The Best Way to Help Your Team Win

The Best Way to Help Your Team Win

No one comes to work wanting to do a bad job. Losing is stressful. When the scorecard trends in the wrong direction, how do you help your team win?

And how do you help a strong team get even better?

Focus on the game, not the score.

How to Help Your Team Win

Brian (not his real name) began the team meeting by covering the team’s scorecard and Key Performance Indicators.

“Great work on your sales KPIs, we’re in the top-tier across the board. We are so close to beating Sharon’s district. If everyone just sold one more today, I think we can do it! Also, we seem to be struggling in the customer service KPIs. We have a downward trend and there are four districts ahead of us. I need more focus there across the board. Janet, you are doing the best so whatever you’re doing keep it up! Everyone else, I need you to try a bit harder. Awesome. Thanks everyone, now let’s go make it a great day. Remember, fantastic customer service!”

If that sounds like a team huddle you’ve ever been in, you know why we have a love/hate relationship with KPIs. Brian’s team may understand the KPIs, but they don’t have a clue what they are supposed to do when they leave that meeting.

What should they DO to sell one more?

How DO they improve the customer experience?

KPIs Are Indicators, Not Action

Scorecards and KPIs provide wonderful directional indicators. Good trends point to actions worth replicating. Bad trends shine a spotlight on what must change. A hard look at the data can help you identify the best practices which will help your team win. Comparative scorecards will also help you identify outliers who need more support.

KPIs are important.

While KPIs are great directional indicators, one of the biggest mistakes we see team leaders make is talking about the KPIs INSTEAD of the BEHAVIORS needed to achieve them.

People don’t change scorecards, they change behaviors.

A focus on KPIs versus behaviors can lead to useless, even stupid, actions.

Almost any behavior applied with enough focus will create a short-term lift in results.

Micromanagement can get you there for a hot minute. Fear and intimidation will work for a while. Heavy incentives and hoopla will create a short-term lift. Ice cream and pizza can’t hurt either.

But, upward trends in KPIs without an underlying change in the right behaviors, can lead to a false sense of security.

When the fear goes away or the sugar wears off, the results go back down.

The Behaviors That Matter (Try This Approach to Change the Conversation and Up your Game)

The only way to build sustained results is to improve the underlying behaviors. Don’t ask a sales rep to make more calls if they don’t know what makes a call successful. Don’t ask a team leader to spend more time on the floor, if they don’t understand how to support and encourage their team.

So what are the right behaviors? Why not ask the team?

Let’s go back to Brian’s meeting. Sales were solid, but the customer experience was suffering. He needed his team focused on the customer experience.

What if Brian started by showing up curious?

“We’ve got a downward trend in our CX metrics, but a few of you are knocking this out of the park. In fact, Janet, you’ve had one hundred and thirty-seven customers say they would recommend you to a friend this month. What specifically are you doing that we can learn from? Who else has a best practice to share? Okay, great. Now, I’m giving everyone three index cards.  I’d like each of you to pay careful attention to your interactions with customers today. At the end of the day, I want you to write your very best approach for providing a ‘wow’ customer experience. Please be as specific as possible. For example, showing up confident, energetic and sounding interested in the first forty seconds of the call.

Please give me your cards before you leave today. I’ll look at the themes overnight and tomorrow morning in our team huddle we’ll talk about what we learned.”

And of course, Mark should do a check for understanding to ensure everyone knows what they’re going to do. “So, just to ensure I’ve communicated this well. What are you going to do with the cards today? And what will we do in our huddle tomorrow?”

This easy exercise works at multiple levels. First, it ensures everyone focuses on your customer’s experience that day—as they are paying attention to their behaviors and the impact they are having. And it turns your collective conversation the next morning to best practice sharing.

Your Turn

What tools and techniques have you used to ensure the conversation focuses on behaviors?

How have you avoided the distraction of numbers and KPIs?

See Also: How to Lead When Your Team is Exhausted

how to help a new manager be more confident

How to Help a New Manager Be More Confident

We were just wrapping up the first session of a  leadership program when “Sal” raised his hand. “How do you help a new manager be more confident?”

He continued, “I mean it’s tricky to have a difficult conversation or run a great meeting when you’re not convinced you know what you’re doing. And the problem is, your lack of confidence makes your team question your competence. Which of course you can sense, which makes you feel even less adequate.

And then the whole thing just goes downhill from there. I want to get in front of this as fast as I can to help this new manager, what advice do you have?”

3 Ways to Help a New Manager Be More Confident

I’m so glad Sal asked that question because the struggle is real.

It’s tricky to show up confident when you’re not convinced you know what you’re doing. So, if you’re looking for ways to help a new manager (or yourself) show up with more confidence start here.

1. Train Them on The Fundamentals

This sounds obvious, but most managers we talk with tell us they wish they had received some fundamental leadership training when they first started their role.

By the time they land in one of our foundation programs they say, “Wow, I wish I had learned this ten years ago! It would have saved me so much heartache and frustration.”

If you want to help a new manager be successful, be sure they’ve received training on fundamentals like setting and reinforcing expectations, checking for understanding,  keeping the team focused on what matters most, building trust and connection, how to delegate, and building a cadence of accountability and celebration.

Be sure to pick a practical training program, that gives them ways to practice and reinforce what they’ve learned.

You don’t learn how to be a great leader by watching a video.

Be sure to ask these 5 questions before choosing a leadership development program.

2. Ask Confidence-Building Questions

When managers lack confidence, we often find that they have had one or two bad experiences that dominate their thinking.

“OMG one time I tried to give someone feedback and THEY CRIED!!!!”

“I tried to give my team recognition and no one seemed to care, so why bother…”

The truth is, sadly, our brains are wired to remember the bad experiences more than the good ones, which is not helpful. Confidence-building questions can help your new manager bring more positive memories to the forefront and balance their thinking.

Here are a few starters:

  • What does your team love about your leadership? How does that help them to be successful?
  • Can I do this? If so how?  HT to Dan Pink
  • Tell me about a time you had an awesome _________ conversation. What made it so successful?
  • How did you learn to do ____? What ideas do you have about how you could teach that to your team?
  • (For a new manager promoted over their peers) What is one behavior that you know led to your success in your former role? WHY did that work? How can you help your team better understand the “why” and “how”?

