “I haven’t been the best leader in this area. Frankly, I’ve preferred being liked over achieving the results we’re here to achieve. I haven’t done the best job when it comes to accountability, but that changes today. I owe it to you and we owe it to one another and we owe it to our customers.”

You don’t want to say this unless you’re serious about making a change. When you take responsibility and reset expectations, can massively improve your credibility and role model what it looks like to make a positive change. At the same time, if you aren’t serious and don’t back up your words with actions, your credibility will suffer.

  1. Reset Expectations

The word “accountability” can be scary to your team, particularly when you haven’t talked about it or practiced team accountability in the past. Take time to talk about it. Be clear about what success looks like going forward.

Eg: “Accountability doesn’t mean beating people up for poor performance, it means we’re going to keep our commitments to one another. When we do, we will acknowledge it. When we don’t, we will work to understand why and what to do next time (or to make it right, now).”

You may need to reframe or emphasize the values you’re working from. For example: The team’s success is more important than our individual discomfort and when you don’t hold me or one another accountable, you’re hurting the team and the people we serve.”

Finally, start small. Try confidence-burst strategy for accountability. Pick a time period between two team meetings. Eg: “For the next 10 days we’re going to practice accountability. We’re going to keep our commitments to one another, and when we don’t, we’re going to address it directly.”

  1. Equip Everyone with the Basics of Team Accountability

Unless they’ve been part of a highly effective team in the past, most team members won’t have the skills to hold one another accountable. You will need to teach them to Ditch the Diaper Drama and share the INSPIRE model with them. Here is a quick refresher on the INSPIRE model:

I – Initiate: Create space for the conversation.

N – Notice: Make an observation of the behavior in question. Eg: “I noticed that you didn’t bring the report you committed to…”

S – Support: Offer supporting evidence as needed.

P – Probe: Ask “What’s going on?” or a similar question that brings them into the conversation.

I – Invite: Ask them how they can remedy the situation.

R – Review: Check for understanding to ensure you have understood their commitment.

E – Enforce: Set a follow-up meeting when you will both check to see you’ve kept your commitment.

  1. Reinforce expectations

If your team is a rock band, you are the drummer. Keep the new accountability commitment in front of them. For this accountability confidence burst you can literally review it daily. Remind everyone what you’re doing. This is the MIT (Most Important Thing.)

  1. Celebrate every success

You get more of what you celebrate and encourage so be on the lookout for acts of accountability, especially when a team member holds YOU accountable. Stop the meeting, congratulate them, draw attention to it, encourage and celebrate the team for holding one another (or you) accountable. Then return to the meeting.

  1. Practice accountability about accountability

This is a powerful opportunity to reinforce new behaviors. When the team doesn’t practice accountability, stop the meeting. “We’ll get back to the sales strategy in a minute, but first we need to talk about what happened. I noticed that I didn’t bring the data I said I would – and no one said anything. What’s going on?” You’re using the INSPIRE model to reinforce that they didn’t hold you accountable – and they should.

Your Turn

It’s never too late to begin practicing team accountability. When you take responsibility, reset expectations, equip your team to practice accountability, and celebrate as you practice new behaviors together, you create a foundation for transformational and breakthrough results.

Leave us a comment and share your best strategy to start practicing team accountability when you never have before.

leadership development Karin Hurt and David Dye

5 Ways to Take Your Retention Strategy to the Next Level

How to Take Your Retention Strategy to the Next Level

There’s no question, the downside of a good economy is that it’s harder to retain your best talent. The challenging underperformers stick around, while your rock stars are suddenly the hottest ticket on LinkedIn. If you’re like most executives we talk to, you’re looking to build a more comprehensive retention strategy.

5 Ways to Take Your Retention Strategy to the Next Level

Finding great talent and building a Winning Well culture are table stakes, but what else can you do to retain your top talent?

1. Expand Your Approach to Exit Interviews

Do you know who is leaving and why? Do you have a solid exit interview process in place? If not, it’s worth the energy to build it. Sure you want the data, but the exit interview itself is a cultural intervention.

Imagine that Joe gets a new gig. Joe’s peers all know Joe is frustrated with his boss and they’re struggling with their managers too.  They ask Joe, “Did they EVEN ASK  you why you’re leaving?” And he says, “Nope, they DIDN’T BOTHER to ask. They don’t care.”

Now Joe has left and his friends are wondering if they should too (oh yeah, and Joe gets a bonus at his new gig for referrals.)

It’s worthwhile looking from the other perspective too.

When I revamped the exit interview process at Verizon, I also added an additional question back to their immediate manager: “Would you have preferred to retain this employee?” We correlated their manager’s answer to the employee’s last performance rating and included these two pieces of information along with the exit interview.

We then reported out to the senior team on “good attrition” and “bad attrition.” This strategy isn’t foolproof, clearly, as some gamer managers might make excuses for losing an A player, (eg: “He was a troublemaker.”) But a strategic HR partner can see the patterns. We found that these simple additions helped us hone in our real retention issues, and gave our best managers the cover they needed to deal with long-term performance issues without being hassled about their retention rate. They were rewarded for building a team of Winning Well players who focused on results and relationships.

2. Pay Fair Market Value (So Obvious, Often Overlooked)

I recently received a call from a millennial who loved her job and was getting great feedback about her performance, but was really frustrated by her pay. “All my colleagues tell me that the only way to get a raise around here is to get another job offer and bring it to them–then they’ll match it. That strategy has worked well for several of them. So, I’ve joined several networking groups and am determined to get another job offer so I can get the raise. Of course, who knows? I might even find a better job along the way.”

It’s your job to know their market value, not to send employees shopping.  If budgets are that tight, consider right-sizing so you can pay your team fairly. I’d always rather have a team of 8 highly-motivated rock-stars than 10 that I settled on because I couldn’t afford to attract the right talent – and who are looking around for a better opportunity.

