An easy way to check on your culture

An Easy Way to Check on Your Culture

Check your culture by looking at shared resources.

Is there anything grosser than a neglected break-room microwave oven? If Marvel needs another super-villain, I’d recommend someone spawned from the splatter of last night’s warmed up spaghetti and powered by the fumes of artificially butter-flavored popcorn. Perhaps your break-room microwaves won’t spawn any super-villains – but they are a great place to check your culture.

If you haven’t seen yours in a while, take a look. If you don’t have a microwave, check the refrigerator…or the bathrooms (preferably near the end of the workday).

What did you find?

Microwaves Matter

We share these spaces. Everyone can use them. But…who is responsible for them?

Too often, the answer is “no one.” Over time, it shows. People rush between meetings or for a hurried lunch and something spatters or spills…

and it’s left for the next person.

Even if your organization hires someone to clean these shared spaces each night, take a look near the end of the day. What you find tells you a great deal about the culture of an organization.

A clean microwave tells you people care about one another.

Why Microwaves are a Place to Check Your Culture

In 1968 Garret Hardin studied the phenomenon of the abused shared space. He wrote about farmers overgrazing a shared field and titled his work “the tragedy of the commons“. You’re certainly familiar with it: each person maximizes their own benefit (they save time by leaving their mess in the microwave or increase revenue by grazing their sheep too often).

And we’re also familiar with the consequences: the microwave becomes so disgusting that no one can use it, or the field’s soil is depleted, it dies, and no one can graze sheep at all.

The best thing about the microwave or shared field?  These are solvable problems—it just takes leadership.

Waiting for a Hero

Shared spaces are a perfect leadership laboratory. The only way to resolve the tragedy of the commons (or break-room microwave) is for someone to take responsibility and influence others to change their behavior.

Someone has to:

  • Recognize the problem – people maximizing short-term benefit that leads to loss of the shared resource
  • Take personal responsibility for it
  • Make people aware of the problem
  • Come up with solutions
  • Influence everyone to take part in those solutions – and this means people change their behavior. They give up their short-term self-interest (sacrificing a few minutes to clean up after themselves or sacrificing money to graze sheep less often).

This is much easier in organizational culture with shared values of responsibility, respect, and supporting one another.

When Was the Last Time?

If you want to cultivate a culture of shared responsibility, it starts with you.

CEO of Disney, Michael Eisner, made a point of picking up trash when in the parks. Keeping the park spotless was everyone’s responsibility – in action, not just in word. I’m not suggesting a CEO should spend all their time picking up trash – there are other vital tasks they should attend to.

But if you want shared ownership in your team, model it. When was the last time you picked up some trash, wiped out the microwave, or made a new pot of coffee? These things take seconds but speak loudly.

Lead Where You Are

If you are not in a positional leadership role, shared resources are one of your greatest opportunities. Look for areas or services in your organization that everyone needs, but are in disarray because no one owns them.

Take responsibility. Clean it, organize it, create a system to share the service…whatever it is, get others involved. Meetings are a great shared space to practice your leadership. You can be the one to ask who owns the decision and the one to ask who’s doing what, by when, and check on the follow-up. You don’t need a title to lead…and shared resources give you a huge opportunity to show and practice your leadership.

Your Turn

I’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment and share: How do you influence others to take care of shared resources? Why do you think some organizations seem to have an easier time keeping their microwaves clean?

How to Lead When Your Team Resists Change

How to Lead When Your Team Resists Change

When Your Team Resists Change, It’s an Opportunity for Ownership

You’ve noticed a problem, spent the last four days meeting with finance, strategizing, and building an action plan. You’re energized about what your team will achieve, your boss and peers are on board, and it’s time to meet with your team to roll out the new process. You share the details, all the benefits, and next steps. But it feels like your team resists change.

Your enthusiasm is met with quiet reluctance. Then your team brings up three different operational challenges and two reasons your customers won’t like it. Why can’t they understand the benefit and just move forward?

4 Things to Do When Your Team Resists Change

The resistance to change frustrates many leaders, but it doesn’t have to. In fact, the resistance you feel often means there’s an opportunity to create buy-in and ownership that will help you build a courageous culture (download your free courageous cultures white paper here). Here’s how to do it:

1) Avoid Labels

It’s easy to label people who raise objections. But they’re not necessarily lazy, stuck, negative, or even “resistant” (despite the title of this article).

Rather, they’re normal and human. Resisting change actually makes a lot of sense. After all, if what you did yesterday worked–it got you through the day, alive, fed, and healthy—why spend energy to do something differently? That’s a waste of time—unless there’s a good reason.

2) Start with the Problem

If you’re like most leaders, when you see a problem, you move to solutions as quickly as you can. Then you go to your team with a solution. It’s natural, but when you do this, you deprive your team of the understanding and connection that helped you arrive at the answer you’ve brought them.

Without that same connection, of course they won’t feel the same way you do. One way to solve this challenge is to start the conversation with your team by identifying the problem.

Eg: “I was looking at the numbers and we’re seeing a steady decline in re-enrollment.”

Then pause, let the issue sink in. If you have a team of introverts, give them time to think about the issue.

3) Ask for Their Thoughts

Once you’ve shared the problem and given them a moment to reflect. Ask for their thoughts. This helps anchor the problem in their thinking. They explore the consequences and how it interacts with other issues.