3. Break it Down

When a new manager takes over a team for the first time, there is so much to learn and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. Help them focus on one skill and outcome at a time.

Here’s an example (just to get you started …):

  • Week one: Get to know your team by having a one-on-one with each team member (learn about who they are as people.)
  • Week two: Establish your top MIT (Most Important Thing) priorities.
  • Week three: Work with your team to communicate those priorities and check for understanding.
  • Week four: Build your 5 x 5 communication plan. (How will you communicate those priorities five times, five different ways?)
  • Week five: Help your team identify their most critical behaviors for achieving their MIT priorities
  • Week six: Focus on recognition. Celebrate what’s going great. Where do you see the behaviors in action? How can you recognize these behaviors in ways that are specific, relevant and timely?

Just a start

So that’s a start. What would you add? What’s your best advice for helping a new manager build confidence and competence?

Other Resources You May Find Helpful

Winning WellWinning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results Without Losing Your Soul

9 Ways to Teach Yourself to Be a More Confident Boss

10 Common Excuses That Silently Damage Manager’s Careers

Why To Be Over-Confident (every now and then)

How to Help Employees Have More Confidence

how to promote the best leaders

How to Promote the Best Leaders

To promote the best first-time leaders, focus on more than results.

Your decisions about who you put in management and leadership roles are some of the most important leadership decisions you’ll ever make. It’s a decision about who you will trust with your most important asset—your people. With so much at stake and riding on the quality of your leaders, what do you look for when you want to promote the best leaders?

Many leaders look to their high achievers—the people who are very effective at what they do. The best programmer, the top salesperson, the teacher who consistently helps students overcome obstacles and achieve. Others look for a person’s willingness to speak up, take charge, and “get things done.”

Unfortunately, neither high-performance nor a commanding personality are reliable indicators that a person can lead well.

Some high-performers are fantastic leaders and others struggle to make the transition. Some outgoing personalities lead well and others don’t. (And some of your quiet folks may amaze you with their ability to bring people together to get things done.)

The Problem with Performance

We’re not saying that a leader’s technical proficiency and expertise doesn’t matter. It does.

People need to trust their leader and their competence at work. Being a remarkable example goes a long way.

It’s not that dissimilar from how you hire for roles requiring technical competence. You look for competence at the fundamentals, but excellence in their area of expertise matters even more.

In the same way, when you’re looking for leaders, you want good performance. But, the number one ability you are looking for is their capacity to lead.

One of the biggest mistakes we see leaders make when promoting high-performers to leadership positions is using performance or personality as a surrogate for leadership.

Promote the Best Leaders (even if they haven’t led before)

So how can you tell if someone has the capacity to lead—before they’ve actually led?

Start with these foundational characteristics:

  • Technical knowledge and expertise and a strong track record of results (they know what they’re doing and command the respect of others up, down, and sideways.)
  • Integrity (you can count on them to do the right thing consistently.)
  • Accountability (they do what they say they will— and hold others to a similar standard.)
  • Vision (they see opportunities where others don’t and can rally their peers around a compelling vision.)
  • Commitment (they care about the success of the team— beyond their own results.)
  • Confidence (they are willing and able to stand up for what matters and speak the truth—in a way others can hear.)
  • Humility (they surround themselves with people who will challenge them and encourage new ideas.)

Note: This confident-humility dynamic includes the ability to use power judiciously.

Most employees don’t come to you with all of these characteristics fully developed. In fact, apart from integrity, character, and personal responsibility, the others will always develop over time.

This means that you will need to invest in building these traits in your employees and give them opportunities to demonstrate these abilities.

Whether you use formal 9 box succession planning or a more informal process, you’ll want to train leadership skills, and then give people a chance to lead. These opportunities reveal leaders and build leadership capacity. You’ll discover who can influence before they have formal power, and who can exercise influence without abusing the privilege.

Ad hoc projects, interdepartmental teams, committees, interim-assignments when a supervisor is absent, as well as employee-sponsored initiatives are ample chances for your team to practice their leadership skills.

As you evaluate potential (and pitfalls), don’t forget to follow up these assignments with a debrief about what worked, what they learned, and what they would (or could) do differently next time.

To promote the best leaders, look for the people who lead where they are and don’t need position power to get things done.

Your Turn

We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment and share your number one strategy to develop leadership and promote the best leaders?

See Also: 9 Creative Ways to Develop Your Managers

7 Big Rules For a Successful Talent Review

Practical Help for Exhausted Leaders Get More Done

Practical Help for Exhausted Leaders Who Need to Get More Done

To get more done, start with you.

In the past few months, we’ve heard from many leaders asking for help with time management. They feel the pressing need to get more done, but many of them feel like they’re already maxed out or running on empty.

How do you maintain your energy, do what needs doing, and make sure you have enough for important decisions and relationships?

I’ve had to ask myself this question many times throughout my life. In the past, I had a nasty habit of running myself into the ground until I was sick, exhausted, and no good to anyone. That’s no way to live and it certainly isn’t good leadership.

If you want to sustain your impact and accomplish your leadership goals, it’s essential to maintain your energy and use your time as effectively as possible. Let’s start with your energy.

Five Ways to Manage Your Energy

1. Stop thinking in terms of work-life balance.

You have a life. Work is part of that life.

When you think of work vs life, you often begin taking from one to supplement the other. In short order, you are literally fighting yourself.

A healthy perspective on what you do and why you do it is vital to making good decisions. If you’ve thought of “work” and “life” as two different things, it’s time to reframe:  How does your work integrate with and serve your life?

2. Know your “why.”

I’d woken up in a hotel one thousand miles away from home. Karin texted me just as I left the hotel on my way to a client where I would facilitate a Winning Well leadership workshop. Her message?

“Go change some lives.”

That’s my “why.” Investing in people and helping them become the best leader they can be fuels me. It motivates me. It’s the literal energy behind the words I’m typing right now.

Your “why” is your greatest source of leadership energy.

Why are you leading?

This is the answer to many questions – especially when you don’t feel like it and it genuinely takes real effort to lead.