3. Re-Recruit Your A Players

Particularly during times of stress and change, it’s so important for your A players to know how valuable they are. Tell them specifically why you value them and the contribution they make. I remember at one point in my work at Verizon, I was frustrated by my lack of career movement. A merger came along and the prospects for future growth didn’t look good, so I started looking outside and was becoming intrigued by what I saw. One senior leader I supported wrote a quick note to my boss’s boss (copying me) and said, “I hope you realize what a gem you have.” and he responded, copying me “Yes, I do, and I see a bright future for her here.” It opened the door for me to initiate a “Where is this going?” conversation. He encouraged me to be patient. I was. It was worth it.

See Also: 7 Things Your Hight Performers Want to Hear You Say

4. Build A Culture of Accountability

You know what your team wants more than a Foosball table and mimosas on Monday afternoon, right? They want clear direction, and a boss and team they can count on to perform consistently every day. I promise. A Players want to work on A teams. If your A players go home frustrated every day because they work on a team of slackers, they will start looking around for a place with other people who get it.

5. Listen

Just today, I had a manager confide in me:

“My compensation is tied to the performance of my peer team. Results are not good. I’ve transferred in from another division and I know some easy ways we can make this better. I’ve talked to my boss and she gives me lip service saying she’ll give me an opportunity to share at a future team meeting. And it doesn’t happen. She’s not listening. I’ve got a young family to support. If no one will even listen to my ideas (which I know work!) why should I stay?”

Human beings want to be heard. Do your managers have the skills and tools to hear them?

See Also Why Bother Speaking Up: It Won’t Help (and other destructive thinking)

If you’re struggling to retain your best talent, dig a level deeper to find out what’s really going on.

Your Turn

Leave us a comment and share: What are the most important elements of your retention strategy?

leadership development Karin Hurt and David Dye

5 Ways to Gain More Influence and Impact

5 Ways to Gain More Influence and Impact

Jessica approached me after my keynote last week. “My boss is about to make a REALLY big mistake and I don’t think I have the influence to stop it. What can I do?”

She continued:

My boss says we need to eliminate my team due to cost reasons. But that’s a terrible mistake! It’s not so much the people I worry about. They’re highly qualified and will find other roles in our organization. It’s that the work we do actually saves the company money, not to mention how much we enhance the customer experience. I care so deeply about this organization, and I want my boss to be successful too. He doesn’t see it.

The truth is, I don’t think he has any idea all the gaps we fill. But I feel like when I’m advocating for this, it looks like I’m just trying to save my team. The organization is really going to suffer if we go down this path.

How do I get my boss to hear me? How can I influence him to do the right thing?

Of course, after a ten-minute conversation,  I can’t claim to understand all the financial and other nuances of this decision. But as she continued, I WAS convinced she had a solid argument worth hearing out.

I asked:

What if you approached your boss exactly like you just spoke to me? Come from a place of deep concern for the bigger picture. Acknowledge the need for financial savings AND paint the picture of a future where your team is not in place? Is it possible to outline the downstream financial consequences of both scenarios?

She smiled. “Yup. I can do that. And I think it’s worth a try.”

Of course, it’s worth a try.

What’s worth a try for you? And where are you holding back?

What truth would you share if you only felt you had more influence?

5 Ways to Up Your Influence and Accomplish More

If you’re not having the influence you desire, start here.

1- Meet Them on the Path They’re Already On

Jessica’s boss had a clear MIT (Most Important Thing) on his mind–to drive costs out of the business. Jessica needed to meet him on the path he was on. If Jessica tried to take her boss down the “let’s improve the customer experience path” while he was racing down the “cost savings road”, she would likely be ignored. She had a solid argument that eliminating her team would cost more money in the long-run. She should lead with that. The customer experience point is influence gravy.

You will have more influence when the people you’re trying to convince know that you “get it,” with “it” being whatever it is they most care about.

2. Ask Great Questions

This HBR article explains why.

Questions give you the chance to hear what the other person is thinking, giving you more opportunity to accurately determine his or her influencing style. By really listening to the person’s response, you will know whether you can move on to your next point, or if you need to back up and readdress something in a way that helps the other person see your perspective and brings him or her closer to your position. According to a study published in the Journal of Research in Personality, when people feel listened to by those trying to influence them, their liking of, commitment to, and trust in the influencer increases — all of which strengthen your influencing capability in the situation and overall.

3. Echo Back the Smart Words They Say

Great listening is more than half the influence formula. If you’re trying to influence someone, start by listening deeply and reflecting back what you hear. People will listen when they know they’ve been heard.

4. Build Trust By Being a Truth Teller 

Do you have someone in your life you can always count on to tell you the truth? Be that guy for others. Trust breeds influence. I love this point in the Inc.’s article 7 Way to Build Influence in the Workplace, 

If you want a healthy and influential working relationship, you’re going to have to cultivate trust. The easiest way to do that is to be open and honest, no matter what. State your opinions, disclose your apprehensions, and don’t keep secrets. It’s as simple as that.

5. Rock Your Role

Although competence does not necessarily lead to influence, it’s a necessary place to start. Results buy freedom, and they also build influence. You can never go wrong by being the guy everyone can count on to hit it out of the park.

See Also:

The Winning Well Leadership ModelGlowstone Peak Available Now (quick video overview)

Why Bother Speaking Up (our very popular post on FOSU– Fear of Speaking Up)

The V.O.I.C.E. Approach to getting your voice heard.

How to P.E.R.S.U.A.D.E. your boss

And if you’re looking to help your children think more about courage, influence, and hope, check out our new children’s book, Glowstone Peak.