Change always starts with desire or dissatisfaction. By introducing the problem and letting it sink in, you’re creating the same emotional connection that helped you move to action.

When your why is bigger than your won’t, you will.

4) Ask for Their Solutions

As the team discusses the issue, they are likely to start asking about solutions.

When someone says, “What do you think we should do?” Resist the urge to answer. Instead, continue to ask for their ideas. They may come up with ideas you haven’t considered—or they may arrive at the same solution you’ve thought through.

But now there’s a crucial difference: they own it.

And if they can’t come up with any reasonable solutions, your ideas now have a hungry audience.

At this point you can move into decision-making mode: establish what a successful solution will achieve, determine who will make the decision, discuss, decide, and act.

Final Thoughts

It may feel like this process takes extra time—and it does. It’s 15 or 30 minutes of time that prevents days, weeks, and even months of procrastination and foot-dragging. The team owns the problem and the solution. They’ve connected to the why and are ready for action.

This small investment of time overcomes some common reasons people resist change. A few notes:

1) If you suspect an individual is resisting because they will lose something (status, money, comfort) you will need to address that separately. Maybe there is a bigger “why” available that makes the trade-off worth it. Or, it may be an unavoidable consequence of a changing world. Don’t overlook these personal losses – they are real and if left unaddressed, make you look inhuman.

2) Sometimes you need to move quickly. The more you connect with your team and connect them to the why behind the change, the more buy-in you’ll have for the times you need to say “trust me and we’ll discuss it later.”

Your Turn

We’d love to hear from you – what’s your best practice to help teams navigate change?

How to help all your people contribute great ideas

How to Help All Your People Contribute Great Ideas

Don’t Let Assumptions Limit People Who Can Contribute Great Ideas

“I’m looking at my people and I just don’t think they can get there from here.” Vivian was a gung-ho CEO exploring what it would take to build a more Courageous Culture (click to download your free white paper). She loved the idea of eliminating FOSU (fear of speaking up) and encouraging more micro-innovation and problem-solving, but as she mentally inventoried her team, she was concerned that not everyone could contribute great ideas and engage energetically.

Problem-solving and innovation certainly come easier for some than others, but it’s easy to make assumptions and miss people’s energy and potential. There are quieter voices you can amplify and embryonic ideas to nurture. The key is to give them the leadership they need to become effective team members.

How to Help Everyone Contribute Their Great Ideas

As you learn how different people are wired and what energizes them, you can meet them where they are to draw greatness from them. Let’s look at several types of people that present a challenge for leaders who want to build courageous cultures.

Silent Wounded

They don’t trust you—and with good reason. It’s not that you’ve done anything wrong. It’s the three managers who came before you who abused their trust, told them they weren’t hired to think, stole their idea, and then took credit for it. Now you have the same title and, fairly or not, all the negative baggage that comes with it.

Your job is to rebuild their trust. This will take time, but once you’ve built that trust, these team members are often very loyal. Start small. Ask a courageous question and receive the answers graciously and with gratitude. Build up to deeper questions and focus on responding well. Celebrate people, generously give credit, then ask for more problem solving and ideas to better serve your customers.

Silent Ponderous

To draw out the great value silent ponderous people can contribute, start by giving them time to think. For some meetings, this means giving them the main topic a day or two in advance and asking them to think about it. In some settings having everyone write their ideas first will give them time to process.

Another strategy is to clarify that you’re not asking for a 100% accurate answer. When you ask them for their best thinking at the moment or a range of ideas, it gives them permission to explore, rather than commit to something they haven’t thought through yet.

Just Do What I Sayers or Let Me Do My Thingers

You may have team members who are certain of their direction and methods. They’re often successful and just want people to line up behind them and do what they’re told.

When you talk with people in this group, it can help to frame the conversation in terms of their goals. If they want to have more responsibility or more influence, those are easy opportunities to talk about the people-skills they need to practice and demonstrate.

If they want to improve their outcomes, they’ll need people and their ideas. Two points you can emphasize in these conversations are: 1) What success looks like in this organization—is everyone thinking and contributing? 2) You care about their career and want them to succeed–and that’s why you’re having this conversation.

Just Tell Me What to Doers

There are a couple of types of people who consistently just want to be told what to do. The first group is the silent wounded described above. They have a “You won’t fool me again” mantra. As with other silent wounded, take time to rebuild trust with small steps that prove you mean what you say.

The second group of people who want you to “Just tell me what to do” are doing what they know has made them successful in the past. Through much of school and in many organizations, you can get along quite well by just following instructions. The challenge for these people is the same as for organizations everywhere: the world is changing and computers are far more efficient at being told what to do.

First, have a discussion about the changing nature of work and what it will take for your business to thrive. Next, reframe what success looks like for their role. In effect, you are still answering their need to “be told what to do” but in a way that asks them to consider the opportunities and problems facing the organization. Finally, equip them with the ability to contribute great ideas.

Idea Grenadiers

Some people are idea-machines–their brain works overtime to see the possibilities in every situation. Nearly every team is better off with someone who can creatively look at what’s happening and see opportunities to improve or transform. The challenge comes when the idea-person tosses all their ideas in your lap, wants you to do them, but won’t do the work. These are the idea-grenadiers—tossing their ideas like grenades and then running the other direction.