What is your purpose? Why did you sign up? If your why is about the power, prestige, or pay that comes with leadership roles, you’ll likely run out of steam. There’s never enough power, fame, or money for your sacrifice and work.

But serving the people and purpose in your work can be endless sources of energy. Let those ground you and motivate you.

3. Watch your energy drains.

What gives and depletes your energy?

I’m an introvert. I love being with people, but I also know that it depletes my energy. If I do it long enough, I can actually become physically ill.

When I conduct multi-day workshops with groups that enjoy evening dinners and fun, I often explain that I want to be my best for the workshop and will forgo one night of fun to ensure I get the solitude necessary to recharge my emotional batteries.

If you’re an extrovert, do you spend time with people who energize and motivate you in the direction you want to go? Do you take enough time to reflect on your relationships?

4. Make fewer decisions.

Making decisions takes energy. The more decisions you make in a day, the more difficult it becomes to make the next one. Stop making decisions you don’t need to make.

  • Insist that people on your team make decisions they should make.
  • Unsubscribe from the unhelpful email that saps your decision-making energy.
  • Make low-risk decisions quickly. If the consequences are minimal, make decisions quickly and move on.
  • Make decisions once. This is an old and essential productivity tool: look at an email once. Then either delete it, act on it, schedule it for future action, put in a file related to its project, or put it in a ‘maybe read later’ file.

5. Get outside your bubble.

This helps your energy and the quality of your leadership decisions. Connect with people outside your team and organization. See how what you’re doing relates to your community and the world. You’ll get insights that re-inspire you and new ideas to use with your team.

Get More Done

As you take care of yourself and manage your energy, it’s time to look at how you’re leading and where you get more done in ways that serve your team and the results you want to achieve.

1. Mind the MIT.

It’s a mantra: “Infinite need. Finite me. Mind the MIT.”

If your list feels overwhelming, that’s because it is. There will always be more to do than you can possibly achieve. Recognize it. Embrace it. Then let go of your need to do everything.

Doing more in less time isn’t always the answer. In fact, it’s a poor choice when it distracts you from taking effective action where it matters most.

Start by getting crystal clear about your MIT (Most Important Thing). What’s the strategic goal you’ve got to achieve in the next three months? What’s the MIT for this week? For today? For the next hour?

Get focused and Mind the MIT. Do your daily MIT first whenever possible.

2. Communicate for results.

Most leaders think they’ve communicated, but ask their team what their leader said and it gets murky fast. Don’t let that happen to you.

Clarify the MIT. Be clear about what needs to happen, when it will be done, the specific next steps, and follow up. Don’t leave understanding to chance: check for understanding and ensure everyone on the team is on the same page.

3. Schedule the finish.

Good intentions, talented people, and strong commitment don’t ensure results.

You’ll reclaim lots of wasted time when you don’t leave the finish to chance. Schedule the finish by making an appointment on your calendar for the next step or follow up. For example:

If the team will send a referral request to their top ten customers, schedule the finish by letting them know that at the next meeting you will ask them to submit their list of who they emailed and what they heard.

4. Build a more powerful team.

Your work as a leader is to bring people together to get results you can’t do on your own. The better your team, the more time you’ll have to do the work that only you can do.

Learn your team member’s confidence and competence so you can quickly have the conversation that will help them grow. Use the 9 What’s Coaching Method to help them solve problems on their own. Ask how you can help and look for opportunities to invest in their growth.

5. Close every loop.

You scheduled the finish. Now it’s time to finish. Did everyone keep their commitment? Is it done? Were results what was expected? If so—take time to celebrate and encourage your people.

If not, take time to practice accountability. Don’t wait. Have the INSPIRE conversation as soon as possible. Every day you delay is another week or month of poor results and wasted emotional energy as you avoid the conversation.

6. Do Less

Take time as a team to Own the UGLY – what’s not working, what’s got to go, and where can you improve your processes? What can you stop doing altogether? What can you do more efficiently?

You’ll find answers, but only if you take the time to ask the questions and commit to the solutions. As you eliminate inefficiencies or unnecessary tasks, resist the urge to re-schedule that time.

If your work requires creativity or problem solving, you’ll get a return on the investment of a built-in margin where you intentionally allow yourself and your team to think, reflect, and recharge.

Your Turn

I’ve learned that hard way that you’re no good to anyone when you’re an exhausted, irritable mess. It’s also your responsibility as a leader to take care of yourself – no one can do that for you. We’d love to hear from you too: leave us a comment and share your best practices to manage your energy and get more done?

See Also: How to Lead When Your Team is Exhausted

how to transition into a

How to Transition Into a New Team With Confidence and Grace

Laura had a strong track record of success in her previous role and had earned the respect of her peers. But now, just a few weeks after her transition into a new team, she called us in exasperation.

“My manager said he selected me for the role because of my reputation for bringing tons of new ideas. So, I came in gung-ho sharing everything I know. But, every time I speak up, people roll their eyes. I feel like I might be wearing them out.

I wonder if I made a mistake coming over. I wonder if I should have just stayed in my previous role where people want to hear what I have to say and are eager for me to share my ideas.”

Kevin, also neck-deep a transition into a new team, faced a different, but equally frustrating, problem.

As an introvert, he’d built success in his last department over time. His peers came to know that his quiet observations meant that he was working carefully to connect the dots. His previous team knew that when he finally shared his point of view, they should stop and pay attention.

But this new team seemed to interpret his silence as weakness, and they seem to have written him off.

“I’m trying to go slow and really listen to what everyone has to say. I don’t want to come across like a know-it-all, and I’m trying to feel everyone out. So I don’t say much. But yesterday, when I finally did say something important, everyone just talked right over me. I think I’ve lost their respect and now it’s hard to recover.”

Kevin also confided that he worried he had made the wrong choice.

How to Transition Into a New Team with Confidence and Grace

Joining a new team is tricky. Show up overconfident and you turn people off — “Who do you think you are?” But if you’re overly humble, your new team may wonder what value you add and why you were chosen in the first place.

After a few missteps of our own over the years, the best approach we’ve found is to navigate the tricky balance of confident humility by showing up as an interested supporter and an interesting expert.

Be an interested supporter (humility.)

1. Get to know your peers one person at a time.

Yes, this is time-consuming, particularly as you are learning the ropes of a new gig, but the ROI in terms of support and collaboration is worth it. Schedule time to meet with each of your peers to learn about their work as well as what excites and frustrates them.  Learn a little bit about them personally, such as what they do for fun.

2. Ask great questions.

Ask questions about what’s working. “Wow, I’ve noticed the team is knocking this metric out of the park, why is that?” (People love to talk about what they’re doing well, and as a bonus, you’ll likely pick up a few best practices).

Also, ask strategic questions about the team’s most important priorities that show that you care deeply about the team and supporting everyone’s success.

You might also try questions like, “What does it (or would it) look like when the team is performing at its very best? What will it take to get there?”

Of course, the most important interested supporter question is “How can I help?

3. Be an ACTIVE listener

In team meetings, listen carefully to what people are saying. Ask clarifying questions and take notes to show you’re engaged.


Be an interesting expert (confidence.)

4. Share who you are.

In those one-on-one meetings you scheduled, don’t be afraid to share a bit about yourself, your background and how you’re looking to contribute to the team.

5. Look for small ways to add immediate value.

Look for ways to fix a frustration, share a best practice, or roll up your sleeves to get a peer out of a jam.

6. Offer input and ideas without pre-apology.

If you’ve managed the interested supporter approach well, you’ve laid fertile ground to share your ideas and make a contribution. Resist the urge to weaken your communication with false humility such as “This is probably a dumb idea,” or I’m not sure if this will work.” Just state your idea with confidence, “I have an idea,” or “What do you think would happen if we tried this?”

When you show up as an interested supporter AND an interesting expert, your peers will be more likely to extend a similar approach back to you as they welcome you to the team.

Your turn. What would you add? What advice do you have for someone working to transition into a new team with confidence and grace?

Related Content You May Find Helpful

How to Find More Courage and Innovation in Your New Employees (CEO Blog Nation)

One Surprising Secret to Being Recognized as the Expert

If you’re a manager taking over a new team see, How to Get Your New Team to Trust You 

how to be great at recognition

How to Be Great at Recognition (Even if It’s Not in Your DNA)

We had just finished talking about ways to be great at recognition as part of a Winning Well leadership development program with a fast-growing company.  One of the senior leaders, “Joe” who happened to be sitting in on the session so he could reinforce the learning, took me aside:

“Karin, I’m missing that gene.”

“Which gene?” I asked.

“That ‘be great at recognition’ gene,” he sighed.

I’m listening to what my people are saying here today, and clearly they aren’t getting enough recognition from me. But, I’ll be honest. It just doesn’t come naturally for me. I guess I’m just old school. I mean, when I was growing up in this business, no one talked about recogntion. You just did your job the very best you could. Making a great product, growing the business, and delighting clients was its own reward. I’d like to get better, but it’s hard.

4 Ways to Be Better at Recognition (Even if It’s Not in Your DNA)

If you’ve ever felt like Joe, you’re in good company. We hear this from senior leaders we work with quite frequently. Here’s what we’ve seen work best to compensate for that “missing gene.”

1. Change Your Frame: Learn the Science Beneath the ROI

Well done recognition does far more than make employees feel good and increase your employee engagement survey results. Because it draws an employee’s attention to their strengths and to what’s working, positive feedback actually helps them build new neural pathways that lead to higher functioning in that area.

According to brain science, people grow far more neurons and synaptic connections where they already have the most neurons and synaptic connections. In other words, each brain grows most where it’s already strongest. As Joseph LeDoux, a professor of neuroscience at New York University memorably described it, “Added connetions are therefore more like new little buds on a branch rather than new branches.” Through this lens learning looks a lot like building, little by little by little on the unique patterns that are already within you. Which means learning has to start by finding and understanding those patterns.” – Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall, The Feedback Fallacy, Harvard Business Review 2019

When you can reframe recognition as a way to help your team get smarter, faster re-cognition, it’s easier to see the ROI and the effort may feel more vital.

2. Schedule Small Chunks of Time For Informal Recognition

Karin, did you just suggest I formalize informal recognition? Well, yes. I did.

If it doesn’t come naturally to you, your best bet to be great at recognition is to turn it into a task. For example, if you schedule a task on Thursday that you’re going to pick up the phone or walk into people’s offices and thank them for something specific, meaningful and timely, and you KNOW that task is coming up. You’re going to be more likely on the lookout for examples to complete that task.

3.  Measure It

Giving yourself a micro-goal can make all the difference. One way to do this is to put three pennies in your pocket. As you walk around during the day, every time you notice (and recognize) something positive that you want more of, you move the penny to the other pocket. At the end of the day is to have all the pennies moved over to the opposite pocket.

After you build the habit, what was once felt unnatural should come more naturally.

4. Ask Others to help

It’s likely that someone on your team carries this gene, so don’t be afraid to ask for help. Designate someone to help you think of ways to do creative recognition.

Or even more simply, ask your direct reports to let you know when they see something great going on, or to nominate a peer. This doesn’t have to be a big formal process or program. It can be as simple as saying, “I’d like to learn more about the great work and collaboration that is happening around here. I’d like each of you to drop me an email each week letting me know about one great thing that you’ve experienced.”

Then you have a nice list to choose from to reach out and say a quick “thank you” to the person they mentioned. Side benefit—your inbox will be filled with good news. Why wouldn’t you want more of that? 😉

Your turn.

What advice would you add for someone missing the “How to Be Great at Recognition” Gene?

See Also 8 Reasons Recognition Programs Fail (CEO Magazine)

Prefer a video version of this “How to Be Great at Recognition” topic? Check out my Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn.

How to Get Better Results in 2020: A Frontline Festival

Welcome to the Let’s Grow Leaders Frontline Festival!  This month, our contributors share their thoughts about how to achieve better results in 2020. Thanks to Joy and Tom Guthrie of Vizwerx Group for the great pic and to all our contributors.

Are you a leadership writer? We’d love to have you join us with your articles, videos, podcast episodes, or simply your best thinking on the topic (even if you don’t have additional content to link.) Our topic for February is career development. Click here to submit your thoughts and content!

Featured Asking For a Friend Guest: Ed Krow

Author of Strategic HR: Driving Bottom-Line Results Through Your People

Answering the question: “I really want to set my team up for better results in 2020. What advice do you have for getting my team off to a fast start?”