When you’re working with someone like this, it helps to have a direct conversation that calls them back to what matters most and asks them to engage. For example:

“I’ve noticed that in the past month you come to me with four different ideas about how we should improve security, revamp the training program, change our workforce management, and reorganize product management. There is merit in your ideas—and we can’t pursue all of them right now. Which of them do you think would help achieve our #1 strategic priority? Is that a project you’d be willing to help with?”


Most organizations have a schmoozer—everyone likes them and they talk a great game, but when it comes time to get things done, somehow, they never implement that plan that sounded so amazing when they presented it.

The challenge is that they undermine trust. Ideas they share lack credibility and they’re less likely to be entrusted with good ideas because they won’t implement them.

The best strategy with schmoozers is to ignore the charm and focus on the results. Healthy accountability conversations that help them raise their game will help restore their credibility. When you talk with them, be ready for an elegantly worded explanation for why they didn’t get it done. If it happens again, you need to escalate the conversation.

For example: “This is the third time we’ve had this conversation. Your credibility is at stake. What you said sounded wonderful, but if you can’t implement it, your team can’t rely on you and neither can I. What can we do to get this on track and completed?”

Oxygen Suckers

The final challenging type is the person who sucks all the air out of the room. They often talk so much, so loud, or so vehemently that others don’t contribute. Oxygen suckers can spark drama that derails a healthy conversation and wastes time on tangents. Oxygen suckers often lack self-awareness and don’t recognize how their behavior affects others. It’s up to you to facilitate in a way that allows everyone to contribute great ideas.

To help your oxygen suckers, start with a direct conversation. Privately explain that you will run meetings differently and that your goal is to make sure everyone takes part equitably. Be specific about how you’ll do this. For example: “In some cases, I will time people’s comments to ensure everyone has time to speak. I may ask you to speak after I’ve asked some quieter team members for their perspective.”

With these challenging types, your approach and the conversations give them a chance to take part. Some people will choose not to—and that’s okay.

If someone tells you they can’t perform at the needed level or they don’t want to adjust their style, thank them for their honesty, honor their choice, and help them with their exit strategy. Either way, you’ve energized your team to contribute great ideas and are on your way to a courageous culture.

Your turn. What’s your best strategy for encouraging your team members to contribute their best ideas?

how to prepare for a better development discussion

How to Prepare for a Better Development Discussion (Free Tool)

Development discussions always go better when your employee comes prepared to engage in conversation. We’ve designed this guide to help your team members think more deeply about their development goals and key actions. Give it to them in advance and ask them to bring it with them to ground your development discussion.

You can download the PDF here.

Use this Development Discussion Planner to help your employees prepare

Ask your employee to reflect on both their current and desired future roles and answer the following questions.

What strengths would you like to leverage and grow?

Leveraging strengths is a great way to start the discussion. How can you test and build upon these strengths across a variety of contexts? Once the discussion moves to action planning, think about ways you can pair up your team members to help one another.

In what strategic relationships would you like to invest?

Often the most important work to get ready for the next level or a strategic lateral move involves building more influential relationships. Encourage your employees to think about where they need to invest in relationships for their current role, as well as future roles. Who can help champion, sponsor, prepare for, and give them a taste of their desired future?

What challenges are you looking to overcome?

This is an important calibration point. You want to know if they know what’s holding them back. Much better to start with their perspective before adding yours.

What skills would you like to learn or improve?

Our training clients often tell us that they are often surprised by the answer to this question. Giving your employee some time to think about this in advance will lead to a meatier list.

What support do you need?

Ask your employee to come with a specific “ask.” This helps overcome the two most frequent answers to this question, “I don’t know” and “I haven’t thought about it.”

Your turn. What questions would you add?

See Also:

How to Get Employees Jazzed About Their Professional Development (Fast Company)

how to lead in a caustic culture

How to Lead in a Caustic Culture

To lead in a caustic culture, focus on your influence.

It’s a question we hear after every keynote we deliver: “I want to build a Courageous Culture, but I don’t know if it will work at my company. It’s not a healthy place and the people I report to aren’t interested in doing things well or better. How do I lead in such a caustic culture?”

Download the Inspiring Innovation Courageous Cultures white paper

By the way – this question isn’t limited to frontline leaders or middle-level managers. We’ve also heard it from CEOs who feel that their Board of Directors insists on negative or ineffective strategies.

Reclaim Your Power

You can’t lead well when you feel like a victim. It saps your energy and your team will sense the lack of confidence. When you’re stuck wishing things we’re different, you can’t create positive change.

I’ve been there—and it stinks. Your leader is in a bad mood and starts giving you directives you know aren’t healthy. If you pass that negativity and anger to your team, you’ll crush motivation and innovation. But they’re the boss, right?

Not exactly.

To quickly shift out of feeling like a victim, you’ve got to reclaim your power. There are two quick ways to do this. First, remember that you are in full control of yourself. Your boss or Board don’t choose how you act, how you treat your people, or what kind of culture you create.

That choice belongs to you.

They can set the goals and they may define a frustrating process you must follow – but how you engage with the people around is always your choice. I think of it as if I’m a lightning rod. Take the harsh energy you receive and dissipate it into the ground. Pass on the goals, objectives, and healthy outcomes.