If you are looking for more tips like this, follow Karin’s Asking For a Friend series on LinkedIn.

Getting Better Results in 2020 Through Effective Leadership

Wally Bock of Three Star Leadership asks, 21st Century Leadership, Are We There Yet? He explains three ways leadership in the 21st century will be different as well as how you can transform the way you lead to improve results in 2020.  Follow Wally.


S. Chris Edmonds of Driving Results through Culture gives us a video message about refining our desired culture at work. Want better results? Refine the culture!  Follow Chris.



Julie Winkle GiulioniJulie Winkle Giulioni of gives us Redefine Results by Redefining Career Development. Leaders who are willing to think differently and redefine career development will find that they can drive extraordinary results – in the new year and beyond!  Follow Julie.


Sean GlazeSean Glaze of Great Results Teambuilding provides Add Common Since to Improve Ownership Thinking and Innovation on Your Team. Wishing is victim-based thinking that leads to pouting – which is a waste of time… So instead of wishing, what can you and your team THINK DIFFERENTLY so you ensure that you and your team begin to perform differently (and better!)  Follow Sean.


Jessica Thiefels of The Organic Content Marketer gives us How to Build Thought Leadership with Guest Posting.  Driving thought leadership in your industry takes intentional and consistent work. One way to achieve better results in 2020 is to leverage guest posting as a tool and to do it right. With these tips, you’ll be on your way to building a stronger thought leadership presence in 2020!  Follow Jessica


Building Stronger Relationships in 2020

Lisa Kohn from Thoughtful Leaders Blog gives us Our Differences Drive Us Crazy (but Make Us Stronger) where she shares why we think others should be like us, why it’s actually better that they’re not, and how to handle those differences (even though they drive us crazy).  Follow Lisa.


Nate Regier of Next Element Consulting gives us the Top 10 Fake News Stories of 2019. The drama mavens would prefer that you believe these fake narratives because they keep you small, afraid, and willing to accept anything. Compassion is the practice of demonstrating that people are valuable, capable, and responsible. Compassion fosters connection, innovation, and purpose. Here are some news stories you can believe to inspire you toward better meaningful results in 2020.  Follow Nate.


David GrossmanDavid Grossman of The Grossman Group shared 5 Simple Steps to Show Employees You Care and Get the Business Results You Seek. Leadership is personal; employees follow leaders because of how leaders make them feel. When done in a genuine way, these steps demonstrate that you care and open the possibility of changing how you see your employees as well as yourself. The end goal is engagement from employees which means higher productivity and better business results.  Follow David.


Shelley RowShelley Row of Shelley Row Associates shares Big Decisions: Are You Considering a Broad Range of Information Sources?  When you need to gather information for a big decision this year, who will you go to? Do you ever consider going to people like the argumentative person, the contrarian, or the inquisitor — those that sometimes drive you crazy? There may be benefits to getting their input too.  Follow Shelley.


Challenging Yourself For Business and Personal Growth

Beth BeutlerBeth Beutler of H.O.P.E. Unlimited suggests that habits, rather than goals, are the path to greater results in 2020. Examples include moving intentionally nearly every day, even if just for a few minutes outside your regular pattern of movement, getting out of the office for breaths of fresh air, doing a little organizing (digital, office or home) each day, etc.  Consistent, intentional attention applied to new (or existing) habits will naturally lead to positive results in many areas of life and work.  Follow Beth.


Rachel Blakely-GrayRachel Blakely-Gray of Patriot Software, LLC   writes How to Improve Business: Achieving Better Results in 2020. To achieve better results in 2020 try making improvements in your business. From setting reachable stretch goals to improving inter-office communication, check out the six tips in this article to get a head-start on achieving better business results.  Follow Rachel.


Michelle Cubas, CPCC, ACC, of Positive Potentials gives us A Simple Tip for Best Results in 2020. Simple is powerful. Occam’s Razor says the simplest solution is usually the correct one.  Follow Michelle.



Ken Downer of Rapid Start Leadership shares Why I Resolve to Do Nothing This Year. There’s a problem with New Year’s resolutions that maybe hasn’t come up in conversation before. Here’s a fun look at why I think resolutions set us up for failure, and three ways to improve the odds of actually achieving what we set out to do.  Follow Ken.


John Hunter

John Hunter of Curious Cat Management Improvement gives us How To Improve.   I am not focused on getting the best result this minute, I am focused on finding the best methods that will produce the best results over the long term (predictable, repeatable system performance).  Follow John.


Eileen McDargh of The Resiliency Group writes Top Three Intentions for 2020.  “I believe 2020 beckons us to deeply search for what would be our best, most clear vision for our lives, our nation, and our planet. Each of us has a role to play and a purpose in a world that is more interconnected yet more fragile than ever before. No one is insignificant.”  Follow Eileen.


Jesse Lynn StonerJesse Lyn Stoner of Seapoint Center for Collaborative Leadership gives us 5 Reasons You Should NOT Set Goals. Common wisdom says to start the new year off with clear goals. For most people, setting goals can make the difference between mediocre and high performance. But there are also times goal-setting is a waste of time or can even decrease your motivation and confidence.  Follow Jesse.


 Jon Verbeck of Verbeck Associates CFO Service advises that better financial performance for 2020 will occur by tracking key metrics and intentionally making needed changes for improvement. Use a weekly scorecard to track results and key performance indicators to help lead improvement discussions with the team.  Follow Jon.


Your turn: What would you add? What’s your best advice for setting your team up for a successful 2020?

Four words to help you build a more powerful team

4 Words to Help You Build a Powerful Team

One question leads to a powerful team.

“David, I just don’t have time. There’s so much to do that some days I just want to give up!” Lynn was a midlevel manager in a mid-sized healthcare company. She’d sought out coaching because the demands of her job felt unbearable. She needed a powerful team, but that seemed impossible.

Between day-to-day problem solving and her supervisor’s expectations, she’d been working 60-hour weeks, her health was suffering, and she’d reached the end of her rope.

Have you ever felt like Lynn?

As we talked, it became clear that Lynn cared. She was passionate about her people and their patients. But her passion had caused her to take on way too much and fail to build a powerful team.

To course-correct, we started with four words. Lynn began to ask one question regularly: “How can I help?”

Have You Lost Your Mind?

When I was an overwhelmed manager and a mentor first suggested that I ask my team, “How can I help?” I thought she was nuts. I’m sure I looked at her with the same stare of incredulity our clients give us when we make the same suggestion today.

When you can barely keep your head above water, the last thing you feel like doing is to go ask your team how you can help. You’re just asking for more work, right?

Actually, no.

This is a common misconception about what it really means to help your team. As a leader, you are in a unique position to help your team in specific ways that no one else can.

However, this does not mean doing their work for them. What it means is to ensure your team has what they need to be effective, to remove obstacles to success, and to help them develop their own abilities to take responsibility and problem solve.

When you give your team the help they genuinely need, that only you can provide, two things happen. First, they become more productive, and second, you have more time for the work only you can do.

What to Look for to Build a Powerful Team

When you ask your team “How can I help,” listen for three specific areas of need.

1. Equipment and Skills They Need

Early in my leadership career, I had a superstar team member named Sue. She was a fabulous person and a wonderful team member. She was motivated, always thinking about how to improve her work, and an outstanding goal-setter.

One morning, we sat down together for a quarterly meeting. During these meetings with Sue, I often took notes, just trying to keep up, as she covered all her projects, goals, and ideas. She appreciated a sounding board to process her ideas and determine which ones were worth pursuing. After we processed her projects and goals, I stood up to leave and said in passing, “You’ve got a good plan, anything else I can do to help?”

She thought for a minute and said, “I’m not a technology person, but my computer’s a little slow.”

“Why don’t you show me?” I replied.

She walked me over to her computer and turned it on.

Twenty minutes later, it had finally come to life. That computer wasn’t just slow – it was glacial.

How embarrassing! One of my highly productive team members did not have the basic resources she needed to do her job well.

When you ask your team “How can I help?” be on the lookout for areas where they lack the resources that they need to be effective. Also, pay attention to skills and training.

In rapidly changing work environments, it is all too easy to assume people have what they need to do their job. Don’t assume—ask! It’s sad to think about how much time she would have lost and how many opportunities she would have missed if Sue hadn’t got a better computer.

2. Obstacles You Can Remove

The second area to listen for when you ask your team “How can I help?” includes red tape, bureaucratic nonsense, inter-departmental foot-dragging and all the other silly barriers they encounter inside your organization. Work is tough enough without those sorts of things dragging down your team’s productivity.

When your team encounters these obstacles and they’ve done what they can to solve it themselves, it’s time to pick up the phone or go have a visit with the people creating the barrier.

Have a conversation where you judiciously use your position and influence to remove those barriers, cut through red tape, or ask a “How can we?” question to meet the needs of both groups and get things moving.

3. Gaps in Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

The third thing to look for when you ask “How can I help,” are gaps in your team’s ability to solve problems.

Do you do your team’s thinking for them? Wish they would solve problems on their own? Or get so involved with their projects you don’t have time for your own work?

If so, these are signs your team needs to develop their problem-solving skills. Other signals include team members repeatedly making the same errors or frequently saying “I don’t know” when you ask about the next steps.

When you pick up these signals, resist the urge to chastise or jump in and solve the problem. Neither option builds a more powerful team.

Instead, use this opportunity to help them develop their problem solving and critical thinking. Your most effective leadership tools in these situations are coaching questions.

A good question or two can quickly move the conversation back to the employee owning the problem and analyzing potential solutions, but they have to be good questions.

Poor questions place blame and dwell on failure. Eg:

  • Who screwed up?
  • Why did you do that?
  • What were you thinking?

In contrast, healthy questions focus on learning and on the future, to generate ideas and solutions. Eg:

  • What’s your goal?
  • What have you tried?
  • What are your options now?
  • What would happen if you tried that?

Our 9 What’s Business Coaching method is a great way to help your team get on track, strengthen their ability to solve problems, and learn how they think so you can help them work through issues.

For Best Results

“How can I help?” is a powerful tool to help you grow a more powerful team, but you have to use it consistently. If you only ask when something is going wrong, your team will associate those words with a problem.

Be intentional to ask how you can help when you know things are going well. One of the best responses when you ask “How can I help?” is for your team to say, “We’re good—thanks!”

Your Turn

Regularly asking “How can I help?” lets your people know that you care and support them while giving you the insight you need to help them grow and become a more powerful team.

We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment and share your favorite questions that help you build a powerful team.

Your might also like:

How to Develop People When You Don’t Have the Time

Two Talent Development Mistakes Leaders Make (podcast episode)

A Better Way to Address Performance Issues

how to lead when your team can't see the obvious

How to Lead When Your Team Can’t See the Obvious

It seems so obvious—until it isn’t.

Bonaire is a desert island in the south Caribbean that’s known for fantastic coral reefs, flamingos, sea salt production, and donkeys. Coral, flamingos, and salt occur naturally in Bonaire. Donkeys—not so much.

In the 1600s Spaniards brought donkeys to the island to haul salt and equipment. Once more modern transportation was available, however, they abandoned the donkeys to their own fate. The donkeys roamed the island, fending for themselves, without oversight or caretakers.

But Bonaire isn’t the most hospitable environment for donkeys. Between the arid climate and increased tourism, many donkeys fell victim to illness and car accidents. They’re also an invasive species and eat any moisture-laden plants they can find.

That brings us to the obvious part of the story: the Donkey Sanctuary. The sanctuary was started in 1993 to care for sick, injured, and orphan donkeys. Volunteers and donations helped care for the several hundred donkeys the sanctuary took in. Here are a couple of sanctuary residents:

team cant see the obvious donkeys

Take care of injured donkeys, get them out of the wild and reduce their impact on the native plants and animals, and reduce donkey-human conflict. Sounds like something everyone can get behind—obviously a good thing, right?

It turns out that not everyone sees it that way. There is a petition (supported by 3000+ people) to maintain Bonaire’s wild donkey population.

They argue that the sanctuary’s practice of sterilizing male donkeys will eventually lead to the extinction of donkeys on the island. And for them, that’s a problem.