The second step to reclaim your power is to ask yourself this question:  “How can I?” eg:

How can I…

  • “treat my people with respect and dignity as we implement this?”
  • “call my team back to our values and help us to be our best selves?”
  • “advocate for better systems and solutions?”

These “How can I” questions help you reclaim your power because they focus on activities that you can do. Notice the question isn’t “How can I get my boss to change?” Instead, the focus is on you—what can you do right now?

If it feels overwhelming, find the smallest next step. Taking action, even a small action, to be the leader you want to be will help you reclaim your power and stop feeling like a victim.

Build a Cultural Oasis

Once you’ve reclaimed your power, it’s time to build something positive. When you lead in a caustic culture, one of the most important actions you can take is to build a cultural oasis.

In the desert, an oasis is a place of nourishment and peace. You can drink, rest, and resupply for your journey.

Think of your team or your circle of influence as that oasis in the desert of your overall culture. When people interact with you and your team, how can they come away refreshed? How will they experience respect, be seen, and treated with dignity?

Find the Others

Sometimes building a cultural oasis is not about overcoming a caustic culture, but finding ways to build and expand pockets of excellence. In a recent Leadership Without Losing Your Soul podcast episode, I interviewed Jamie Marsden. He wanted to enhance their high-performance results-focused culture and give leaders the tools they needed to also invest more deeply in human relationships.

Over time he and his team have built a voluntary grassroots community of practice filled with managers from across the company who are committed to healthy people management. When I asked him for his best piece of advice for a leader who has an idea like his and wants to create change, his advice simply:

“Find the others.”

I love that—as you build your cultural oasis, find the others. Who can you connect with who is committed to Winning Well and building a Courageous Culture? Share what you’re doing, support one another, and expand your oasis.

Find the others—inside your organization. In your community. Online and across the world. Many leaders around the world are committed to leading well. You’re not alone.

Your Turn: How to Lead in a Caustic Culture

I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment and share: When you’ve experienced a caustic culture, how did you lead well and build a cultural oasis for your people?

How to Help Your Team Bring You Better Ideas

How to Help Your Team Bring You Better Ideas

You don’t just want ideas—you want GOOD ideas. There’s no time for half-baked solutions to trivial problems. But if you stop listening, they’ll stop sharing, and you’ll miss the good ones.

How you respond to incomplete, off-base, or inelegant ideas makes all the difference in whether or not you’ll get the contributions you do need the next time. Several executives, when they heard about our research on Courageous Cultures and FOSU (fear of speaking up), told us “Oh, that’s not our issue. Our problem is these damn millennials can’t stop speaking up. They complain about everything.”

“And do you listen?” we ask.

“Some of the time, but after a while, you can only take so much.”

Which begs the question: What happens next after you’re tired and they’re ignored? It’s only a matter of time before they stop trying or find someplace else to work that will listen.

It’s worth the time investment to help your team know a good idea when they see one and to learn how to vet it for viability.

This simple tool works wonders.

4 Questions to Help Your Team Vet Their Ideas

In our research, 40% of the participants said they don’t feel confident to share their ideas and 45% say they haven’t been trained to think critically or solve problems.

If you want better ideas, help your employees know what differentiates a good idea by giving them a few criteria. Tell your team you’re looking for interesting, doable, engaging actions.


Why is this idea interesting? What strategic problem does it solve? How will results improve from this idea (e.g. customer experience, employee retention, efficiency)?

D- Doable

Is this idea something we could actually do? How would we make it happen? What would make it easier or more difficult?

E- Engaging

Who would we need to engage to make this happen? Why should they support it? Where are we most likely to meet resistance?


What are the most important actions needed to try this? How would we start?

See Also: Entrepreneur: Have a Killer Business Idea? Here’s How to Vet It

The problem with just do your job

The Problem with Just Do Your Job

Have you ever had a team member say something like this? “I just want to do my job. I know you want me to care, but I don’t. It’s a paycheck and I’ve got kids.”

Or perhaps you’ve heard a leader tell their people, “It’s not that hard – just do your job.”

These expressions are two sides of the same coin and are a major challenge for leaders who want to build a courageous culture.

I feel for the employee who says “Just let me do my job.” I’ve been there. As a teenager digging ditches in the summer heat or scrubbing down gas pumps, trying to save money for college, I wasn’t thinking about the customer or how we could run a more effective business. I focused on getting my work done and hanging out with friends that night. There are roles and seasons where that’s the reality.

I also empathize with those frustrated managers. I’ve been that leader who felt irritation at an employee for over-complicating or avoiding a straightforward task. It’s normal to feel like telling them “Just do your job.”

Two Problems with “Just Do Your Job”

Both feelings are normal and they happen to the best employees and the best leaders at some point. However, you don’t want to stay there. There are three problems with “just do your job” that will limit your leadership and cripple your results.

Problem #1: Work you can “just do” is going away.

Routine, predictable, structured work is being automated. Technology is commoditizing many products and services, and easy jobs are going away. Robots and digital agents powered by Artificial Intelligence will continue to displace blue and white-collar jobs.

This is a challenge for employers and employees. When so much is automated and quality service or products are the prices of admission, how do you differentiate your business from your competition?


The secret to surviving and thriving in the automation revolution is in what computers can’t replace:  human creativity, empathy, and critical thinking, especially in unpredictable environments. Leading in the automation revolution isn’t about what you can control; it’s about what you can create and contribute.

For team members: we all have those days where we’re doing well to show up. But if showing up is all we do, every day, a computer will show up faster, cheaper, and more accurately. To create and contribute start by engaging with your customer. Think about the work you do and the way you do it. What have you learned? How can it be better for you, your team, your customer, and your organization?

For leaders: you can help your team move from just showing up to creation and contribution by regularly asking for their ideas, bringing them problems or opportunities and discussing them together, asking courageous questions, and then take action on what you learn. Over time, this combination of curiosity and implementation will build momentum.

For the latest research about building Courageous Cultures, download our new Inspiring Innovation Whitepaper

Problem #2: Success takes a team.

The second problem with a “just do your job” mentality is that you won’t get the micro-innovations, solutions, and ideas that allow your team to transform their results. Any work that you can’t outsource to artificial intelligence and computers will improve with multiple perspectives and diverse thinking. Even in small companies, the specialization of skills and different talents in your team of three or four people mean you’ll benefit if you can draw out everyone’s best thinking.


For team members: What perspective do you bring that will help your team be more effective? When will you share it? What experience does your colleague have? How do they see things differently than you do? When will ask for their perspective?

For leaders: If you’re not already consistently asking for ideas and solutions, it’s time to start. If you’re asking, but not hearing as much input as you’d like, look at how you ask.

When you’re talking with a team member who is struggling and “just wants to do their job,” start with empathy then shift to what’s possible. For example:

“I hear you—I’ve been there too. And it’s going to take more than just showing up for us to succeed. I don’t just want to show up for you—and I know we can do more than just show up for our customers. I also hope we can create the best experience for you and your team. I see what you’re capable of doing and I’d love to hear your ideas as you have them.”

Your Turn

When you build a dynamic culture that leverages humanity to solve problems, respond to customers, and adapt to change, you build a strong foundation to survive—and thrive—in the automation revolution.

Leave us a comment and share your best technique to help team members move from “just do your job” to creation and contribution.

Don’t Let Limited Perspective Destroy Your Team

Don’t Let Limited Perspective Destroy Your Team

Limited perspective traps leaders and drives apart teams.

Recently, I’ve watched an organization of passionate and caring people disintegrate. The limited perspective of leaders and team members has frustrated communication and problem-solving. They’ve devolved into camps of us vs. them. It can happen to any team if you don’t pay attention to how you see the world.

When the World Changes

I grew up in southwest Denver.

Late in the day, as the sun settled toward the mountains west of the city, I loved to see downtown Denver highlighted in the evening light. My favorite version of this view happened after a summer thunderstorm. The crenelated gray, black, and white skyline glowed with hope against the dark purple clouds that had taken their wrath out to the plains.

When I was twelve years old, my friend’s mother invited us to volunteer with her at a shelter for mothers who had escaped abusive relationships. We had to make solemn promises not to reveal the shelter’s location. It was easy for me to promise, because I had no idea where it was.

We drove to the shelter on a cold December morning. We rode in the back of a pickup truck, laying down as flat as we could to stay out of the bitter wind.

When we arrived, I sat up. And the world shifted.

My skyline, the familiar arrangement of glass and steel, had been put into a cloth bag, shaken, and poured out. This was not my downtown.

We were northeast of the city center, directly opposite of where I’d grown up.

The world swayed, but then I was struck by another thought: there were children who grew up in this neighborhood. These alien buildings that disturbed me were their familiar anchor.

I’ve relived that moment hundreds of times as my known world expands. There is always another point of view beyond my limited perspective. And as strange, unsettling, and foreign as it may seem—it is all the normal another person has ever known.

Leading Through Limited Perspective

Have you ever had your perspective shift like that? Has new information, a new experience, or a new person made you look at the world differently?

I hope so. Being able to see the world differently is a vital leadership skill.

Whether it’s the empathy to see how a new system feels to your customers or employees or the ability to ask “What if?” and view your opportunities in a different way, moving beyond your limited perspective will help you have more influence and think more strategically.

The leaders in the organization I mentioned have struggled with a changing world. Both groups deeply believe in the organization’s purpose and values. The challenge is that over time, people have started to interpret those values through a narrowing set of experiences.

As concerned team members raised issues, they were told “There is no problem”—because, seen through leaders’ limited perspective, there truly wasn’t a problem. The organization’s environment changed, but their leaders didn’t change with it – and now they’re bleeding talent.

When you lose your ability to see the world through someone else’s eyes, you get stuck being “right,” but you’re not effective.

How to Not Let Limited Perspective Trap You

None of us are immune to this trap. Staying connected to the people you lead and maintaining a flexible and curious worldview takes work. Here are a few ways to keep yourself from getting stuck.

Listen for their truth—when a team member shares a concern, search for their truth. Not the Truth, but their truth. How are they feeling? What are they seeing? They’re not making it up. What is there for you to learn or keep in mind?

Get curious—when something doesn’t make sense, resist the urge to discount it. Instead, create some space to ask questions. If nothing else, you can say, “Tell me more …” and see what insights emerge.