After 450 years, even though they’re not indigenous, these wild-donkey supporters view the donkeys as part of their culture and heritage. They also have concerns about humane treatment for donkeys within the sanctuary.

Their bottom line: they want the donkeys to remain wild and for people to treat them well.

Why They Can’t See the Obvious

Has that ever happened to you?

You’ve figured out a great solution to an irritating problem and unveil it, only to find out that—not only do people dislike your solution, but they don’t even see your problem as a problem.

When people can’t see what’s obvious to you, it’s not that they’re obstinate, ignorant, or broken.

People are different. They’ve had different experiences, different values, and different personalities. They’re looking at the world through all of those filters—just like you do.

This is one of the critical roles leaders provide: to bring together the varied perspective, craft a shared picture of what’s possible, and help everyone work toward it. (If it were obvious to everyone, the situation would probably already be resolved, and no leadership needed.)

How to Lead When Your Team Can’t See the Obvious

It’s frustrating when your team doesn’t get it and can’t see what’s obvious to you. But if you run ahead of them and insist on what makes sense to you without discussion, you will eventually lose your team.

Here are a few ways you can lead when your team can’t see the obvious path you see:

Clarify who owns the decision

Before you start the discussion, be clear about who decides. Will you decide? Will the team vote? Or will you work for consensus? This helps everyone know how to engage and think about what they hear.

Present the Problem

Share the challenge from your perspective. Explain why you believe it is a problem. The consequences that you see every day might be invisible to your team. They may not understand why those issues are important. Take the time to present the issue and give people the information they need to see what you see.

Get Their Insights

Find out what is obvious to them. Take time to listen. Specifically, look for the “right” in their perspective. What is it that makes such obvious sense to them that they’ll wonder how you could be so blind?

Land in the And

It’s not always possible, but once you’ve identified the issues obvious to everyone and found the value in different perspectives, look for ways to “land in the and.” Ask a “How can we?” question that combines the major values. Eg “How can we limit harm to the donkeys, protect native vegetation, and continue to experience the 450 years of wild donkey culture?”

When you ask “How can we?” questions that include the obvious elements of different perspectives, you can often find creative solutions that make far more sense and have more support than the limited, but “obvious” approach.

It’s not always possible to craft a solution that meets every need, but when you have the conversations, you help your team to think the way you do, you’re made smarter from the perspectives they bring, and the team is far more likely to own the outcome going forward.

Your Turn

Leave us a comment and share your best strategy to lead when your team can’t see the obvious problem or solution you see.

How to Prepare Your Successor For Success

How to Prepare Your Successor For Success

The same mentor who jokingly told Karin that if you want people to think you’re a rock star “always follow an idiot” also smiled and said, “and always leave an idiot as your successor.” Not the best advice – but leadership transitions are often rocky.

It’s a terrible feeling to watch hard work unravel and progress backslide when the new guy takes over. You can tell a great leader by what happens after they walk away—that’s when the investment in people and processes really pays off.

So how do you ensure your successor’s success?

7 Ways to Help Your Successor Succeed

Start Before It’s Time to Go

It starts early. Once you’ve decided to move on, it’s too late. Lay the foundation for a remarkable transition from your first month in a new role.

1. Build a Strong, Interdependent Team

Your successor will have the greatest chance of success if the team doesn’t immediately need them to survive the day-to-day.  Give your team opportunities to work together—without you—so they learn to rely on, and leverage, one another’s strengths.

2. Build a Deep Bench

Surround yourself with rock stars. Go find them in other areas of the business and recruit them to your team. Invest substantial time each week working on leadership development. When it comes to succession planning, the big mistake we see consistently is that leaders focus on developing only one protegé. That’s risky. Instead of thinking in terms of “grooming your replacement,” focus on building an entire farm team.

3. Resist the Urge to Develop “Mini Me’s”

It’s like that old Monty Python line, “And now for something completely different.” It is likely that what your team needs most after you leave is not more of you. As you’re doing your succession planning, consider what kind of leader would most challenge the team next and be sure you’re developing diverse talent.

4. Lead with Transparency

The last thing you want your successor to say is, “I had no idea your job was like this.” Share what you can with your team. Help them understand the deeper challenges you face and how you approach them. Expose them to some of the politics and explain how you navigate.

And … As You’re Transitioning To Your New Role

5. Finish Strong

It’s easy to get immediately sucked into your next role and lose focus. While you’re bringing your backfill up to speed, be sure you’re not letting any balls drop that will create early fire drills or unnecessary frustration.

6. Help Them Build Their Network

You know who you rely on to get things done, up, down and sideways. It took time to build that. How can you shorten their networking curve, and introduce them to the key players who will be critical to their success? Be sure they know about any landmines you learned about the hard way.

7. Get Out of the Way

Do everything you can to leave your successor anything they may need in an organized and easy to follow-way. And then, get out-of-the-way. Offer to be available, but stop checking in. Whatever you do, don’t hang around offering commentary to your old team. The new leader needs to make her mark in her way.

Your turn.

What would you add? What are the best ways to ensure your successor’s success?

See Also: Harvard Business Review: Preparing Your Successor For Success

5 Biggest Succession Planning Mistakes

How to lead when your employees don't have to follow

How to Lead When Your Employees Don’t Have to Follow

Leading people who don’t have to follow starts with your mindset.

How do you lead when people don’t have to follow? In a recent long-term leadership development program Karin and I conducted for leaders from around the globe, this was one of the most common questions participants asked.

As work becomes more complex and people develop more specialized knowledge and skills, cross-functional teams, ad-hoc teams, and temporary project teams are increasingly common. You will likely lead people who do not directly report to you. And at times you have to rely on other teams to give you what you need to succeed.

The Truth About People Who Don’t Have to Follow

How long can you hold your breath?

Stick with me here—this will make sense in a moment. In fact, unless it’s dangerous to your health, try it right now: hold your breath as long as you can.

How long did you make it? 30 seconds, one minute?

Before long, you couldn’t help yourself—you just had to breathe. Even if I were to offer you a substantial amount of money if you were to hold your breath longer, at some point you have no choice. Your body will force the issue.

There are very few things in the world that you must do. You must breathe. You must die. Along the way, you must eliminate bodily waste. That’s about it – every other behavior is a choice.