Focus on what’s right, not who’s right—my friend Bob Tipton wrote a great book on this topic. When you change your perspective from defining who is right or wrong to figuring out what will be healthy and helpful for everyone, you’re on your way to a bigger perspective and greater influence.

Practice being uncomfortable—new perspectives are unsettling. It is strange and troubling to discover that the way you’ve seen things wasn’t entirely accurate. But since that’s where the breakthroughs happen, it’s worth getting used to it. You can practice in small and fun ways. Try something new every week. Ask someone to explain a hobby or passion you don’t understand. Travel – even if it’s just to the next city. Go as far as your resources allow and let it change your perspective.

Ask “What’s next?”—Strategic leaders don’t just focus on the change that happened yesterday. They’re looking ahead at the change that’s coming and intentionally shifting their approach. What has changed and will change in your environment? For your people? For your customers or clients?

Share information  – This one helps you and your team. When your team’s perspective is limited, share more information. Give them the data they need to make more informed decisions. When you do, they are better able to craft solutions that weren’t available to you.

Your Turn

It’s easy to get trapped by a limited perspective that alienates you from your team, but you don’t have to let it happen. Leave a comment and share your best strategy to stay nimble and maintain a flexible perspective.

5 Reasons Your Employees Ignore Your Coaching

5 Reasons Your Employees Ignore Your Coaching

Have you ever had (what you thought was) a great coaching conversation—your employee seems to get it—but fifteen minutes later they’re back to their old habits?

So you give them more coaching, this time “louder” either literally, or through progressive discipline. But even so, nothing changes.

What’s going on?

Most employees don’t come to work hoping to screw up.

They want to improve. So why does so much coaching fall on deaf ears?

5 Reasons Your Coaching Falls on Deaf Ears

When we ask employees in our training programs why it’s hard to hear their manager’s feedback, here’s what they tell us.

1. “I’m overwhelmed.”

“I’m trying to do better, I really am. But it’s all just too much. Every time we meet, he’s giving me something else to work on. No matter what I do, I can’t seem to get it right, so I just ignore him and do the best I can.”

If you want real change, focus on one behavior at a time.

2. “I’m watching how it REALLY works around here.”

“My boss keeps telling me my customer courtesy credits are too high—that I’m costing the business too much money. So I stopped giving credits. But when my customers get mad, they escalate to my supervisor.  And guess, what? She ALWAYS gives them the credit! She’s the hero, and the credit goes against my numbers and I still end up on progressive action. I can’t win. So now I’m back to giving them the credit.”

If you want your employees to hear your coaching, be sure you’re following your own standards.

If there are reasons you make exceptions, be sure you clearly differentiate and explain the thought process, so they can follow consistent parameters.

3. “I don’t know how.”

“My manager says I need to be more strategic. That sounds awesome. I’m all for that. But what does that mean? How do I do that?”

Be sure your coaching is specific and actionable. Explain what success looks like in terms of behaviors.

4. “I disagree.”

“My supervisor keeps asking me to do this, but I just don’t think it’s right. It will have a negative impact on MY customers. I’ve tried to explain my concerns, but she just keeps citing policy, and that this decision is ‘above my pay grade.'”

Sure, we all have to implement policies we may not agree with, the important factor here is to really listen to the concerns and explain why. 

AND to help challenge the status quo when it doesn’t make sense. 

5. “I’m confused.”

“I’m not really sure what’s important, because everything seems to be. I feel like I’m being pulled in a million directions.”

Help your employees sort through the noise and stay focused on what matters most.

Coaching is an art. If you’re not getting the results you want, talk to your employee. “I’ve noticed, that even though we’ve talked about this before, you’re continuing to ______ (insert behavior here.) I really care about you and want you to be successful. What’s going on? Why do you think this is still happening?”

And really listen to their response.

A Few More Articles to Help Your Coaching and Performance Feedback

Fast Company: This 7 Step Guide For Dishing Out Feedback is Completely Idiot-Proof

What Do I Do if They Cry?

Pushover No More: It’s Never Too Late to Start Practicing Team Accountability

Are You Making This Tragic Accountability Mistake?

Are You Making This Tragic Accountability Mistake?

Have you ever noticed that lack of accountability is contagious?

If you know your boss is paying close attention to your results (and how you achieve them), you’re more likely to be absolutely certain that your team is doing the right thing, at the right time. Of course, the inverse is also true. If your boss ISN’T paying attention, it’s far easier to look the other way when your team drops the ball.

Which means one overwhelmed, lazy or scared manager letting slackers slide can create a cascading effect of lost accountability.

The Multiplier Impact of Poor Accountability – One Afternoon in a Mountain Town

I was delighted to find the grocery store in the mountain town we were visiting had a new surprise— kombucha on tap! Since kombucha is my go-to book writing beverage, I bought the reusable growler and smiled as I filled it with frothy goodness.

But the next week, when I came back for a refill, all I heard were sloppy squirts of messy air. The kombucha tap had run dry.

Trying to be helpful, I went to the folks working the deli counter (immediately adjacent to the empty kombucha dispenser.)

“I’m not sure if you know this, but the kombucha dispenser seems to be empty.”

“Lady, that’s not my job. You should go find a manager somewhere to tell that to.”

Whoa. Really?  “Ummm, do you think YOU could find a manager and let them know?”

“That’s not my job.”

Oh boy. Sometimes I just can’t help myself. It’s hard to teach accountability and leadership as frequently as I do, and just let a scene like this go.

So I went and found an Assistant Manager and explained the employee’s response—at this point kombucha was not the issue.

“Oh yeah. That’s bad. But I can’t do anything about it. You’ll need to tell the manager.”

Yeah, I’m starting to get the picture.

I’ll give her this much, she sent the manager to find me as I continued to shop.

So I explained what I do for a living and why I care.

“I hear you,” he said, “But there is nothing I can do about it. It’s these damn millennials. They just don’t care. There’s nothing I can do. Do you have any suggestions?”

Well, of course, I do. I have a whole book of suggestions.

A Quick Winning Well Training in the Frozen Food Aisle

So I shared a few fundamentals, right there in the frozen food section—while a bag of frozen edamame was melting in my hands.

He listened intently.

And then he just shook his head.

“That all sounds great, and I’m sure it works at other companies. It just won’t work here.”


“Store managers have no power here anymore. It used to be you could run your store and make a difference. Now everything is run from corporate and HR doesn’t let us hold people accountable.”

Hmmmm, I wondered about that one. I’d love to hear the other side of that story.

“But I’ll tell you what I’ll do. Let me go over there right now and talk to that employee, using the technique you shared.”

“Great,” I said.

And then I watched him walk off in the opposite direction from the deli counter, still holding my empty growler.

See Also

Your turn. What advice do you have for preventing a lack of accountability from being contagious?

how managers can reclaim their lost soul

How Managers Can Reclaim Their Lost Soul

In a recent leadership development program, we talked about “manager soul loss” – the isolation, bitterness, and despair that seeps into many leaders’ hearts. We share the stages of soul loss and symptoms to look out for to help leaders identify and prevent them before they set in.

After the program, we received a heartfelt note from one participant. Cheryl asked: “What can be done for a leader who is already experiencing symptoms of Lost Soul?”

Maybe you’ve been there and can relate to her question. Or perhaps you resonate with this guy:

We’ve been there. Both of us can think of times where we felt as if we were losing our leadership soul. That’s one reason we wrote Winning Well, why we share our blog, and podcast. We know you can achieve breakthrough results and do it without sacrificing your humanity.

Cheryl—this one’s for you (and everyone who has felt your leadership soul drifting away.)

The Road Back from Losing Your Soul

No matter what circumstances have caused you to feel the isolation, bitterness, or burnout, the road back starts with your “why.”

Why do you do what you do? Where are you helping people? Making a difference? Improving things for others?

Reconnecting with your “why” is the fuel for your leadership and management. It helps keep normal daily work irritations in perspective. (And if you look for your “why” and can’t find it – and really don’t like the work you do, then it may be time to find another option.)

When you reclaim your “why,” you reclaim your perspective and ground yourself in what matters most to you. That’s the foundation to move to the next question.

What’s Happening?

Often, when you feel like you’re losing your soul, it’s for one of three reasons:

  1. You’ve lost your perspective
  2. You feel overwhelmed and don’t know how to succeed in a specific situation
  3. Or your values are in conflict.

What’s happening with you? Take a look at where your biggest frustrations. What are your feelings responding to? Here are a few examples:

  • Is it because you feel like your people aren’t listening to you?
  • Do you find yourself treating people in ways you know in your heart aren’t healthy?
  • Are you working in a tough situation where your supervisor is demanding and you’re not sure you can get the performance they expect?
  • Are you dealing with a toxic culture or find your values in conflict with your leader or approach to the work?

What is it for you?

Solutions for Losing Your Soul

Once you’ve identified the source of your frustration, you can use specific tools to help you reclaim your confidence and your soul.

For example, if you feel that people aren’t listening, you can rebuild your credibility with clarity about the team’s MIT, the specific behaviors everyone needs to do perform to succeed, and then have INSPIRE accountability conversations for those that don’t get there right away.

Or, let’s say you don’t like the way you’re treating people. Using the Confidence-Competence model, you can more readily identify where each person is and what conversation they need to grow. Do they need coaching? Maybe help to develop their own problem-solving and critical thinking skills? If you haven’t been as encouraging as you’d like, tap into this encouragement model to give relevant, meaningful recognition.

Need help to talk with your supervisor and figuring out how to achieve the results you need to get? Or to resolve a conflict in values? You can use a PERSUADE conversation—or even another INSPIRE conversation to create dialogue and talk about your concerns. (And sometimes, it’s healthy to acknowledge that your values aren’t the same as the organization’s or leader’s values and it’s time to find better values fit elsewhere.)

Finally, one more option to explore is that you may not enjoy or want to lead or manage people. Maybe you did in the past, but not anymore. That’s okay—this work isn’t for everyone. And it’s better for you, your team, and the organization if you know it sooner rather than later and take steps to move to a different role.

Your Turn

These are just a few examples of how you can start to reclaim your soul. Reclaim your sense of purpose, identify the specific challenges you face, and equip yourself with the leadership tools you need to move through them. How can you start to do things differently to rebuild your confidence and belief in yourself?

We’d love to hear from you: leave a comment and share your best advice for leaders who feel like they are losing their soul.

How to talk with your boss when youdisagree

How to Talk With Your Boss When You Totally Disagree

Talk with your boss when you disagree—you might be surprised at the results.