And one of those choices is how you choose to show up to work each day: Will you give it your best or just occupy space and slide by? It’s a choice you make.

The fundamental leadership mindset that will transform your influence is this:  if everything is a choice for you, it’s also a choice for your team whether or not they report to you.

Everyone is a Volunteer

Realistically, it’s not just people on other teams who don’t have to follow you. Even your direct reports don’t have to follow your leadership.

Everyone is a volunteer because you cannot force anyone to do anything.

“Wait a minute, David,” you might say, “if they don’t do their job we can fire them.”

You’re right of course, but that’s their choice. The path to engage teams that choose to give their best begins when you realize that everyone’s a volunteer. They choose:

  • If they will be a part of your team.
  • How they will show up.
  • Whether to participate fully or phone it in.
  • The level of effort they will give.
  • How well they will perform their role.

How to Lead when They Don’t Have to Follow

When you embrace this fundamental truth – that everyone is a volunteer – it will change your leadership forever. Every action from every person on your team becomes a gift.

Every ounce of energy they spend on a project is a gift. Your work as a leader shifts from force to invitation, from control to influence, from fear to gratitude. You won’t lead to wring out the worst, but to bring out the best.

The fundamental leadership truth you cannot ignore is that if it’s a choice for you, it’s also a choice for your team. Everyone is a volunteer.

Here are a few specific tools you can use to lead from the mindset that everyone is a volunteer:

  • Connect the “what” to the “why.” Work without meaning is punishment suitable to prison camps. Make sure your team knows the purpose behind their tasks, the value in the organization’s work, and how their work makes a difference. If the work has no meaning — eliminate it.
  • Ask “How can I help?” Your team needs support and training that only you can provide. Make sure they have the training, equipment, and political support they need to succeed. Don’t do their work for them, but help them grow and expand their ability to problem solve by asking critical thinking questions.
  • Apologize when you screw up. Apologizing doesn’t make you weak. It shows courage, builds your credibility, and models taking responsibility when you drop the ball. That’s what you want from your staff, right?
  • Maintain standards and expectations. Volunteers, more than anyone, need to know that you value their time. When you permit people to underperform without consequence, then you tell everyone who does their best that they are wasting their time.
  • Say “Thank you.” Do you like what your team did? Do they know it? Do you want more of it? Don’t wait to say “Thank you.”

Your Turn

If you think about your own performance, I’ll bet your best efforts were not the result of money or a fear of being fired. We’d love to hear from you: leave us a comment and share How have your leaders brought out the best in you? 

When your boss is on the naughty list

When Your Boss is On the Naughty List

One of our most popular holiday posts is this look at Santa’s poor leadership in the classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV Special. Fortunately, Santa learns how to recognize and encourage talent. But what do you do your boss is the one on the naughty list?

It turns out that even the North Pole’s CEO had a question for Karin about why managers end up on the naughty list:

Insecurity and lack of training can get managers in trouble. But how can you best respond when you have a leader who’s making life challenging for you?

If you haven’t watched Rudolph in a while, you might take another look. Pay close attention to Harvey (the elf who aspires to be a dentist) and his interaction with Bumble, the abominable snow monster of the north.

Bumble is a menacing presence that looms over the North Pole and sends everyone scampering for cover when he looks their way. Sound like some bosses you know?

Let’s follow Harvey’s example as he deals with the fearsome Bumble:

1. Recall their humanity.

Harvey’s commitment to dentistry is so strong that he sees everyone in terms of their teeth. Even a scary monster has dental needs and Harvey’s the one to see them. The same holds true for your leader. They didn’t wake up that morning intent on ruining your day. They’re trying to solve their problems and doing the best they can with what they have.

This isn’t an excuse for poor behavior, harassment, or bullying. The goal here is to see the other person as a human being. They aren’t just a monster – they’re a complete human being with dignity, but who is struggling to succeed. You won’t be able to problem-solve or approach things constructively if you’re seeing them through a single inhuman label.

boss on naughty list

2. Try to identify what’s causing the problem behavior.

Harvey figures out that the Bumble has a sore tooth. People interpreted that pain as anger and hostility. As you work with your boss, what are the behaviors that concern you? Do they constantly wait until the last minute? Do they continually bug you and interrupt you from completing your work? Does their anger or intensity seem out of proportion to the circumstance?

In these situations, there’s probably an underlying concern that, if you can identify, you can address.

(However, if your boss is genuinely abusive, identifying the cause isn’t your job. In these situations, you can still address the behavior directly and then talk with your HR department, and, if the behavior doesn’t resolve, leave the team.)

3. Talk

Harvey has a conversation with the fearsome Bumble – and you can too. In most situations, it’s possible to talk with your boss, even when they’re acting from insecurity, fear, powerlessness, or lack of skill.

Use a gentle INSPIRE conversation. Eg: “Hey, I noticed that you’ve asked for this task three times today and seem to be very stressed about it. I promise I’ll have it completed by the time you gave me, but I’m wondering if there’s something else going on that we need to talk about?”

Often, just drawing attention to the behavior will help lessen its intensity. Other times, you’ll discover that there’s an underlying issue that you might be able to help address.

4. Solve the problem (if possible.)

Harvey pulled the Bumble’s sore tooth. That solution was appropriate and within his skill set and responsibility (as a North Pole elf dentist). The result was a happy Bumble who became an important part of the team.

As you talk and uncover more information, look for ways that you can solve the problem. When David had a boss who was frequently overwhelmed and frustrated, he would look him in the eye and say “I’ve got this. You’ll have what you need by 5 pm.” His boss just needed to know that a couple of the thousand issues he faced were under control.

You can’t solve your boss’s insecurity or lack of training for them; that’s not your job. But you can take responsibility and solve work-related issues in a way that gives them confidence. You can also augment their communication challenges by leading with a Check for Understanding, INSPIRE conversations, and even 9 What’s Coaching when it’s appropriate.

Your Turn

When your boss is on the naughty list, frustrating you, and starts to feel like a fearsome monster, it’s time to take a step back, get perspective, and look at the underlying issues. How can you see your boss as a human being and be part of the solution?

Leave us a comment and share your best suggestion for dealing with a boss who’s on the naughty list.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Let’s Grow Leaders!