I was seething. The CEO had just asked my team to do something that I felt lacked integrity, was unprincipled, manipulative, and put our clients in a bad position. On top of all that, it involved an external stakeholder with whom I had my own separate relationship. There was no way I could face my friend in this circumstance. But how do you talk with your boss when you radically disagree?

He was the CEO, and I was a team leader. What could I do?

When we lead workshops to help leaders lead courageous cultures and have tough conversations at work, the question of how to talk with your boss always comes up.

Why It’s So Hard to Talk with Your Boss

On paper it shouldn’t be that tough—just have a conversation and share your concerns. But if you’re like most people, talking to an executive, senior leader, or board member feels daunting.

Most of the time, when you fear to talk with your boss about an issue where you disagree, it’s because of the power they have over your employment. Self-preservation kicks in and you don’t want to do anything to jeopardize that paycheck. That’s normal for most people.

The problem is, when you don’t speak up, you’re not advocating for your people and it limits your influence and reputation as a strategic thinker. Speaking up can be a career-building move when you do it well.

The good news is that with a few tools and a little practice, you can address both concerns and have meaningful conversations with leaders at every level of your organization.

Talk to Yourself First

As upset as you might be, don’t charge into your boss’s office and unload your righteous anger. That may feel good for a moment, but that’s a career-limiting move.

The first conversation is one you have with yourself.

Come back to the Winning Well model: start with your own confidence and humility—confidence to stand up for what matters and humility to recognize you don’t know what you don’t know (and you’re not as perfect a leader as you might feel). Focus on results and relationships. How can you approach the conversation to build the relationship and achieve meaningful results?

For me, it begins with reminding myself that the person I’m upset with didn’t wake up intending to ruin my day. They’re doing what makes sense to them.

My CEO had his reasons for the way he had approached the situation. I didn’t like what I saw and believed it was wrong, but I knew him well enough to know that he wasn’t trying to be evil. Reminding yourself that there’s always another side to the conversation and that you don’t have all the information helps to lessen the grip of strong emotions.

Do Your Homework Before You Talk with Your Boss

What strategic objectives are at play? What data do you need to bring to the conversation? Learn as much as you can about the issue. You’re not complaining—you’re making a reasoned business case why your boss should consider another course of action.

Time to Talk with Your Boss

Create space for the conversation. If you have access to the person, schedule it. Catching them for three minutes in a hallway while overcoming interruptions and distractions doesn’t give you the best chance to talk.

To start the conversation, be direct and respectful. One of the most powerful openings you can use is to frame your concerns in terms of outcomes you know they value.

For instance, when I approached my CEO, I knew that he prized the organization’s reputation in the community. To start the conversation, I thanked him for the meeting and said, “I am concerned that we aren’t putting our best foot forward regarding the event next month.”

When you’re able to start the conversation about a topic that matters to them, you have a greater chance to be heard. Often, the other party will follow up with a question—after all, you’ve let them know that something they care about is at stake. That question allows you to share what’s on your mind.

This approach also helps you overcome the most common fear about how to talk to your boss when you disagree. By putting the discussion in terms of something they value, you are approaching them as a strategic partner, not as a complainer or antagonist. Even if they don’t agree with your perspective, they know you were trying to help.

Time to Listen

As you finish sharing your concerns, invite them into the conversation. It takes humility to acknowledge that—as right as you may feel—you don’t have all the information and you don’t know their perspective.

For example: “Those are my concerns. I’ve got some thoughts about how we can do this differently, but I’m curious about how the situation looks from your perspective and what I might not see.”

As they share, actively listen. Try to reflect what you’re hearing in your own words. Eg: “So our number one goal is to acquire new customers before our competitor launches their product, even if we need to temporarily reduce our response times to existing customers? Do I understand that correctly?”

From there, you may propose solutions that meet both of your goals.

When I spoke with my CEO, I was young and didn’t know how to do this. He was the one that brought it up. He said, “I hear what you’re saying and, although I don’t see the ethical concerns the same way you do, I also don’t want us to do anything that violates your ethics. How can we do this event in a way that achieves the purpose and that you would feel good about?”

It’s a smart question. You’ll often find the best solutions in answer to “How can we do A and B” when A and B seem to be mutually exclusive. When he asked this question, I came up with a way to meet his goals and satisfy my values.

Results and Relationship—but Not Always In That Order

Let’s be real: just because you approach the conversation this way, it doesn’t mean you will get the change you want.

You may get some, you may get all, or you may get nothing. Regardless, you’ve built a relationship that will help you be more influential—and you’ve learned more about your business from a senior leader’s viewpoint. That can inform your work, your decisions, and future conversations.

It’s also possible that you’ll discover a massive clash in values: an irresolvable difference that you just can’t be part of.


It may not be comfortable, but it’s better to know. Now you can make a conscious decision about your future—whether you’d be better off in a different role, different department, or a different company. Either way, you’ve come out ahead because you had the conversation.

And it might surprise you at how much influence you have when you take the time to have the conversation.

Your Turn

When you can have a healthy talk with your boss about areas of disagreement, you build your influence, clarify values, and become a more valuable strategic partner.

Leave us a comment and share: What’s your number one strategy to talk with your boss when you totally disagree? (We’d also love to hear a great story about a time you had the conversation and the results.)